04/10/2008: "An Open Letter To The Head of DNR"
Dear Mr. Sutherland,
We are very concerned about the proposal for an Aquatic Reserve for the San Juan Islands. We oppose this designation for the following reasons.
The Marine Resource Council claims that they are the “lead agents for this proposal”. They do not represent us. They have no legal standing to negotiate directly with a State agency on behalf of the citizens of San Juan County. The MRC is not made up of a balanced group of citizens as is required by its founding charter. Some members are paid lobbyists from outside special interest groups and do not represent the interests of local residents at all. We believe that our local elected County Council is our only legal representative in this process. We urge them to involve the public through the legal public hearing process.
The shift in focus of priorities from commercial and recreational bottomland leases in favor of strict conservation uses will have a negative impact upon island transportation, our local economy, and recreation. Boats are not a luxury to islanders. They are an integral part of our history and heritage. While some environmental groups wish to see human activity reduced or eliminated in marine preserves a majority of the citizens need to live and make a living here. We don’t want our home turned into a pseudo-research lab for the next 90-years.
Because we are islands, boats are essential to our way of life. I was a commuter between my two grocery store businesses for many years. I depend upon docks and a boat that are in good repair. Our island economy depends on maintaining boat repair facilities and dock construction activities. It has been our sad experience that these activities are already too restricted. We don’t need a new DNR focus that will add another layer of intense scrutiny to the already onerous permit process that restricts our ability to boat safely and freely in our home waters.
Our fragile local economy and the economies in the surrounding north-sound region may be directly and negatively affected by a shift in DNR legislative priorities. Tourism and recreational uses will be the lowest priority when viewed through the lens of preservation. Laws that apply to Aquatic Reserves will limit new and existing recreational and commercial uses. During the 90-year period of this priority shift, the growth of our local economy will be artificially stifled. Counties competing with the San Juans for dollars from tourism and recreational industries will have an advantage if they have no aquatic reserve status while our ability to provide marine related services is restricted.
The San Juan archipelago has the most shoreline of any county in the State. DNR has a great opportunity lease bottomlands to generate funds for the public good. Locking up this opportunity for 90-years may not be in the best interest of the people of Washington State.
There will be many challenges for our islands in the future. With increased population fresh water supplies may become critical. Technology will likely make Desalinization an affordable option. We are concerned that saltwater intakes and outfalls that serve the needs of people may not be a priority over preservation in an aquatic reserve. We feel human needs should be balanced with the environment in our community not restricted in favor of it.
We are also concerned about the impacts of reserve status on upland property. Property rights may be impacted in unanticipated ways. The example of storm water runoff has the potential to impact every property in the County. So far this plan has not provided specific details about impacts of upland and shoreline property. The time for citizen review has been inadequate.
On the other hand local regulation has been more than adequate. We have the most pristine waters in the State and we have our own laws in place that will keep it that way. If your department wants to create more aquatic reserves please look elsewhere.
Thank you, respectfully,
Gordon and Lori Petersen
San Juan Island
San Juan County Council
The Island Guardian
(Doug Sutherland is the Commissioner of Public lands, and as such is the head of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) -Editor)