Permits gone wrong

For the last 2+ years I have been trying to get permits to repair the bulkhead out at our Vashon Island place.  It’s been an exercise in futility at just about every step.

When I first started, I was trying to do it all on my own without any help.  I figured it couldn’t be too much harder than applying for a grading permit.  Boy was I wrong.  Because we were repairing a bulkhead, and it was on a beach, we were screwed.

Besides the county, 6 other government agencies wanted my money and for me to fill out reams of paperwork.  Here in Washington, they’ve at least consolidated it to a process called JARPA for Joint Aquatic Resource Permit Application.  Unfortunately, it’s hundreds of pages of detail, much of which I couldn’t figure out.  On top of that, contacting any of these agencies referred you to the others in an endless circle of bureaucracy.

I’ve worked with various permit agencies before, and I realize that there are regulations and reasons for what they do.  In many cases, they were very stringent with what their requirements and processes were for.  I completely understood, or at least understood where they were coming from.

That’s not the case here.  I cannot believe the stupidity and sheer red tape that is in place that makes a homeowner completely unable to repair a failing system that is putting their property and neighbors at risk.  I’m not asking to build a huge wall – I love the environment and do as much as I can to protect it.  I want to replace some damaged boards, and fix what I and everyone else has considered a hazardous situation.

I finally resorted to hiring someone who specializes in the permit process.  Since then, things have gone better, but the stupidity continues.

At one point, someone in the process said that there were bald eagles nearby, so we might have to pay to have an endangered species survey.  I’m not sure how replacing boards in a bulkhead would really change what bald eagles are doing, but I’m sure it’s another way for the state to make money.

At another point, we were advised we’d have to get insurance for any inspector coming on site to our location.  That way if they hurt themselves, the state didn’t have to pay L&I for them – our insurance would!  This almost made me lose it!  I eventually argued with them and they backed down.

Now, we’re being told we have to grow specific plants and grasses across a large portion of our yard since we’re near a marine area.  I really don’t understand how we can suddenly be required to do this when no one else for miles around on the beach has the same requirements.  This proposal would take a significant amount of our land away and obscure our view.

People on the island told me I should just fix it and deal with it afterwards.  We’ve already missed our construction window (again – 3rd year in a row!) and there’s no end in sight.  It feels like the right thing to do is to just do it and deal with the consequences afterwards.  I think we’ll end up spending $5,000 on permits and fees for a job that will cost about the same.

It really truly believe that the State of Washington and King County are doing a disservice to us, the people who live here.  They’re making it harder to maintain and improve property that they continually raise the taxes on.  At some point, people will just do what they need to do, or go find another place to live where they aren’t so stupid.

About Steve Mitchell

I live in Seattle, WA and love sailing, technology, & playing and composing music. I started playing the piano when I was 3, and ended up figuring out many other instruments along the way. I’m an avid sailor and have a 2000 Beneteau 311 named Grace, and sail it whenever and wherever I can.

  • Hi Steve,
    I am working on a project at the University of Washington looking at the permitting process for bulkheads on Vashon Island. Would you be interested in talking more about the obstacles you faced as you went though the permitting process? Please feel free to reach out to me over email if you are.
    Thanks! Emily

    • Hi Emily,I would be glad to discuss this with you. Please provide your email either in your blogger profile or in another way. Thanks!

    • Hi Steve,
      I can be reached at I saw in a later post that the bulkhead was destroyed. Were you able to fully repair it with the emergency permits you received? Have you been dealing with the permitting process since then? Before the bulkhead was destroyed, did you attempt to make repairs without permits?
      Thanks so much for your help. Feel free to email me any information you think would be interesting; no need to answer the specific question above if you’d prefer not to.
      Thanks again,Emily

  • Debbie Kachman

    Good morning, This is Debbie with Sound Bulkhead. We can construct your bulkhead as we’e been in business for over 35 years. We can also guide you with your help in the permitting. If you have any questions please look us up Sound bulkhead or Sound Rock Products. Thanks

    • Steve Mitchell

      Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for your note – I rebuilt the bulkhead quite a few years ago – this is a pretty old post, but thanks!

      • Debbie Kachman

        Your so welcome! Have a great day!

%d bloggers like this: