By Tina Whitman
The more than 400 miles of marine shoreline in San Juan County define our unique community of islands- they are our identity. Highly productive intersections of land and sea, these shorelines support the marine food web and its salmon, seabirds and marine mammals that provide the foundation for our tourism-based economy and our vibrant quality of life.
With the first update in 18 years, today’s changes to the Shoreline Master Program will determine how our shorelines look and function for decades to come.
Will we ensure that residential development and redevelopment, our primary shoreline activity, occurs in a way that protects the scenic shorelines we all expect to enjoy as we travel the county’s shared waters?
Will we incorporate the extensive, new, site-specific scientific information gathered for just this SMP update? This information could help us do our part to help recover the chinook salmon, Southern resident killer whales, tufted puffin seabirds, and rockfish listed under the federal or state Endangered Species Act since our community last updated the SMP in 1998?
Will we find the right balance between the rights of shoreline property owners and those of the larger community to public access and the protection of public resources into the future?
Volumes of public comment have been provided to the county, from multitudes of residents sharing their vision for shoreline stewardship in our community, and from local and regional committees, organizations, agencies and tribes sharing their expertise.
It is the job now of our elected officials to carefully consider this input from their constituents and embrace this significant opportunity to ensure that the feature we are most known for locally and across the globe, our cherished marine shorelines, prosper into the future.
Whitman is Science Director at Friends of the San Juans and lives on Orcas with her husband and son. She is happiest on a beach, for work or play.