Community Development

Seawater Intrusion Policy

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Unified Development Code (UDC)
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  621 Sheridan Street
Port Townsend,
WA 98368

  Phone: 360.379.4450
Fax: 360.379.4451


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New Items

Page last updated: 4/7/2004

The seawater intrusion webpage has been reorganized for simplicity and clarity.  Many of the documents previously posted on this page continue to be accessible in the Process and Document Archive section below.

For questions about the information on this webpage or the County policies and regulations for protecting groundwater against seawater intrusion, contact the Department of Community Development.  For more information about well monitoring or the science of seawater intrusion, consult County Natural Resources.


Seawater intrusion (or salt water intrusion) is the underground flow of salt water into wells and aquifers.  It occurs when fresh water is withdrawn faster than it can be recharged near a coastline.  Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD) No. 1 offers a webpage answering “Frequently Asked Questions about Seawater Intrusion.”

Jefferson County has policies and development regulations intended to protect groundwater against the phenomenon of seawater intrusion.  Three types of Seawater Intrusion Protection Zones (SIPZ) have been designated as Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARAs): Coastal SIPZ, At-Risk SIPZ, and High Risk SIPZ.  See the Maps and Map Key section below for depictions.  The level of regulatory protection is related to the type of designated SIPZ.

All residents, whether residing inside or outside a designated SIPZ, are encouraged to conserve water to help protect our water resources.

Policy and Regulations

Jefferson County has refined its policies and regulations for protecting groundwater against seawater intrusion from adoption of the initial “critical areas” ordinance in 1995, through adoption of the Comprehensive Plan in 1998 and the Unified Development Code (UDC) in 2000, to a growth management compliance process that was completed in early 2004.

For a chronological presentation of the process that lead to the current policies and regulations, refer to the Process and Document Archive section below.

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) adopted final policy language into the Comprehensive Plan on December 8, 2003 under case number MLA03-210.  The policy includes provisions for adaptive management of areas subject to groundwater degradation from seawater intrusion.  For more information on these legislative amendments, visit the 2003 Comprehensive Plan Amendment Cycle page.

Regulatory protections against seawater intrusion are codified at UDC section 3.6.5 Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas.  The code refers to a list of administrative water conservation measures, which are voluntary in most cases and mandatory in High Risk SIPZ.

Growth Management Compliance

After the County adopted the UDC in December 2000, a petition for review (PFR) was filed with the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (WWGMHB) concerning whether groundwater protections against seawater intrusion were compliant with the Growth Management Act (GMA).

A lengthy compliance process has ended and case number 01-2-0015 is closed.  The WWGMHB issued a Compliance Order on March 29, 2004 that concludes that Jefferson County is in compliance with the GMA concerning protections against seawater intrusion.  The following documents are directly related to the compliance process, posted in chronological order beginning with the most recent.  Refer to Process and Document Archive below for additional documents.

Process and Document Archive

Following is a bullet-list synopsis of events leading up the establishment in 2003 of the current seawater intrusion policies and regulationsBoard of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting minutes are available on the general County Meetings and Minutes page.  For more information, contact Long-Range Planning.

  • County adopts Comprehensive Plan in Aug. 1998.
  • County adopts Unified Development Code (UDC) in Dec. 2000.  UDC is set of development regulations to implement Comprehensive Plan.
  •  Olympic Environmental Council (OEC) and Shine Community Action Council (SCAC) file petition for review on March 5, 2001 with Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (WWGMHB).
  • WWGMHB finds County out of compliance with Growth Management Act (GMA) in relation to seawater intrusion.  Issues Final Decision and Order (FDO) for Case No. 01-2-0015 on Jan. 10, 2002.
  • County files Motion for Reconsideration.  WWGMHB issues Order Denying Motion for Reconsideration on Feb. 8.
  •  BOCC appoints Seawater Intrusion Focus Group (SWIG) of interested and knowledgeable residents to discuss the issue and advise County policymakers.  SWIG provides report to BOCC dated May 20.
  • Staff drafts package of policy and code amendments based on SWIG report.  BOCC modifies and transmits to Planning Commission (PC) for public review process of Master Land-use Application (MLA) 02-314.  PC holds public hearing July 10.
  •   BOCC holds public hearing July 22.
  • On July 23, BOCC adopts coastal seawater intrusion policy and corresponding development regulations in response to Jan. 10 CO through Ord. No. 07-0723-02, effective Sept. 23.
  • BOCC and PC hold joint workshop at WSU Extension on Aug. 29.  Among presenters are hydrogeologists, well pump company representative, laboratory scientist, well driller, engineer, and representatives from the State Department of Ecology.
  • Based on information from Aug. workshop, BOCC amends regulations and policy on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24, respectively, through Res. No. 61-02.
  • WWGMHB holds compliance hearing on Oct. 22.
  • WWGMHB issues Compliance Order (CO) on December 5, 2002 instructing the County to complete one action within 90 days, relating to Marrowstone Island specifically, and four actions within 180 days.
  • BOCC discusses a response to the order on Jan. 13 and 21, 2003.
  • On Feb. 3, BOCC discusses a draft resolution supporting the development of an off-island public water source as a long-term strategy for protecting Marrowstone Island groundwater.  Adopts Resolution No. 13-03 on Feb. 18.
  • On Feb. 5, PC establishes Seawater Intrusion Committee.  After hearing a report from the Committee on Feb. 19, PC formulates a recommendation to BOCC on 90-day response.
  • BOCC discusses PC recommendation on Feb. 24 and adopts Ord. No. 03-0303-03 on March 3 as emergency official control per RCW 36.70A.390.  (Holds public hearing April 28.)
  • PC holds public hearing on April 30 regarding proposed UDC amendments packaged as MLA03-202 in response to Dec. 2002 compliance order.
  • On May 19, staff presents PC recommendation to BOCC.
  • On May 27, BOCC holds public hearing on proposed UDC amendments.
  • On June 2, BOCC votes unanimously to adopt proposal.
  • On June 9, BOCC adopts Ord. No. 06-0609-03, amending or eliminating some 90-day response language adopted through Ord. No. 03-0303-03.
  • DCD staff issues staff report re: suggested amendments on 2003 Comprehensive Plan Amendment Docket.  Report includes recommendation on seawater intrusion policy language that will effectively replace 2002 Coastal Seawater Intrusion Policy.
  • On Oct. 27, the PC Seawater Intrusion Committee formulates a recommendation to the full PC.
  • WWGMHB issues CO on Oct. 31, finding the County in compliance with GMA, except for three process and clarity insufficiencies.
  • On Nov. 5, the Planning Commission formulates a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for seawater intrusion policy language.  The recommendation is dated Nov. 10 and posted under "Documents" on the 2003 Comprehensive Plan Amendment Cycle page.
  • Letter from County Administrator to Marrowstone Island Property Owners; SUBJECT: Seawater Intrusion, Private Wells, and Public Water; 12/1/03.
  • On Dec. 8, BOCC adopts Ord. No. 08-1208-03, which includes seawater intrusion policy language for the Comprehensive Plan.
  • WWGMHB issues Compliance Order on 3/29/04; Case No. 01-2-0015 is closed.
  • Maps and Map Key



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