Are wider buffers really necessary?
October 13, 2009 · 12:36 PM
It would appear that my previous letter to the editor (Sept. 30 Journal) refuting Janet Alderton’s contention that we need wider shoreline buffers was misinterpreted by Sandra Harold (Letters to the Editor, Oct. 7 Journal).
My published remarks concerned those lots on the periphery of the islands in this county which border on a free-flowing tidal stream, not lots facing bays and estuaries.
Sandra Harold cited studies conducted in the bay adjacent to the Town of Friday Harbor. However, it is my understanding that for many years stormwater runoff from the city was directed into this bay which could have led to the detergent accumulation in bay sediment these studies found.
Rural shoreline residences, unlike the town of Friday Harbor, have a required setback buffer between houses and the shore to absorb runoff. Since increasing this setback requirement will significantly reduce property values of shoreline lots, before adopting such a change in policy we should first convince ourselves that existing buffers are really too small to prevent harm to adjacent marine life and that an increased setback is the only way to prevent such damage. I have not been able to locate any peer-reviewed publications which came to this conclusion for residential shoreline lots facing free-flowing tidal streams.
In reviewing the Best Available Science to answer these questions, it should be remembered that the results of experiments obtained in other environments such as those conducted in bays, estuaries, aquaria, fresh-water streams, ponds, or near cities or industrial complexes may not directly extrapolate to shores of residences adjacent to tidal-streams.
In addition, shoreline vegetation and soils in this county (and thus shoreline buffering capacity) varies from one lot to the next. A one size fits all setback for all county shoreline lots therefore seems inappropriate.
I am not in favor of anything which would harm the marine environment. However, I would not support such a change in setback requirements unless I am convinced that the size of existing buffers is causing significant environmental damage.
Donald L. Hendrix