State to pay $8 million for tiny island: Kiket Island to be used as a marine park
This article has been modified from the original to clarify that the $8 million is in federal funds and to add detail about state funding sources (note from PI staff)
State lawmakers last month approved $8 million to buy a small island in Skagit County to preserve the area as a marine park.
The capital budget item gives the state parks system authority to spend up to $8 million in federal funds on Kiket Island. The budget detail didn't get much publicity, though Republicans complained that it made no sense to spend money buying land for a park at a time when the park system is finding it hard to pay for its existing expenses.
When the legislative session began, it looked like lawmakers might have to close dozens of parks to help deal with a $9 billion state operating budget deficit. To help avoid closures, they passed a bill that adds a $5 opt-out fee on driver's license renewals to fund state park operations. Proponents hope that fee could bring in about $20 million a year.
The capital budget is separate from the operating budget, which as its name suggests pays for the day-to-day operations of state government. The capital budget is used for things like construction of new government buildings and land acquisition -- like the Kiket Island purchase.
The island is currently owned by a family that would like to see it become a state park.
Kiket Island is actually an islet about a half-mile long from its eastern to western ends and about a quarter-mile wide at its thickest point. It's located northwest of La Conner.
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition says the Kiket Island purchase will help add to the amount of accessible waterfront property in Puget Sound. It will also help safeguard the state's natural resources and increase the number of marine parks.
According to the WWRC Web site, Kiket Island "will provide a convenient site for Puget Sound residents to explore virtually intact marine, forest, saltwater lagoon and tideland ecosystems. On-site education and interpretation is planned with education facilities built later in a manner and scale compatible with the environment."
In an e-mail to WWRC board members, Peter Dykstra, the state director of The Trust for Public Land, said there will be $4.5 million in state funds dedicated to the Kiket Island purchase in addition to up to $8 million in federal funds. The state money comes from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
The total amount to be paid for the island will be based on an independent appraisal to be reviewed by state and federal authorities and won't exceed $15 million, Dykstra wrote.
"... this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to preserve this unique property for the public to experience the Puget Sound's shorelines in unique ways. Kiket Island is located near the most heavily-used park in the Washington State Park system -- Deception Pass -- and will add to the important role that park plays in providing Washington residents and visitors a chance to reconnect with the beauty of Puget Sound," Dykstra said.
Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, said his caucus felt that buying Kiket Island was a mistake.
"We thought this was probably an inappropriate time to be expanding our property base," he said. "We should retrench and maintain the parks we already have."