SMP/Underwater Pipelines, Fish Pens OK?

December 8, 2015 by islandersvoice1

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The comment below was submitted today by David Dehlendorf to the San Juan County Council on the proposed update to the existing Shoreline Master Program. This process has been underway for more than five years, yet the council has given the public only 30 days to comment on what is, except to experts, a largely incomprehensible document. But somethings are clear, namely the proposed removal of the prohibition on underwater oil pipelines and a drastic reduction in protected shorelines that nurture forage fish that salmon feed on, shorelines that also nurture our tourism-based economy. If you believe this is wrong, please submit your comments by email to council@sanjuanco.com by the deadline of Tuesday, December 8.

To Council Members Hughes, Jarman, & Stephens:

Please reconsider your recent decision to shoehorn the final deliberations of the update of the Shoreline Master Program into such a tight timeline. You announced last week that you would only accept public comments until December 8, that you would begin discussing changes among yourselves on December 15 without the opportunity for further public comment, that you would make public the final revised draft by mid-January, and that you would vote on the revision by the end of January. I may be wrong, but I understand that you are not planning to allow any further public comment before you vote. I think this would be wrong.

This short timeline gives short shrift to the public interest. You owe it to the public you serve and who voted you into office to give it sufficient time to review the recently released and very complicated draft, to review and comment on the next draft in January, and to learn your rationale for the significant changes you have made over the last two years. There is no good reason to hurry at this last moment, particularly given that the county has been working on the update for approximately five years. After the Planning Commission completed its review of the draft SMP update and delivered you its recommendations more than two years ago, the public was only able to view the new draft only three weeks ago, a draft which you and the Department of Community Development significantly rewrote over the last two years out of sight of the public. In effect you are shutting the public out of the review and comment process except for a select few individuals, businesses, and organizations that understand the intricacies of the document. The general public deserves better.

In view of the above, I encourage you and the Department of Community Development to conduct a public meeting in mid-January to discuss the next draft, explain the rationale for the many changes and why they are in the public interest, and to answer questions. To not do so will further diminish the public’s confidence in the transparency and professionalism of our county government at a time when it can ill afford such additional public criticism.

When you do resume deliberations, I encourage you to:

  1. Reinstate the prohibition on underwater oil pipelines which was eliminated in the most recent draft. I also encourage you to clarify and expand the prohibition to include all fossil fuels and their derivatives. If you decide not to do as I request, you owe it to the public to explain why.
  2. At the very least approve tighter restrictions, and preferably an outright ban, on aquaculture in our marine waters and lakes. Our economy, way of life and culture deserve better.
  3. Increase rather than severely decrease the existing level of protection of critical shoreline habitats which would be severely and negatively impacted by the proposed elimination of the split designations in the existing regulations. The draft also fails to take into consideration the extent of the critical shoreline habitats identified in the recent mapping conducted by the Friends of the San Juans and accepted by the county.

The public who elected you and whom you serve expects you to implement ways to increase such protections, not to severely degrade them, as a means of protecting salmon, orcas, our economy, and our way of life.

Thanks for listening.

David Dehlendorf
San Juan Island

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