Shoreline restoration. Do we want to go there?

Environmental Insight With a Touch of Real Science
by Don Flora (a real scientist)

“Restoration” is mentioned in the state law that requires updates of local shoreline plans. The law says that people want shoreline utilization and restoration and attention should be paid to restoring places having “historic, cultural, scientific, and educational values.” But does it mean your front yard? Shoreline planners seem to think so, if you live near the shore. Some (planners and others) want to return the shore to its “pre-settlement” (pre 1850) appearance. Here are some of the ways they want you to contribute to restoration, without compensation of course.

A formal buffer, declared with your deed, reaching from the top of the beach to as far as 200 feet inland. With signs and or fences declaring it a no-touch place. No-touch indeed, with owners allowed only a narrow path to the beach. Mandated vegetation in the buffer including a designated number of trees. Never mind your view. Only “Native” vegetation is allowed, tended by the owner, who would otherwise be discouraged from recreating in the buffer. Failed plantings are to be replaced in kind by the owner, presumably to fail again. Within the buffer the owner may never cut down a tree without the okay of a certified arborist. But be sure to replace it. The tree!

A tastefully crafted stairway from the path would be okay, but no tree houses. The buffer would wrap around most homes, of course. Back yard, drain field, the works.

A bulkhead? The law allows it, but the planners can layer on so many “mitigation” provisions that you can’t abide them. One local proposal would allow repair of bulkheads but only 25 percent per decade. Residential docks would be actively discouraged too.

Your house would be a goner in time. It could be repaired if less than half is harmed by, say, fire or fallen trees. It could be expanded upward to perhaps three stories, but not outward, in one set of proposals. The underlying intent is to get rid of structures within 200 feet of the shore. While it stands, your house would be formally “nonconforming.” Tell that to a future buyer. Meanwhile, don’t touch the beach. Nobody really knows what a pristine beach looked like at your specific place, but you must restore it and maintain it.

Gary Tripp, a Kitsap neighbor, remarks that the current surges in chum and Chinook salmon are obviously not caused by any of these shoreline mandates.

Next month I’ll suggest reasons why re-creating the conditions of centuries ago is probably not feasible. Meanwhile, reflect on the condition of folks who lived along Puget Sound shores in those “pre-settlement” times. Do we want to replicate that

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