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San Juan Initiative presents shoreline protection recommendations to County Council Dec. 9

The San Juan Initiative will present recommendations to improve the protection of more than 400 miles of shoreline in San Juan County to the County Council on Dec. 9.

After two years of study and public outreach, the San Juan Initiative calls for comprehensive changes to local and regional shoreline education, voluntary and regulatory protection efforts. Protecting the remaining habitat in the San Juan Islands will require a focused approach on the areas most sensitive to human disturbance – places that create the habitat used by forage fish, eelgrass and other important ecosystem components.

Specific recommendations include:

— Improving education and technical assistance to shoreline property owners living along sensitive stretches of shore and those who develop and sell shoreline property.

— Increasing compliance and enforcement along the shoreline.

— Changing the setbacks requirements along eroding bluffs to ensure that bulkheads won’t be needed throughout the life of the structure.

— Changing regulations for new bulkheads along bluffs and beaches to allow them only when the main structure is threatened and considering the community issues this will raise relative to property rights.

— Changing regulations for maintaining shoreline trees and ground cover to include maintenance of ecosystem functions provided by the vegetation.

“The San Juan Initiative is a common-sense approach to improving shoreline protection that can be useful to other coastal communities,” said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. The Partnership is using the San Juan Initiative as a model for a Sound-wide ecosystem protection and recovery strategy called the Action Agenda.

Local builder Peter Kilpatrick, owner of Ravenhill Construction, agreed.

“Tailoring our regulations and education efforts to the environmental function and sensitivities of a particular stretch of shoreline makes sense, and encourages landowners and builders to use their creativity to protect the environment,” Kilpatrick said in a press release.

After 18 public workshops, the Policy Group of the San Juan Initiative feels confident that the approach put forward is politically doable, community supported and based on science.

“We have talked to the community and to scientists, and we think our recommendations could bring people together to improve protection of a place we all love,” Policy Group Co-Chairman Jonathan White said.

The recommendations are based on an evaluation of how well current protection measures are working. Citizen input from community meetings and interviews with shoreline landowners, building professionals, real estate agents, scientists, county staff members, and San Juan Initiative Policy Group members informed the report.

The San Juan Initiative will submit the final proposal to the San Juan County Council on Dec. 9; a final meeting of the San Juan Initiative Policy Group will be held Dec. 11. The meetings are open to the public.

— Dec. 9: 10:45 a.m. San Juan County Council, 55 Second St.

Dec. 11: 11- 3 p.m. San Juan Community Theatre, 100 Second St.

To read the recommendations or for additional information, visit www.sanjuaninitiative.org. CLICK HERE.

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