I come here tonight to talk about science. I am not here to propose dualing scientists, credentials, or peer review. I want to go back to the basics. At it’s essence science is about identifying a problem, figuring out a cause, developing and implementing a solution, and measuring progress. The Shoreline Management plan presented here tonight does none of those things.
The policy stated in the Shoreline Management Act is clear. “This policy contemplates protecting against adverse effects to the public health, the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the waters of the state and their aquatic life”. In this regard there has been considerable discussion in recent years about the need to protect Puget Sound and to provide for “no net loss of Ecological Function”.
If we are to use science properly in the pursuit of this goal, we would make an effort to identify the causes of degradation in the sound. According to the Puget Sound Partnership the major source of pollution is stormwater runoff, primarily from our many roads and paved surfaces and combine stormwater sewage overflows (CSO). In the last 6 months Snohomish County has discharged over 1 million gallons and Bremerton 750,000 gallons into the Sound. King County has over 150 CSO outlets with a state approved goal of limiting overflows to 1 overflow per outlet per year. To date I have been unable to find a total discharge amount for King County. Why then is the county establishing up to 100 foot vegetative buffers on shoreline home owners.
The Inventory and Characterization Report, the supposed baseline for establishing no net loss has no quantitative numbers on flora and fauna. Critical habitat indicators such as eel grass is described in terms such as patchy. Furthermore there is no plan to measure anything to monitor progress toward improvement in the Sound. It is left to the homeowner to prove no net loss. A more scientific approach would be to develop a robust measurement program such as periodic beach seines to inventory the fish populations, or a annual sample of a cubic yard of beach to assess the quantity and condition of the shellfish and animals actually living in the environment.
Instead of placing more and more restrictions on the homeowner a better approach would be an active monitoring and problem solution program. Establish a homeowner education program on pesticides and fertilizers. If the primary concern shoreline residential pollution concern is a failed septic system, the solution is not to plant bushes, it is to establish a near term septic monitoring program and prioritize programs to get shoreline residences on sewer.