WEAN loses appeal of environmental regulations decision

A state board denied an environmental group’s request to reconsider parts of a recent decision regarding Island County’s environmental regulations.

Still, the issue of whether the county has adopted rules that adequately protect the environment is still not completely resolved.

Whidbey Environmental Action Network, known as WEAN, asked the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board to reconsider its finding last month that the county’s new regulations adequately protect “natural area preserve,” rare plants and prairies.

The hearings board sided with WEAN on an amphibian-related issue, finding that the county’s protections for the rare western toad weren’t good enough.

WEAN argued that the hearings board erred by allowing attorney Susan Drummond to represent the board of county commissioners at the hearing. The county prosecutor challenged the commissioners’ ability to hire her without his consent; the state Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the case.

The hearings board found that WEAN’s argument were not well taken, pointing out that the county was also represented by a deputy prosecutor in the case.

WEAN also argued that the hearings board misinterpreted facts related to county rules protecting prairies, but the hearings board disagreed and found that the rules were adequate.

Island County Commissioner Rick Hannold said he is pleased with the hearings board’s decision.

“The Board of Commissioners and our planners have worked very hard on these issues,” he said, “and I am grateful to the hearing board’s recognition of that fact.”

WEAN and the county have grappled with the issues for years. WEAN challenge the county after it didn’t update its wildlife protection regulations by 2005, as required by the state. The hearings board ordered the county to complete the update by September of 2014. WEAN again challenged the county’s compliance and the hearings board ruled against the county on multiple issues last year, according to WEAN.

The county created new regulations and asked the hearings board to be found in compliance. WEAN objected, the hearings board held a hearing in August and issued its decision in October.

The toad issue is the only remaining issue to be resolved, unless either WEAN or the county appeal to the superior court.