— by Margie Doyle —
Dear County Council,
I am writing to ask that you consider not just the legality and appropriateness of the existing and proposed Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), but that you also consider the potential to make a significant statement of stewardship in the final formulation of this plan.
I understand well that this takes extensive time and admire your leadership in making decisions for our county that enable us to move on, rather than endlessly churning old statements and trying to balance vocal and often critical interests. You have demonstrated this balance between dispatch and deliberation on the Critical Areas Ordinance and the Eastsound Subarea Plan.
The SMP was last updated 17 years ago, and the current update process has been underway for seven years. During this time, county staff has worked under your direction to study best available science, hold public meetings, and take public testimony. It may seem that the regulations and legality of the plan have all been responsible addressed.
But, as the birth of yet another orca — bringing the total of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (orcas) to 85 — and expectations of increased vessel traffic through our waters; and the potential dangers of oil/gas pipelines and shipments all demonstrate, there are significant developments and projections that cry out for advocacy or opposition from the people (and their representatives) of San Juan County.
Those newborn orcas, and their clan, depend on our attention to the major threats to their survival:
- marine pollution
- underwater noise
- available food — chinook salmon
Stewardship should not be neglected as we address development and regulation of the shoreline and our seas, which impact not just our county, but national and international interests.
I urge you as you consider the timeline for approving an updated SMP, that you seize the moment to make a statement on behalf of San Juan County residents — past, present and future — that we own the responsibility and the privilege of caring for the marine environment around us. Perhaps after this series of hearings on regulations you can format a Citizens Advisory Group, or give the MRC the charge of addressing the protections and monitors for shoreline/marine health that will be a model to other counties and public entities. Their work could be incorporated into the county SMP, not just to meet a deadline, but to speak to the days, years, and decades ahead.
Thank you for your diligent and thoughtful work on behalf of islanders; please, in this case, step back and give it more time to address what we all know are threats to the character of the islands.
You may never have a better opportunity.