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Ecology takes opinions on Island County shoreline planning

The public will have another chance to weigh in on Island County’s recently adopted shoreline master program at a meeting in Coupeville next week.

Adopted by the commissioners late last year, the plan has to pass muster of the state Department of Ecology before it can go into effect. The agency is seeking public comment and will hold an open house and hearing Wednesday, May 1.

The open house begins at 6 p.m., followed by the public hearing at 7 p.m. Both will be held in the Island County Commissioners Hearing Room, 1 N.E. Sixth St.

Shoreline master programs, which are required under state law, guide development along the waterfront. The county’s program applies to 210 miles of marine and fresh water shoreline.

The commissioners wrapped up an exhaustive two-year effort to update the program this past December when the board approved the plan in a 2-1 vote. It’s now up to Ecology officials to decide if the plan is up to snuff.

While several issues were hotly debated during the update process, one of those that saw much discussion but little disagreement concerned rules for non-native, fin-fish net pens.

The board banned them outright and the decision has been a source of heartburn for Ecology regulators. The department has long held the position that they are a preferred water dependent use and cannot be simply outlawed.

Environmental activists, such as Steve Erickson with Whidbey Environmental Action Network, say the upcoming meeting could be decisive as enough public comment could sway Ecology decision makers.

“Of course we’ll be there,” Erickson said. “It’s real important.”

Should Ecology change their position, it could have a ripple effect on master programs in other counties, such as Jefferson County. Their plan also included a ban but approval by Ecology has been held up for years.

While Erickson said he’s hopeful that enough public comment would be enough to turn the tide, he is not too optimistic.

“We’re expecting this to go to court,” he said.

Ecology will be accepting public comment on the county’s program until 5 p.m., May 24.

They can be addressed to David Pater, Department of Ecology, 3190 160th Ave. S.E. Bellevue, WA 98008.

Comments can also be submitted by email to david.pater@ecy.wa.gov or by telephone, 425-649-4253.

 

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