Testimony Of Robert Benze on the Kitsap County SMP

Testimony of Bob Benze to the Kitsap Co. Commissioners – October 29, 2012

My name is Bob Benze and I reside in Silverdale. I participated on the county’s Shoreline Master Program Task Force over its entire lifetime. I am an environmental engineer and have a history of advocating the use of leading edge science in solving environmental problems. I am representing the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners.

My question to you this evening is simple: Why have you taken an 81 page document that is already overprotective of the shoreline environment, and expanded it into a 186 page document that uses the government’s police power to further take away the rights of property owners to maintain, use, and enjoy their property – by applying some really dramatic restrictions, such as huge buffers, without any real scientific justification or any compensation for the taking? 

In task force meetings, I repeatedly asked the County and the Department of Ecology representatives for documentation showing that the existing ordinance and 35- ft. setbacks were not adequately protecting the shoreline, and for documentation showing that single-family residences on the shoreline pose risk to the environment. These requests were also presented formally. They have gone unanswered — because there is no such evidence – and because ongoing monitoring shows the shoreline health has been steadily improving for decades.

Indeed, published studies provided to the County show that the environment in front of shoreline residential development is as healthy as that in front of undeveloped shoreline. These studies have been ignored

This evening, I am submitting for the record the September 14, 2012 EPA and Department of Ecology’s Review and Synthesis of Available Information to Estimate Human Impacts to Dissolved Oxygen in Hood Canal. It concludes that: “There is no compelling evidence that humans have caused decreasing trends in dissolved oxygen in Hood Canal.” and that “Fish kills occur due to a cascade of natural events.” These conclusions put the county’s buffer science synthesis into real trouble, since the filtration of oxygen-depleting nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous appears to be the primary reason the county wants large buffers. As it turns out, this new study shows this isn’t a problem on Kitsap’s marine shorelines.

And, as we have previously reported, the county’s scientific buffer synthesis already has big problems, including no evidence that a “qualified scientific expert” conducted the synthesis, or that it was ever peer reviewed, as required by the County’s own scientific and technical policy.

Finally, as one commissioner indicated to me, the reason the County is producing a more stringent ordinance is because that is what the Department of Ecology wants. But the truth is that WAC 173-26 allows wide latitude, from no shoreline buffers at all to 200-ft. buffers. Other jurisdictions have resisted Ecology’s attempts to impose unjustified controls; in Burien’s case, fighting to maintain their existing 20-ft. shoreline setbacks.

As commissioners, you have the power to resist Ecology’s unscientific and overprotective schemes that steal away your constituent’s constitutional rights to their property. I ask you to exercise that power — take the proposed SMP update back to the drawing board and actually apply your science policy to develop realistic buffers.

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