A very friendly and forthcoming ex-planner from Island County government got back to me today by phone. We had a detailed discussion about the seller’s prior application for land subdivision which was previously somewhat held up by an archaeological concern from the Swinomish tribe. I don’t know if or why I would subdivide the property at this point, except to perhaps make it easier to put some guest cabins on separate parcels. But my main interest is in knowing how to completely address any potential permitting roadblocks, whatever their potential source.
He had the original file from a couple years ago in front of him, and was rustling pages as he flipped back and forth trying to answer my questions, reaching back into his memory as we went. Several bottom lines came out.
It appeared that an archaeological assessment of the site was not necessarily or strictly required, and he had some difficulty finding a definitive source that would require it. However, there were several sources that pointed strongly to encouraging it, though they were primarily from the interests of the Swinomish and DAHP. A prior archaeology employee at the county suggested that an archaeological review should be conducted based on those inputs, but not necessarily anything having the teeth of law or regulation. The archaeologist mentioned that a SEPA review might also require an archaeological assessment, although the planner seemed to indicate otherwise since the property was just barely beyond the shoreline buffer that requires extra SEPA acceptance processes.
However, I have already proactively involved a professional archaeological firm so as to properly respect the rights and heritage of the Swinomish, and to ensure that any plans I may have for the property would not conflict with any resting grounds of their ancestors. And if there was anything there onsite that the Swinomish would be concerned about, I would make sure the Swinomish were involved so that everything was handled with respect to them and their beliefs.
The conversation yielded some piece of mind as well: it was stated in writing with the prior development application that a full archaeological review would be all that was required, and if that was done and the property found to be a zone without significant archaeological sites then nothing more could be required or requested of the owner with respect to archaeological testing, siting, or permitting restrictions. So at least this initial full (and expensive) professional archaeological study will be definitive in opening a path forward and options, plus it will respectfully address and answer the concerns of the Swinomish tribe.
This is what a feasibility study is all about, though certainly most are not as complicated as this one!