Washington’s population rose in all 39 counties during the past seven years, with rural Stevens and Pend Oreille counties recording some of the sharpest growth rates, the U.S. Census Bureau has announced.
The state added 744,000 people between 1990 and 1997 for a total population of 5.6 million.
During that span, Stevens County’s population grew nearly 27 percent - from 30,948 residents to 39,243. Pend Oreille County expanded more than 26 percent - from 8,915 to 11,271.
In contrast, Spokane County grew from 361,333 to 404,650 residents - a 12 percent gain since 1990, according to census data released Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Eastern Washington, Adams County grew by 14 percent, Ferry County rose 15 percent and Lincoln County grew nearly 11 percent. Whitman and Garfield counties both grew by a little more than 1 percent.
The fastest-growing county in the state was Clark County, just across the Columbia River from Portland. In seven years, Clark County grew 33 percent, from 238,000 to almost 316,600 residents.
Across the state line in Idaho, growth is booming.
Kootenai County’s population is 98,767, up 28,972 in the past seven years, the second-largest increase in numbers in the state behind Ada County.
And when measuring growth by percentage rate, Kootenai County ranks third during 1990-97 with a 41.5 percent population increase. Bonner County is fifth with 30.6 percent.
Overall the five counties of North Idaho added some 40,000 people, with births accounting for 14,180 of the new residents.
But when the numbers are examined on a year-by-year basis, the rate of growth is slowing in the Panhandle, said Kathyrn Tacke of the Job Service. “We still have very strong population growth, it’s just not the enormous growth we saw in the early 1990s.”
Tacke said the Panhandle still has a rate of growth that “far exceeds other regions of the U.S.”
In Washington, the rapid growth in historically more rural counties is a trend throughout the state. But it has its downside, according to Steve Wells, assistant director of the state’s Growth Management Service.
“Dispersed growth in more rural counties has its problems,” Wells said. “Delivery of services becomes expensive and I don’t just mean sewers and water, but things like Head Start.”
Wells said county governments are running out of money because they are forced to rely on property and sales taxes for revenues at the same time they are being squeezed by soaring costs for the criminal justice system.
“There’s just not a lot of money left for roads, bridges, sewers and other services,” he said. “Everyone is looking for commercial and industrial development.”
In Western Washington, King and Pierce counties continued to grow steadily, at 8 percent and 13 percent, respectively. But the most explosive growth on the West Side over the past seven years has been in areas surrounding central Puget Sound, including Thurston, Mason, Kitsap and Skagit counties.
Mason County ranked second to Clark County as the second fastest growing, up 29 percent. Jefferson County was fifth, growing at 27.1 percent. Thurston was ninth, growing 24.3 percent, and Kitsap was 10th, growing 23.7 percent.
To the north of central Puget Sound, Snohomish County grew 21.3 percent.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Washington’s fastest-growing counties