Tag Archives: Poulsbo

Poulsbo leads Kitsap with new shorelines plan

Poulsbo is the first local jurisdiction in Kitsap County to update its Shoreline Master Program, as required by state law, and send it on to the Washington Department of Ecology for ratification.

The Poulsbo City Council approved the document Wednesday, as reported by Kitsap Sun reporter Amy Phan.

As required by formal state policies, the shorelines plan adopts numerous new regulations to accomplish these basic goals:

  • Protect the quality of water and the natural environment to achieve “no net loss” of ecological function as time goes on,
  • Encourage water-dependent uses along the shoreline while discouraging uses that are not connected to the water,
  • Preserve and enhance public access and recreational uses along the shoreline.
Poulsbo shoreline designations (Click to download full size (PDF 976 kb).)

Keri Weaver, Poulsbo’s associate planner, does a good job outlining the content of the Poulsbo Shoreline Master Program in her staff report (PDF 224 kb) submitted to the City Council. The full SMP (PDF 552 kb) is more revealing and not difficult to read.

The document lists five “shoreline environments,” defined by ecological characteristics and current uses, each with its own development rules:

  • Shoreline residential
  • High intensity
  • Urban conservancy
  • Natural
  • Aquatic

Check out the shoreline maps to locate each of the environments.

The always-controversial issue of buffers was settled during the previous update of Poulsbo’s Critical Areas Ordinance. The City Council saw no reason to revisit its justification for 100-foot buffers along the city’s saltwater shoreline on Liberty Bay and 150-foot buffers along Dogfish Creek, the largest stream draining into bay. In addition, 25-foot setbacks expand the no-building zone, but water-dependent uses and public access may be exempt from those setbacks.

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South Fork Dogfish Creek will get gradual makeover

The city of Poulsbo now has a reasonable blueprint for restoring the South Fork of Dogfish Creek as money and volunteers become available. The city is the logical entity to lead the effort, considering that 90 percent of the 700-acre watershed lies within the city limits.

Reporter Brynn Grimley quotes Mayor Becky Erickson in Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun:

“The plan identifies the low-hanging fruit, the individual projects over time that don’t cost a lot of money and that really restore the creek… Over the next four to five years, we hope to find funding and fix these one piece at a time. The idea of salmon spawning throughout Poulsbo and what that means to our heritage, that’s a good thing.”

The South Fork of Dogfish Creek
Kitsap Sun photo

The battle against pollution in Dogfish Creek has been going on for years under the leadership of the Kitsap County Health District. Much of the focus has been on septic systems and farming practices on the main stem of the creek, which flows down from the north through rural farmlands and housing developments, as well as the east and west forks of the stream.

What struck me about the plan for the South Fork is its clear focus on structure and function — in other words, looking at the needs of salmon. The South Fork Dogfish Creek Restoration Master Plan (PDF xx 8.8 mb) lists these objectives:

  • Remove, repair, and replace barriers to fish migration.
  • Restore/create off‐channel rearing and high‐flow refuge habitat.
  • Increase instream habitat complexity (e.g., install large woody debris, create pools).
  • Improve low‐flow water quality conditions (e.g., temperature and dissolved oxygen).
  • Improve high‐flow water quality conditions (e.g., sediment and chemical pollutants in stormwater).
  • Improve connection to the floodplain (i.e., restore natural planform and reduce channel incision).
  • Restore riparian habitat (e.g., restore native plant species, increase interspersion of different plant communities).
  • Restore connection to floodplain wetlands.
  • Enforce existing regulations that protect stream ecology.

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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.