Want to know what is going on in town? Check out these recaps of plans, parks and orca whales:
If the intersection of Argyle Avenue and Spring Street confuses you, you’re not alone. At the March 2 Town of Friday Harbor Council meeting, five spoke in favor of the town’s preliminary plans to add a roundabout with painted signs. The paint, said Town Clerk Amy Taylor, allows the town flexibility in signage. “It’s paint, so it can always come off,” said Taylor.
One person spoke against the plans, asking, for instance, how large semi-trucks would use the cramped space. Council members made a few edits to the plan, like adjusting crosswalks and eliminating unnecessary signs. Staff will return the edited plans to council for the March 16 or April 5 meeting. About 140 people completed an online survey about the roundabout before the meeting, said Taylor, and another survey will be posted next week.
The Town of Friday Harbor may be over 100 years old, but a Spring Street park is giving it new life. Utilities work needed for the Pocket Park was completed last week and the project officially started on Monday, Feb. 28. The contractor has until May 3 to complete the park between Haley’s Sports Bar &Grill and The Palace Theatre with wooden seats, benches, trees and shrubs. Both the town and contractor estimate the project will be done sooner.
Mt. Grant plans
Mount Grant is a clean slate, but not for long. The San Juan County Land Bank staff — the new owner of the preserve — held its first planning meeting for the 141 acres on Feb. 28. Six tables at Brickworks were arranged for group discussions on ecology, equestrian, hiking, accessibility, mountain biking, and education. Ideas included creating self-guided tours and discreet signage. Didn’t make it to the meeting? Send your ideas to 350 Court St. #6, Friday Harbor or firstname.lastname@example.org, call 378-4402, or stop by in-person at 328 Caines St. in Friday Harbor. Ideas will be collected and some will be drafted into the preserve’s plan. The draft will be reviewed at public meetings, with the final version sent to the Land Bank Commission and the San Juan County Council tentatively by the end of the year — a path almost as long as the preserve’s 740-foot ridge. The next chance for public input will be this fall.
The most wonderful time of the year has returned. Local Girl Scouts will sell cookies from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 11 at Marketplace and in the late morning and early afternoon on Sunday, March 12 at King’s Market.
About 30 people spoke at the March 1 San Juan County Marine Resources Committee meeting about an orca protection zone petition presented to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month. The petition prevents whale watching vessels in areas where Southern resident killer whales are known to eat. Vessel noise can obstruct orcas’ ability to echolocate food.
Sgt. Russ Mullins, a local U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer, helps to enforce the protection zone and suggested a “slow-go bubble” around orcas instead of the petition’s plan to eliminate whale watching boats altogether off San Juan Island’s western and southern coasts. He wondered how officers would enforce the petition when people are in the zone, but whales are not in the area, as it would still be illegal to be there if the petition passed.
Jeff Friedman, U.S. president of the Pacific Whale Watching Association, also suggested whale watching vessels slow down anywhere orcas go to lower noise and impact on them. The lack of salmon, Friedman said, is the biggest threat to orcas, not sound created by vessels.
Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance Executive Director Scott West said 55 research papers indicating vessel noise as a threat to orcas are referenced in the petition, but is open to discussion on zone location.
“If we have suggested the wrong place for the zone, then perhaps the whale watch industry and the folks out there who know these whales probably better than anyone else can suggest a better location,” said West.
The petition, filed by Orca Relief to NOAA, would prevent commercial and private motorized whale watching vessels from entering about a mile from the shoreline in the approximate 10 square miles from Mitchell Point to Cattle Point, from April 1 through Sept. 30. NOOA’s open comment period ends on April 13. Submit comments to NOAA by searching for the document “NOAA-NMFS-2016-0152” at www.regulations.gov and clicking the “comment now” button. The public can also write to Lynne Barre, NMFS West Coast Region, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.