San Juan County

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San Juan County encompasses most of the San Juan Islands except Guemes . Other than isolated towns, the county is mostly rural residential and resources lands. The islands are under enormous development pressure for recreational vacation housing. The County is governed by a three member council, with each member elected from a district for staggered 4-year terms. Districts are divided by major islands, and surrounding islets, with Shaw and Lopez combined, and Orcas and San Jan each being the center of a district. Eight other elected officials preside over courts and departments. Two judges a prosecutor and a sheriff secure law and order, while a clerk, auditor, assessor and treasurer tend to administration. A total population of 17,000 skews towards white and older couples with no kids. Population density of 97 people per square mile is in the middle of Puget Sound counties.

These notes are focused on governance and administration. For social-ecological analysis please use San Juan Islands


  • The Islands are part of legislative district 40, which is shared with Bellingham, Mt. Vernon/Burlington, and Anacortes.


  • Comprehensive Plan under Growth Management Act is presented on a complex county site with extensive documents. However the process and cycle of update and revision is unclear.
  • Shoreline Master Program as required under SMA generates county code which manages shorelines of the Salish Sea as well as Lakes.
    • A periodic review was scheduled for completion in 2020
    • The county maintains a website
  • Public Works serves as the stormwater utility.
    • Most ongoing projects are road enhancements.
    • Stormwater Basin Planning comes in two extensive volumes, an Overview document dated 2015
    • All islands are divided into stormwater basins. There is basin-by-basin assessment, and County-wide stormwater basin recommendations are provided.
    • Overview was followed up by a more intensive analysis of five priority basins, including Fishermans Bay on Lopez Island.
    • Management measures recommended in volume one are considered more in volume 2.


Data and Resources

  • San Juan County has an exceptional GIS server based on an open data philosophy.