County applies to buffer program


It will seek federal money for four parcels of land

Skagit Herald

For about seven months, Skagit County has been advising farmers who need to install buffers on their land to sign up for the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

The county commissioners voted Tuesday to follow their own advice and apply to place four parcels of land in the program, the most lucrative option available.

If the parcels are accepted, the land would generate about $80,000 in revenue over the next 15 years.

The federal program pays landowners — usually farmers — to lease their land for buffers. The strips of vegetation around streams and rivers are mostly targeted at preserving fish habitat.

Because the money comes from the federal government, the county last year began encouraging farmers to sign up for the program instead of the county’s own plan, which has since been thrown out.

Only parcels actively being used for commercial agriculture are required to have buffers. But any land that borders a stream classified by the county or state is eligible.

The parcels the county is interested in applying for are:

n A 1.3-acre parcel on the south side of the Skagit River near Day Creek.

n A 65-acre parcel surrounding a tributary to the Skagit River near Rockport.

n A 10-acre parcel on the south side of Etach Creek, north of the Skagit River near Lyman.

n A 9-acre parcel on a side channel of the Sauk River near Darrington.

Only a small portion of each parcel would be covered in buffers. The county is applying to install 180-foot buffers, the maximum width the program will pay for.

The buffers could be used as a demonstration to show people what buffers look like, noted Chal Martin, Skagit County’s public works director.

The costs of installing the buffers would be reimbursed by the Farm Service Agency, the federal agency that administers the program.

It will take about six months for the paperwork committing the properties to the program to be completed.

Farmers who have a classified stream running across their property are required to sign up for a buffer plan by May 24.


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