Shorelines battle starts to stir behind the scenes

<i>Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains from a home on Kitsap County\'s shoreline.</i><br><small>Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale Ireland</small>
Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains from a home on Kitsap County's shoreline.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale Ireland

Planning the future of Puget Sound’s shorelines is under way or soon will be under way among most local governments in Puget Sound.

Some counties have completed the work because of early funding by the Legislature (King and Pierce) and some because they pushed ahead on their own (Whatcom). Some counties started early but have faced delays (Snohomish and Jefferson).

Kitsap County planners started early but focused their efforts on an “inventory” of existing conditions along the entire shoreline. That inventory, which includes prospects for habitat restoration, could be a major tool in the update of Kitsap’s Shoreline Master Program.

Do I need to remind anyone how contentious this issue is likely to become in counties with substantial shorelines?

In Kitsap County, both property rights advocates and environmental groups have already announced that they are getting ready for a fight.

Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners came out recently with guns ablazing: “Kitsap County is getting ready to update its shorelines master program,” KAPO President Tim Matthes says in a postcard to shoreline owners. “You will find very little in the news informing property owners of changes.”

That’s an interesting comment, considering that I have already written two stories before the process even starts. I can tell you now that there will be plenty to write about when this issue begins to boil.

The card also states, “County staff wants to treat every inch of shoreline as ‘critical area.’ They want to prohibit bulkheads, ban docks, force you to replace your gardens with ‘native’ plantings and control what kind of trees you plant, trim or remove.”

I’ll let others respond to those specifics if they wish, but clearly this message is designed to lead the charge into battle.

KAPO is not the only side getting ready for a fight, however. Beth Wilson of Kitsap Conservation Voters recently informed the county commissioners rather forcefully during a recent “Meet the Commissioners” forum that shoreline planning could be the most important issue of the year among the local environmental community.

While Kitsap County planners prepare for two years of work on the Shoreline Master Program, cities in Kitsap County are getting ready for updates as well. There was talk at one time of strong collaboration between the county and the cities, but it appears that jurisdictions are starting to drift apart. It remains unclear whether any kind of coordination will take place.

Kitsap County Planning Commission was briefed on the upcoming planning effort a couple of weeks ago (see Kitsap Sun story, May 20). The county commissioners discussed the same information today.

Some of the key ideas include:

  • Establishing a “blue-ribbon panel” to include experts who can help sort out the science and policy issues, as well as members of the community with interest in shorelines.
  • Resolving issues of science early on, so folks can try to agree on the effects that result from various kinds of development or restoration. It would then become a balance of various values.
  • Direction from the county commissioners as pieces of the management plan come together — as opposed to hitting them with a document at the end of the planning effort and expecting them to go over every detail at one time.
  • A strong role for the Washington Department of Ecology during the entire planning process. Under the Shorelines Management Act, Ecology plays what I call a “partnership” role with local governments, but the agency also has outright veto power.
  • New media tools to help people understand the process. County officials are talking about using the Internet, including Web-based tools and possibly even Twitter to keep people informed.

I’m also looking for new ways to help people understand the discussion and proposed changes through the Kitsap Sun Web site. Ideas are always welcome.

One thought on “Shorelines battle starts to stir behind the scenes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Is water a solid or a liquid at room temperature?