Tag Archives: Kitsap County Shoreline Master Program

Shoreline task force hears from potential opponents

Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners has fired a warning shot across the bow of the 20-member task force working to update the Kitsap County Shoreline Master Program.

The group this week focused their efforts on reviewing the Kitsap County Shoreline Inventory and Characterization, a document that describes physical and biological conditions of the shoreline, along with existing land uses and man-made structures.

As I report in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun, Karl Duff, the immediate past president of KAPO, essentially warned the task force that they run the risk of becoming a pawn of the county and that KAPO will sue if the process continues on its present course.

I haven’t yet spoken to any of the task force members about this, but some of their reactions during the meeting showed that they have no intention of being intimidated by KAPO.
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Task force embraces shoreline planning

It looks like Kitsap County’s shorelines task force is off to a good start. All but a couple of the 20 members attended the first official meeting of the group last Thursday. Everyone seemed happy to be there.

Several members made a point of thanking the county for bringing the task force together at the start of the process of updating the Kitsap County Shorelines Master Program. Kitsap County’s planning director, Larry Keeton, said he is not aware of another county relying on a citizen task force to the extent that Kitsap is. Check out the story I wrote for Saturday’s Kitsap Sun.

One member said he was glad to be part of the process, even though he realizes that the plan finally adopted by the county commissioners may be different.

As a “get-to-know-you” exercise, the meeting’s facilitator, Margaret Norton-Arnold, asked members to talk about themselves. And, to get a snapshot of their views, she asked them to place their names, a picture or some kind of symbol in an appropriate spot on a long poster. On the poster, a picture of industrial development had been drawn on the left side, with a forest scene on the right. People who believed that development had already left its mark were asked to place their symbol on the left, while those who favored restoring things to a pristine condition were asked to place their symbol on the right.

Most people placed their names/pictures close to the center. Two or three tried to suggest ways of bringing the opposite sides together.

Only Bob Benze of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners chose not to place himself on that spectrum. He said his emphasis during the planning process would be to make sure individual property rights are respected and that the laws be followed.

Benze’s statement prompted Tom Nevins, a member of the Kitsap County Planning Commission and a longtime conservation supporter, to get up and say his focus would be on community values while respecting people’s rights and the underlying laws. His mark went somewhere in the middle.

Frankly, that’s exactly what I expected from those two, which is one reason I predicted a lively debate in my April 18 Water Ways entry.

As Norton-Arnold described it, the process of consensus-building will allow room for all viewpoints. Where compromise cannot be reached, she will prepare “majority” and “minority” reports to reflect the full range of opinion.

While introducing herself, Norton-Arnold revealed her longtime relationship to Kitsap County, and I discovered a distant and roundabout connection between her and myself.
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Shoreline task force will help revise regulations

All the pieces are nearly in place for Kitsap County residents and planners to begin examining the ecosystem at the edge of the waters encircling the Kitsap Peninsula.

Beyond beauty, shoreline environments contain vital ecosystems. (Click to enlarge)
Kitsap Sun photo

Oh, yes, lakes and a few streams are part of the picture.

Kitsap County commissioners last night appointed a 20-member citizen task force to take a central role in the planning effort. For the first time in county history, regulations will be based on ecosystem values. See the story I wrote for today’s Kitsap Sun listing the members.

Similar planning efforts are under way in Kitsap’s cities as well as various communities throughout the Puget Sound region. I wrote a story for the Kitsap Sun Feb. 27 regarding the effort for our cities.

In the past, shoreline regulations were based on existing land uses. Buffers — including the current 100-foot buffer for rural areas — were uniform throughout the entire county. Previous rules never took into consideration the particular types of shoreline or their ecological values. For example, an estuary with a highly productive marsh and a stream running through it was treated exactly the same as a rocky outcropping pounded by waves.
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It looks like the “shoreline science” debate has begun

Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners has jumped out in front of what promises to be a lively debate over shoreline science.

Don Flora, a retired forest researcher, conducted a statistical analysis of data compiled in separate shoreline assessments of East Kitsap and Bainbridge Island. Flora concluded that the reports show no apparent relationship between man-made stressors and ecosystem functions. Please take a look at my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Not finding a correlation between these two factors does not mean that man-made structures are harmless or without effect on the ecosystem. But these findings do raise questions, as Flora points out. Download his report here (PDF 188 kb).

So far, I have been unable to find a qualified scientist who has read Flora’s report and wishes to respond on the record. I’ve heard from a few who have questions about the analysis and may prepare a response in the future.

Among the complaints about Flora’s report are these: It does not follow standard protocol for a scientific report; it is not obvious how he conducted his analysis; and it was not peer reviewed by third-party experts.

Flora told me that his intent was to create a paper that could be read by average people, and he did ask a couple of people to edit it for readability. He did not intend for it to be considered a scientific paper nor for it to be peer-reviewed in the scientific sense.

I have heard complaints that Flora did not show his work, and I found myself asking him to point me to the data tables that he used to plug numbers into the standard regression analysis — a statistical tool used to show relationships between two independent variables. I suggested to Flora that he include an appendix that would show the raw data and help people replicate his work. He thought this might be a good idea.

If you want to take a closer look, review the findings related to Bainbridge Island shoreline planning and Kitsap County shoreline planning, including the county shoreline assessments.

Some scientists find it offensive that Flora lifted data from these two reports and manipulated them to his own ends without consulting the scientists involved. Others are suspicious that Flora used these data to reach his own conclusions — a suspicion heightened because Flora is a member of KAPO. And KAPO’s press release (PDF 64 kb) about Flora’s report makes a leap that stirs the pot of controversy:

“These reviews bring into question the justification for any nearshore restorations or the need to impose any shoreline buffer zones in the upcoming Shoreline Master Program updates.”

Dealing with numerous scientific studies will be an important part of the effort to update the county’s shorelines plan. Kitsap County planners say they aren’t sure how they will deal with Flora’s report, but they intend to lean heavily on expertise from the Washington Department of Ecology to point them to reliable scientific studies.

The planners say they want to make sure that any studies upon which they rely for planning are vetted before they move into policy discussions. During the update of the county’s Critical Areas Ordinance, such studies were never fully vetted — at least not to the satisfaction of property rights advocates. KAPO members ended up arguing about science all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court — though the court did not address science issues at all when it overturned the county’s shoreline buffers. See the Sept. 9 Kitsap Sun and the Water Ways entry the next day.

I’ve always expected that experts would engage in a healthy discussion about what it will take to protect the ecological functions of the county’s shorelines. Now it appears the discussion may take on the tone of a debate. In comments posted at the bottom of today’s story, some people are showing their distrust of government while others are showing their distrust of KAPO.

I hope everyone can somehow relax enough to embark on a real search for truth knowledge as it relates to shoreline ecosystems. After all, isn’t that what science is really about?