Help Protect Shorelines in the San Juans

November 21, 2015 by islandersvoice1


The following message has been received from Friends of the San Juans about the November 30 public hearing of the San Juan County Council to consider comments to the proposed update to the existing Shoreline Master Program.

Help Protect Shorelines in the San Juans

Dear Public,

Do you have an opinion about shorelines in the San Juans?

If so, it’s time to let the San Juan County Council (“Council”) know as they get closer to finalizing the Shoreline Management Program (“SMP”) update.

On November 30th at a time to be announced, the Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the SMP update. The SMP seeks to manage development within 200 feet of the shoreline so that it protects important shoreline habitats and so that the public can enjoy access to our shorelines.

San Juan County first adopted its SMP in 1976, and completed its last full update in 1998. Historically, San Juan County’s SMP has protected our shorelines at least as well as rules in many other places in Washington. If the Council doesn’t hear from enough of us by November 30th, however, that may change. Each week this month we will feature an issue that will help you make a comment to the Council regarding the SMP update.

Comment 1: Protect Shoreline Greenery for Fish and People. While other jurisdictions have recently taken steps to carefully protect shoreline vegetation, our County’s SMP update would offer only partial measures. The science tells us that one of the best ways to protect shade for surf smelt eggs or insects that feed salmon (like the juvenile Chinook listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act) is to retain trees, shrubs, and groundcover along the shoreline. Other counties do just that, with an area called a buffer. Whatcom and Jefferson Counties generally offer a 150-foot buffer and carefully allow only new activities that are compatible in those areas. Similarly, Skagit County buffers extend between 100 and 200 feet from the shoreline, depending on its zoning status.

In contrast, our county’s proposed SMP update would establish roughly 75-100 foot vegetated areas, and would permit new development in them like well drilling, stormwater facilities, septic tanks and lines, aquaculture staging, fences, 4,000 square-foot gardens and orchards, and annual cutting of 20% of the foliage. Most of these activities could just as easily occur outside vegetated shorelines, allowing the intact, healthy vegetation to slowly filter runoff, capture pollutants, buttress soil, limit excess erosion, and provide shade, habitat, and insects for fish and wildlife.

Less developed shorelines can also be more resilient to sea level rise by allowing them to shift with rising tides.

If you want healthy waters for fishing and clamming, abundant wildlife watching, and beautiful scenery, contact your County Councilor to let him know that we should protect healthy, shoreline vegetation.

Jamie Stephens (Lopez/Shaw/Decatur) | 378-2898 |

Bob Jarman (San Juan & Stuart) | 378-2898 |

Rick Hughes (Orcas/Waldron/Blakely) | 472-0253 |

You can also submit official written comments to Colin Maycock (, the staff planner who has participated in the update since the work began in 2012. Please copy Bob Fritzen, WA Department of Ecology, with your comments (

Stay tuned for more! Each week until November 30th, you will receive an email from FRIENDS that explores a different component of the SMP update. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us at (360) 378-2319 or

Thank you for your support,
Katie Fleming
Community Engagement Director, Friends of the San Juans

%d bloggers like this: