Enetai Beach Response to Shoreline Buffers

by Enetai Community President, Glen Jurges

June 5, 2011

Dear Commissioners Brown, Garrido and Gelder,

I am the President of Enetai Community located in East Bremerton representing 16 shoreline property owners which include the Croxton House (The first mayor of Bremerton) and the Bremer Estate (Currently owned by the Ben Cheney Foundation).

As you will see below, maintaining the 35 foot shoreline buffer is very, I repeat very, important to all Enetai Beach property owners. The consequence of increasing the shoreline buffer to 100 feet has very serious financial, private property rights and a way of life issues for all Kitsap County shoreline property owners.

The Enetai Beach homes were constructed in accordance with Kitsap County Building Permits beginning in 1901 until 1964. No homes have been built since 1964, however, several have been remolded in accordance with all the appropriate regulations.

Some of the homes were located 35 feet from high water plus a 15 foot setback while others were situated further back depending on the particular lot configuration. Some homeowners installed bulkheads in accordance with the regulations at the time.

Increasing the shoreline buffer to 100 feet plus the setback significantly limits the use of their property because all the homes will now be classified as non-conforming structures. We strongly oppose increasing the buffer beyond the existing 35 feet which is explained in more detail below.

The Kitsap County Department of Community Development (DCD) is proposing to increase the current 35 foot shoreline buffer to 100 feet based on an unproven theory of “best available science”, pressure from the unelected Central Puget Sound Growth Management Board, the Department of Ecology and various environmental groups.

The basis of this increase has never been adequately explained or subjected to an unbiased peer review by the scientific community. These “experts” have NOT shown the 35 foot buffer is inadequate or increasing it will reduce the pollutants entering Puget Sound or protect the shoreline marine habitat.

When the proposed 100 foot buffer is applied equally to all urban, semi-rural and rural shorelines in Kitsap County without support from the scientific community it is “one size fits all” government decision making which irresponsible and puts an unfair burden on shoreline property owners.

The efforts by many property owners and government agencies in the last 20 years through education, repairing failing septic systems, improved management practices, enforcement of existing regulations, restrictions on wetlands, stormwater collecting facilities resulted in improving the water quality of many Kitsap County water bodies. Although these improvements do not receive the media attention as the major sewage or oil spills they have shown to be effective.

The Kitsap Sun dated 31 May 2011 reported the success of the Bremerton Water Treatment improvements by stating “Water-quality tests showed the waterways were cleaner than ever before. The effort proved so successful that some shellfish beds in Dyes Inlet, which had been closed for nearly 40 years, were reopened to commercial harvesting, which continues today.” In addition, the Enetai Beach property owners have seen a huge reduction in the amount and type of debris washing up on our beaches. Years ago it was common to find partially filled paint cans, medical waste, occasionally oil and a lot of general garbage.  Today, it is very unusual to find anything except an occasional plastic bottle.

The shoreline property owners have been and will continue to be excellent stewards of their property. The undisputable results from several creditable sources state Puget Sound is getting cleaner AND without increasing the shoreline buffers.

The State of the Sound Report released by the Governor’s Office on January 18, 2005 concluded “Stormwater is a leading pollution problem in the region”. The largest source of pollutants flowing into Puget Sound comes from dozens of creeks and streams collecting untreated stormwater runoff. In addition, thousands of gallons of untreated sewage are routinely discharged directly into Puget Sound during heavy rains due to equipment failures or facilities not designed for these higher flow rates.

When viewed as a whole, the runoff from private shoreline properties is miniscule compared to the other much larger sources from stormwater pollutants and untreated sewage. Even when these events occur from time to time it appears Puget Sound is cleaner than ever before. It should be pointed out that every home owner pays an annual stormwater fee supporting various programs that continue cleaning up Puget Sound.

Increasing the buffer beyond 35 feet will significantly impact all Enetai Beach homes because they will now be classified as non-conforming structures. Again, we strongly oppose increasing the 35 foot buffer for the following reasons:

1. Increasing the shoreline buffer will NOT solve the pollution problem but will severely limit property rights, the quality of life and decrease property values.

2. It has NOT been shown the 35 foot buffer is inadequate or increasing it to 100 feet will reduce the pollutants entering Puget Sound or will protect the shoreline marine habitat. The technology is available to measure the water quality at the most sensitive marine areas and identify the locations where increasing the buffer will be the most effective. Pierce County classified only 13% of their shoreline as critical habitat where Kitsap County has classified 100% as critical.

3. Land use policies must be based on scientific principles not wishful thinking, political pressure or subjective opinions. RCW 90.58.100(1) states “that local governments must use a systematic interdisciplinary approach that integrates the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts; they must consult with federal, state, regional, or local agencies having any specialized expertise with respect
to any environmental impact; conduct necessary research; and utilize all available information regarding hydrology, geography, topography, ecology, economics, and other pertinent date.”

4. The “experts” have never explained the unproven theory of the “best available science” or subjected it to an unbiased peer review by the scientific community. WAC 173-26-201(2)(a) states “that local governments shall identify and assemble the most current, accurate, and complete scientific and technical information available that is applicable to the issues of concern; and base master program provisions on an analysis incorporating this information.”
The Kitsap Sun dated May 29, 2011 reported “the Suquamish Tribe just finished a nine-year study of the near shore of Bainbridge Island in addition to other nooks of Puget Sound”. Have these studies been incorporated in the “best available science” used to determine the shoreline buffers need to be increased greater than 35 feet? If so, show us the science.

5. Applying the 100 foot “one size fits all” buffer to all urban, semi-rural and rural shorelines, unless supported by the scientific community, is irresponsible government.

6. Mandating a home or property as non-conforming will have a huge financial impact on the property values through-out the county. Financial institutions will charge higher interest rates for loans to refinance or sell non-conforming lots or structures.

7. “Best Available Science” has NOT shown that increasing the buffers from 35 feet to 100 feet justifies “taking of private property”. RCW 90.58.100 states “The Shoreline Management Act says that shoreline modifications is to be expected and requires a balance between property rights and ecological protection.”

8. The recently signed SB 5451 – 2011-12 concerning shoreline structures adds a new section to chapter 90.58 RCW. Section 2.(1)(a) may include “Residential structures and appurtenant structures that
were legally established and are used for a conforming use, but do not meet standards for the following are to be considered a conforming structure: Setbacks, buffers, or yards; area; bulk; height; or density; and (b) Redevelopment, expansion, change with the class of occupancy, or replacement structure if it is consistent with the master program, including requirements for no net loss of shoreline ecological function”. Therefore,
a structure legally established or vested on or before the effective date of a master program must be considered a conforming structure. What this means is if a property owner wants to make any improvements such as rain gardens, raised flower beds, fence repairs, etc or a multitude of normal improvements or maintenance will now require enormous cost for a professional assessment and red tape. Before proceeding the professional assessment must be approved by DCD and could include mitigation and or a variety of other impossible constraints if DCD perceives a net loss of ecological function.

We strongly urge you to retain the 35 foot shoreline buffer. You know the right decision is based on creditable science which DCD does not have, so do the right thing.

Respectively,

Glen Jurges, President of Enetai Beach Community

P.S. If the 100 foot shoreline buffer is approved you should immediately direct DCD to implement the same “best available science” and establish the same buffer for ALL Kitsap County property bordering any conveyance, whether private or county, that allows runoff to eventually reach Puget Sound. This should be relative easy considering all the time and effort spent in justifying a 100 foot buffer on all shoreline property owners. So do the right thing and require ALL property
owners
help control the runoff from their property from entering Puget Sound.

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