Poulsbo parks commission focuses on Johnson Creek

Members of the Poulsbo Parks and Recreation Commission have called out Johnson Creek as a special wildlife habitat that needs more protection. In doing so, they have pushed a hot button in the city of Poulsbo.

See my story in today’s Kitsap Sun along with a video I shot in July with Jon Oleyar, a fish biologist who probably knows the streams of East Kitsap better than anyone.

Oleyar and others tell me that Johnson Creek is an important salmon stream. Because the stream corridor is largely undeveloped, it also serves as wildlife habitat. Is it one of the most important salmon streams or wildlife habitats in Kitsap County? I’ve asked the question and received mixed answers.

What the parks commission has pointed out, however, is that it may be the only significant wildlife habitat left in the city of Poulsbo. It’s clear the parks commissioners would like to get someone to pay attention to this area.

What worries property owners is that they won’t be compensated fairly, if at all, should the city seek to preserve the habitat. Planning Director Barry Berezowsky says the parks commission is getting “a little far afield” in discussing the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance.

It seems to me the parks commissioners have knowingly created tension within city hall as an act of conscience, knowing that it will be up to others to carry the ball forward.

As for the property owners, somebody deserves credit for leaving so much of the area undeveloped all these years. The Puget Sound Partnership has made it a top priority to protect the “last best places.” Maybe the state should come up with the money to take a closer look at the entire corridor. If it turns out to be prime habitat, then the state should be prepared to pay for acquisition of land or development rights.

A “habitat assessment” map (PDF 2.5 mb) by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is available on the Kitsap County Web site, but be aware that it’s a big file.

I realize that property values soared when portions of Johnson Creek were moved into an urban growth area. This isn’t a simple issue. But some people, for a price, may be willing to sign a conservation easement on a portion of their property. The result could be a wonderful piece of open space for Poulsbo residents to enjoy along with those who eventually buy a house near Johnson Creek.

I can’t say whether the parks commissioners went beyond their authority. But, after listening to them discuss the issue, I find it courageous of them to battle the pressure and craft thoughtful proposals as well as explaining the rationale for their actions.

I will try to share more information about this when the planning documents become available.

5 thoughts on “Poulsbo parks commission focuses on Johnson Creek

  1. Funny, but Johnson Creek was considered so inconsequential that it barely warranted a mention in Kitsap’s Refugia Study. The only reference I could find was in a chart of salmon productivity. The creek scored a cumulative “5”. Twelve (12) was the highest, four (4) was the lowest.

    Yet, “Oleyar and others tell me that Johnson Creek is an important salmon stream.”

    Uh-huh. Aren’t they all? Especially the one proximate to any development you are opposing.

  2. Bless the Poulsbo Parks Commission for having the courage to take a public stand in opposition to those who feel Poulsbo must develop wherever possible in order to accommodate \inevitable\ growth. The trouble with this inevitability is that it becomes a rationale for pushing growth as rapidly as possible. Developers build thousands of spec homes and then spend huge sums to entice people to come here and buy these homes. The only thing inevitable is that people will try to make as much moeny as they can. Thus, with every politician campaigning on the basis of jobs and economic development, the pressure to push growth tilts too far in the direction of \growth at any cost.\ I’m reminded of a bumper sicker in California that said \We’re not trying to save ALL the redwoods; just the 8% that is left.\ Poulsbo needs to prserve some of these treasures while they still exist.

  3. A functioning stream and it’s associated corridor is an encumbrance on real property no less than another easement or covenant. The premise of ‘takings’ is a ruse. Just because you didn’t consider it, or otherwise thought you could do as you please, doesn’t mean Critical Areas have no standing for special consideration. Planning Departments shouldn’t peddle away distinct resources of local or regionwide significance under the convenient guise of it being “pro-business”, which often involves veiled cronyism- and gray-area corruption.

  4. I wanted to get back to Blue Light’s comments about Kitsap’s Refugia Study. I had the same reaction when I first wrote about Johnson Creek several months ago while looking for documentation about the creek.

    When I saw Blue Light’s comment, I called Chris May, chief author of the study. He got back to me today, saying the stream probably failed to get the attention it deserved for two reasons: First, he was mainly thinking about chinook salmon at the time of the study. Second, Johnson Creek appeared to be largely a Poulsbo stream, and he was spending most of his time dealing with streams affecting the county.

    May, a Poulsbo resident who is now manager of urban streams and stormwater for Seattle Public Utilities, said he wanted to add something to this discussion.

    “In Seattle, we are spending millions of dollars trying to rehabilitate streams to support fish when we could have done it at much less cost and agony if we would have done things differently back when we first started developing,” he told me.

    Developers themselves are now leading the charge to restore streams, which are seen as valuable amenities, he said. They are even doing things like digging up buried pipes and bringing long-forgotten creeks back to the surface.

    Seattle officials are now kicking themselves for not finding a way to protect natural resources when they had the chance, May said. Such could become the situation for Johnson Creek, he added.

  5. What good does saving the fish do when the water they swim and eat in is polluted with toxins?
    What is the long term effect of eating seafood from unhealthy waterways?

    “I feel sickened learning that our country is 2nd to China with India in 3rd place for being the 2nd leading country in the world with the ‘Highest Emissions of Organic Water Pollutants?

    No wonder our whales die, our fish polluted…and who cares?
    When do we take responsibility?”

    Sharon O’Hara

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