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County looks at a shooting ban at Deer Lagoon

A man puts in a boat at Deer Lagoon on Friday morning. County commissioners will hold a public hearing later this month to consider new restrictions on shooting at the popular destination for waterfowl hunting. - Brian Kelly / The Record
A man puts in a boat at Deer Lagoon on Friday morning. County commissioners will hold a public hearing later this month to consider new restrictions on shooting at the popular destination for waterfowl hunting.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

It may be a case of bad news, bad news for local hunters.

Island County commissioners will revisit restrictions on shooting at Deer Lagoon, and the proposed rules put a greater area of the lagoon off-limits than the regulations last considered in 2005.

But that may be good news for residents in the Deer Lagoon area, who have long complained about the noise from hunting and the danger of duck hunting so close to nearby homes.

County commissioners will hold a public hearing on the new rules on Sept. 21 at Freeland Hall. The board of commissioners last took up the highly contentious issue four years ago, but proposed countywide changes went nowhere when commissioners hit an impasse after six public hearings filled with highly charged testimony from hunters and property owners.

Now, the proposed shooting restrictions cover just Deer Lagoon. Violations of the regulations would be a criminal misdemeanor.

Island County Public Works Director Bill Oakes said the proposed rules would ban the discharge of firearms 230 yards from the shore of the county’s 379 acres at Deer Lagoon.

The regulations that were proposed in 2005 created a 50-yard buffer zone at the lagoon, a popular destination for hunting waterfowl. The previous rules would have also shorted deer season by six weeks on county land.

Oakes said the 230-yard no-shoot zone was probably the maximum range that bird shot pellets could travel.

If adopted, the rules would leave a polygon-shaped donut hole in the middle of the county’s Deer Lagoon property where firearms could still be used.

Though the county has restrictions on other public lands it owns — there is a 150-yard setback for shooting near non-motorized trails, and shooting is banned on Lone and Honeymoon lakes and within 100 yards of the shoreline, and also prohibited on Goss Lake — Oakes doubted the proposed rules will satisfy everyone.

“My sense is it will still be controversial,” he said.

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson agreed.

“I don’t believe that everyone will be satisfied. I don’t think any outcome will satisfy anyone,” she said. “There are people who want hunting to continue and there are people who want no hunting at all.”

“We all want to preserve the wonderful natural resource of Deer Lagoon. There is just a very stark difference of opinion on just how to do that,” Price Johnson added.

Price Johnson said the issue was raised repeatedly during her run for a seat on the county board of commissioners last year.

“I see it as unfinished business. My job as commissioner is to take care of the resources of Island County citizens and this is one of those,” she said. “My desire for this meeting is that we’re able to look at the issues and come together as neighbors and not personalize our differences, but to rise above that and to be able to discuss even controversial things in a way that preserves our community. That’s my desire.”

The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 at Freeland Hall.

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