More than $800,000 planned for Island County conservation projects

The public will get a chance next month to weigh in on Island County’s decision whether to spend as much as $818,000 this year conserving land and improving a natural area.

The Board of Island County Commissioners last week set 10:30 a.m. Nov. 10 for a public meeting to discuss using the Conservation Futures Fund to underwrite five conservation-related investments on Whidbey and Camano islands.

The meeting, which will include short presentations on each proposed project, will take place in the commissioners’ Hearing Room, located downstairs in the Courthouse Annex Building, Room No. B102, 1 N.E. 6th Street, Coupeville.

Last month, the Citizens’ Advisory Board for the Conservation Futures Fund voted to give the five projects the full amounts their sponsors were seeking. It also ranked the project from most deserving to least.

The three projects on Whidbey Island are as follows:

• Whidbey Camano Land Trust is seeking $500,000 this year, and will seek another $500,000 next year, toward buying a conservation easement on Fakkema Farm. The 377-acre property stretches from Oak Harbor’s city limits to Swan Lake. The easement would protect 300 acres. An additional $3 million toward the easement would come from the Navy and from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

• The land trust also wants $30,000 to keep open for agricultural and open-space use two properties, totaling 56 acres, on the north side of Dugualla Lake, northeast of Oak Harbor. The land includes or is adjacent to working farmland, a freshwater lake and critically important habitat. The Navy may contribute toward the purchase because it wants to remove development rights to the area, which lies just east of a major runway at Ault Field.

• Finally, the land trust  wants $165,000 toward protecting from development 30 acres of productive farmland along Lone Lake’s south shoreline. The properties are an important north-south corridor between Lone Lake and Deer Lagoon, the organization said in its application.

Two projects are proposed on Camano Island.

• Island County’s Parks and Recreation Department seeks $85,000 to protect 4.8 acres adjacent to the Island County Parks property of Camano Ridge, on Camano Island. This is known as the Dillon property.

• The county’s noxious weed control board seeks $37,900 for suppressing weeds in 2016 and 2017 at Camano Island’s Iverson Preserve. Weeds to be controlled on the property, which was bought in 1999 with Conservation Futures Fund money, include Scotch Broom, Canadian thistle, bull thistle and poison hemlock.

Using a highly detailed scoring system, the advisory board in a Sept. 24 memo ranked the Fakkema Farm acquisition as the most important project among those before it. After that, in descending order, came Lone Lake, Dugualla Lake, the Dillon property and the noxious-weed project.

“The advisory board feels that the three Whidbey Island projects in particular met the goal stated by the commissioners of ‘funding of projects that jointly protect conservation and economic resources,’ ” it wrote. “The goal of conserving land for public use and enjoyment will take some properties out of development potential, but the increase in livability will far outweigh any setbacks in development.”

The commissioners on Wednesday questioned whether the advisory board had used the scoring system properly, noting it was the first time that system had been used. They expressed concern at widely varied scores given to the same project on the same criteria, and at high scores given to criteria that seemed inapplicable to a project.