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A reason why we need substantially wider shoreline buffers
On Aug. 25 in Friday Harbor, County Councilman Richard Fralick, Orcas West, presented a very good question to the Critical Areas Ordinance panel of experts.
Fralick asked what harm is done by a house on the shoreline. A state wildlife biologist thought carefully about the question, and then answered that a house removes habitat. That is a very good answer for someone who studies land-based ecology. Hearing this answer, you might then think: Well, a house removes habitat if it is near or far from the shoreline, so why do larger shoreline buffers matter?
If there had been a fisheries biologist on the panel, they could easily have described the greater impacts that a house closer to the shore has on marine life.
Imagine that you live 50 feet from the edge of a rocky shoreline. You care deeply about our fishes, birds, and orcas. You avoid using fertilizers and pesticides that could poison our marine life. But then, carpenter ants invade your home and begin to destroy its structure. To get rid of the destructive insects, you have a pest control company apply pyrethroid insecticide around the foundation of your house.
You are told these pyrethroids are virtually non-toxic to humans, birds and mammals. You feel good until you learn that pyrethroids are highly poisonous for fish and other marine life. Strong northeasterly rainstorms can easily wash the insecticide downhill over the rocky shoreline and into our nearshore waters.
This is just one reason why we need substantially wider shoreline buffers. Vegetated shoreline buffers can intercept pesticide-bearing stormwater, and then these buffers can biologically inactivate many toxic chemicals before they reach our shared waters.
Few among us will not have to deal with wood-destroying insects invading our homes. That is why we must have significantly larger, vegetated shoreline buffers in our revised CAO.