County Briefs


January 13, 2022

County responds to tribe’s letter on water rights

Mason County commissioners approved a letter in response to the Squaxin Island Tribe’s letter about a Memorandum of Agreement on water rights between the county and tribe signed in February 2019.

The Squaxin Island Tribe wrote a letter to the commissioners Dec. 8 addressing the MOA. The tribe summarizes its letter by saying “the county has failed to complete many tasks under the MOA in a timely manner and appears likely to miss upcoming deadlines. Please understand that the tribe may need to invoke the MOA’s mediation provision.” The tribe states its hope and goal is to work with the county to avoid judicial action to enforce the MOA.

Mason County’s letter in response states the MOA only applies to Water Resource Inventory Area 14 and the county says they are committed to looking into projects such as beaver dam analogs, managed aquifer recharge areas and water right acquisitions where it benefits both public and private partners.

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“Given the restrictions placed upon the county by the governor and secretary of Health and upholding its primary responsibility to the health and safety of its residents during this ongoing COVID crisis, the county has made great progress towards meeting the obligations of the MOA,” the letter states. “Several elements pulled from the WRIA 14 Draft Plan which address remaining tasks are included as attachments. If the ultimate goal is to improve water quantity and quality, the county believes enough data has been collected during the WRIA process. The county is ready to move forward with our partners and begin work on projects that will make a difference to aquifer recharge.”

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During the Jan. 10 meeting, Sharon Haensly from the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Natural Resources department provided testimony on the action item and had it removed for a separate vote. Haensly said the tribe commended the county on completing a number of the tasks in the MOA, but the tribe respectfully disagrees with the county’s response.

“There are a number of partially completed tasks or not completed tasks and we respectfully take issue with the county’s response on many of those,” Haensly said during her testimony. “We’re going to give them a very hard look. It may be that we agree on some but I can say that on a number of them, including some important ones to the tribe, I think there’s a disagreement.”

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Haensly said the completing of the tasks is important to the tribe for the long-term viability and exercise of its treaty fishing rights. She reminded the commissioners that the tribe dismissed its lawsuit against the county over the county’s update to its comprehensive plan and development regulations because it didn’t do enough to protect streamflow and fisheries. In return, the county would live up to the tasks in the MOA.

“The next step that’s envisioned under the MOU is to go to mediation. We jointly choose a mediator and maybe, hopefully, we can try to resolve through mediation, many, if not all of the issues, so that we don’t need to go seek enforcement in court,” Haensly said. “I think what you should expect to see from the tribe is a detailed response on what the disputed issues are so that it makes mediation that much more effective and we can talk about who to choose and how to choose the mediator.”

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Sewer public hearing moved to Jan. 31

The public hearing for the Belfair Sewer extension has been pushed to

6 p.m. on Jan. 31 over Zoom.

The hearing is to present information on the proposed Belfair Sewer extension and staff will present information describing the proposed project, project funding options and the history of the Belfair sewer/water reclamation facility.

The URL to join the meeting will be posted on Questions and comments can be emailed ahead of time to [email protected] or it can be called in at 360-427-9670 ext. 230.

Shutty selected as board chair

Commissioner Kevin Shutty was selected as the Board of County Commissioners chairperson at the Jan. 10 meeting.

Commissioner Randy Neatherlin nominated Shutty for the chair position and he was selected with a unanimous vote. Shutty nominated commissioner Sharon Trask to be vice chair, which was unanimously approved.

Plastic film recycling pilot plan approved

County commissioners approved an agreement with SC Johnson for a pilot program for curbside plastic film recycling.

According to the information packet, SC Johnson, the city of Shelton and Mason County have agreed to the program. The pilot program is for six months, beginning Feb. 16. Materials collected through the program include, but are not limited to, dry plastic grocery bags, Ziploc brand food storage bags, dry cleaning bags and other flexible plastic wrap. The City of Shelton is working with its hauler and SC Johnson to purchase, distribute and collect up to 90 21-gallon containers to collect the recyclables associated with this program.

Mason County will purchase storage containers at its transfer facility to store the plastic film collected from the curbside and will transport the material up to two times to the Lautenbach facility in Mount Vernon. SC Johnson will reimburse the county up to $2,000 for costs during storage and transportation.


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