Opinion

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"The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is solely responsible for the situation at Bush Point, where property owners rightly complain about the mess caused by all the anglers fishing from the beach. The state agency's failures could lead to a bad situation, in which frustrated property owners risk confrontation with anglers intent on fishing in an uncontrolled environment.Some residents are complaining to the Port of South Whidbey, but the blame belongs in Olympia. In fact, were it not for extraordinary efforts by the port, the situation would be worse than it is. Much of the abuse is occurring on state-owned property, but the port is paying for portable toilets and litter cleanup to try to make the best of a bad situation.It's a time-consuming trip back in The South Whidbey Record's files to find when the state started purchasing property at Bush Point for a future boat ramp and small, associated park. That occurred in in June 1996, when a headline reported, State buys first parcel of property at Bush Point. Several more parcels were purchased in ensuing months, giving the state all it needed to proceed with construction. Money was no problem, as 750,000 state dollars were already allocated for the project.By Oct. 5, 1996, The Record reported, Bush Point dominates port's budget. The port was already setting aside its own money to get ready for the Bush Point development. While the state would pay for construction, the port agreed to maintain the facilities.It is sadly ironic that a headline in last Saturday's South Whidbey Record echoed the one from 1996: Bush Point tops port's priorities. Again, the port commissioners are ready to get to work at Bush Point, but the state is lagging.What's the state been doing all these years? Very little, obviously. Fish & Wildlife officials last spring stated they were getting ready to apply for permits to build the facility. Whether that has happened is uncertain, but one thing we do know: Permits take much longer to receive now than they did five years ago before certain salmon species are listed as endangered. A final facilities design isn't even available, and the status of the fishing pier proposed next to the boat ramp is uncertain.Port of South Whidbey officials have been pushing for years for some answers at Bush Point. The long delay in obtaining answers is inexcusable. Bush Point residents should have been given final plans to peruse and make comments on; they should already have an agreement in place stating operating rules for the facilities; and they should have an agreement in place stating who is responsible for enforcing litter and trespassing laws and fishing regulations. Anglers should already have a modern boat ramp and fishing pier in place, with the rules clearly understood by all.Bush Point residents have a long history of tolerating fishermen on private property, but this year their patience is being severely tested.The port obviously needs help in getting action at Bush Point. Fishing groups who want to retain the right to fish at Bush Point should demand action from Fish & Wildlife immediately, or property owners just might rope off their beaches. Property owners and anglers should contact their elected representatives, demanding that they make Fish & Wildlife accountable for delays at Bush Point.And Fish & Wildlife should get busy before the Port of South Whidbey files a lawsuit to make them fulfill their promises at Bush Point. That was mentioned at the last port meeting, and it's an idea worth pursing. "

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