San Juan public facility groups gather for EPRC Open House

Helen Bee (l) and Allen Smith (r)

It was all about Eastsound Monday night at the fire hall.

The Eastsound Planning and Review Commission (EPRC) held an open house on Monday, Dec. 8 at the Orcas Fire Hall with representatives from Eastsound Sewer and Water, San Juan County, the Conservation District, the Land Bank, OPAL, and more to discuss future projects in or near Eastsound.

The room was close to packed with interested community members milling around and drifting from booth to booth.

According to Mindy Kayl, chair of the EPRC, they decided to hold the open house to provide an opportunity for the community to interact with all public facility providers in one room.

“We intend to host two open houses a year: one in the fall and one in the spring. Hopefully this will streamline the public input process for Eastsound Planning. We are trying to make it easier for the community to track changes as well as provide a format for the capital facilities providers to interact with their ‘customers.’ The feedback from the first open house was very positive. The presenters felt like they were able to really discuss issues with the attendees and the attendees felt like they benefited from the time spent. We hope to see even more community members at our next open house in the spring,” said Kayl.

The EPRC debuted some of its own changes during the open house as well. Each member of the commission has been assigned an area of focus. Brian Ehrmantraut is the Community Services Adviser and the Housing Adviser, Bob Connell will be the Economy Advisor, Steve Hopkins is the Development Adviser, Kayl is the Conservation Advisor and Outreach Adviser, Patty Miller is the GMA Adviser and will handle long-range plans, Audrey Moreland is the Transportation Adviser and Parking Adviser, and Gulliver Rankin is the Utilities and Stormwater Adviser. For questions, call Kayl at 376-5110.

Eastsound Sewer and Water District

Eastsound Sewer and Water is continuing to gather scientific information about mature drain fields in the non-rural neighborhoods that surround Eastsound and are situated on top of the community’s primary groundwater aquifer. Their hope it to identify and fix any possible contamination that could pose environmental and health concerns. They are also planning to complete the connections of remaining parcels within the proposed UGA boundaries so all of those properties may be served by the utility. Eastsound Sewer and Water can be reached at 376-2720.

Eastsound Water Users Association

Eastsound Water Users Association presented information about its infrastructure projects for the coming year. EWUA’s goals are to continue to make progress in reducing unaccounted for water, which means replacing older mains. The next to be replaced are on Madrona Point and Matia View. They are also looking at replacing two storage tanks on Viewhaven and Double Hill to provide increased fire flow and emergency capacity when there are extended power outages.

General Manager Paul Kamin also fielded questions about the “growth or no growth” concerns in Eastsound. Kamin says EWUA tries to remain neutral on the issue, but they have a legal responsibility to provide for the community’s water needs.

One possibility is desalination, but Kamin says this is low on the list of possible alternate water sources. EWUA bought a piece of property on the North Shore next to the airport because it was perfect for a desalination plant – even if one isn’t built until years from now.

“It was zoned commercial, it has shoreline access, and it shares outfall with the existing sewage discharge pipe. With all those pieces together, it was an ideal location,” said Kamin. Desalination plants produce water with a high salinity content, so if it mixes with effluent from the sewer pipe, it dilutes both before coming in contact with the environment. It is also important for a desal area to be frequently flushed, and Kamin says the tidal movement of the property is “gargantuan.”

“I still have issues with the cost of desal and the energy associated with it, but we wanted it to be an option. So we bought the property. But we are not pursuing desal at this time. We are pursuing other options first,” said Kamin. To contact EWUA, call 376-2127.

OPAL

Construction of the first phase of OPAL Community Land Trust’s Wild Rose Meadow neighborhood has been underway since March of this year. The 7.5-acre property on Mt. Baker Road will have 32 houses ranging in size from 739 to 1627 sq. ft. During this first construction phase, 18 of the houses are being built by local contractor, Terra Firma, NW. All of the homes are oriented for maximum passive solar gain and they will be ready for, but not built with, solar panels. Because a significant portion of the funding for this project has come from private donations, the neighborhood will have homes available for middle-income households as well as households with moderate and lower-incomes. OPAL is still seeking purchasers for the second phase of 14 homes, and welcomes interested islanders to get on the waiting list. Call 376-3191 for information.

Port of Orcas

Over the next five years, the Port of Orcas will be working on the overlay of its runway, maintenance on the taxi way and parking areas, and resolving the stormwater issue. Currently, the port gets so much run off on the north end of the runway that it causes flooding. The port is working with the county to amend the problem.

San Juan County Community Development and Planning

San Juan County Community Development and Planning Department presented maps of its proposed Limited Area of More Intensive Rural Development (LAMRID) immediately east of Eastsound. LAMRID is a designation under the Growth Management Act that allows for more intense development in the surrounding rural area. Community Development and Planning will conduct a study as to whether there should be a LAMRID and what the boundaries of that area would be. They would then proceed with an ordinance establishing the designation, have a public hearing process, and eventually submit it to the Public Hearings Board. CDPD director Ron Henrickson hopes to complete the process in 2009. The first public meeting about the LAMRID will be on Monday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m. at the Eastsound Fire Station.

Henrickson also said a decision from the hearings board about Eastsound’s compliance with the UGA will come sometime in the next two weeks. For more information, call 378-2354.

San Juan County Land Bank

The San Juan County Land Bank has been preparing one of its most recent acquisitions, the Judd Cove property, for public access. The 3.69-acre parcel near Eastsound will increase public access to Orcas Island’s shoreline. Last week, the Department of Natural Resources removed leftover creosote from pilings in the cove, which was in the Fowler family for many years and used as a log dump. The property is documented as a herring spawning site and has the remains of a lime kiln as well. The Land Bank hopes to have the property open to the public by this summer. Call 378-4402 for additional information. For a full story on the creosote removal, see A3.

San Juan County Public Works

Work on the first phase of the ‘A’ Street to Main Street stormwater drainage project in Eastsound is continuing, with permits to be applied for soon. The goal of the project is to manage stormwater draining from the Eastsound swale more effectively and to provide stormwater collection piping for a wetland treatment system to be constructed in the near future on county-owned property behind the Village Green. The first phase of the three-phase project is slated to begin in Sept. 2009 and will be done in about four weeks. According to utility manager Ed Hale, although the weather may not be optimum then, Public Works wants to avoid the tourist season.

Public Works is also proposing a pedestrian path on the North side of Enchanted Forest Road between Lovers Lane and Loganberry Lane. The final alignment and material for the pedestrian path will be decided this spring. Public Works is waiting to hear about state funding for proposed improvements to rebuild Mt. Baker road by reconstructing the base, widening the travel lanes, adding shoulders and improving drainage. Notice of the funding will come in April 2009. A multi-use trail is also proposed on Mt. Baker Road. All of these additions and improvements are part of the county’s six-year plan. For more information, call 370-0500.

San Juan Islands Conservation District

The San Juan Islands Conservation District offered information about low impact development practices and preventive measures to reduce impact on existing hydrology and soil structure, including protecting trees and vegetation. Some of the practices included helping rainwater infiltrate into the soil, minimizing soil compaction and disturbance, and using resources already on the land. Call 378-6621 for additional information.