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News Roundup - Crowd berates water skiers/City empanels ferry experts/City to unveil decant facility

Crowd berates water skiers

Water skiers hit some rough waters Wednesday night, snagging on a letter from the federal government and numerous shoreline residents, kayakers and rowers who say the sport is too fast and furious for Eagle Harbor.

“We certainly cannot be in the same vicinity as water skiers without concern for flooding our shells,” said Dee McComb, president of the Bainbridge Island Rowing Club, during a public hearing before the City Council to discuss changes to rules regulating vessel speeds and wakes in the harbor.

The proposed changes, drafted by Councilman Jim Llewellyn, would create a new water ski area north of Pritchard Park, limit wakes from motor-powered vessels to 9 inches within the inner-harbor and would relocate the border of the 5-knot speed zone to the west side of Taylor Avenue.

The council took no action on the proposed changes Wednesday, opting to send the ordinance back to the Land Use Committee for additional review and to deliberate on concerns expressed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In a letter sent to the city on Tuesday, the EPA questioned a proposed change to the ordinance that would establish a water ski park near a mitigation beach along Pritchard Park.

Wakes from water skiers and their vessels could damage the sediment cap containing toxins leftover from a former creosote treatment plant and may disturb a migration corridor for salmon and other fish, EPA officials said.

The rule changes could “adversely impact the purpose and function of the mitigation beach as well as potentially damage and contaminate the beach and Eagle Harbor,” the EPA letter states.

For EPA approval, the city must complete a detailed analysis of the new water ski zone’s impact to the park’s tidal area.

“This (letter) shows us that the city has some work to do,” said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil. “It’s not negotiable. It’s incumbent upon the city to respond to the EPA.”

Water skiing is already having an unwelcome impact where the sport is permitted, some shoreline residents contend.

“You’re mandating the destruction of a property that’s been in my family for three generations,” said Steve Eckholm of Eagle Harbor Drive.

Eckholm urged the council to consider an earlier recommendation drafted by the city Harbor Commission that would prohibit water skiing in the inner harbor.

“I don’t know where water skiing should go, but I don’t think the inner harbor is the right place for it,” said Lisa Macchio, an island resident who has monitored the harbor’s environmental health for the EPA. “Traffic in and out of there seems crazy to me.”

Mark Leese of Stetson Place characterized the inner harbor wake rules as “unenforceable.” He charged that water skiers “dominate and intimidate” other harbor visitors while “damaging wildlife habitat, docks and waterfront property.”

Lifelong harbor resident Paul Svornitch said his enthusiasm for water skiing has ebbed as damage became more apparent.

“I grew up water skiing in the ’60s and ’70s and I love water skiing,” he said. “I was adamantly in favor of keeping it in the harbor. But I’ve seen the environmental change.”

Svornich now favors the non-motorized modes of travel on the harbor.

“Now it’s 2006 and we see an increasingly large amount of kayakers and rowers, and I feel the policy (governing water skiing) should change,” he said.

Rose Loop resident Phil McCrudden was one of the few who spoke in favor of water skiing in the harbor. He believes many new island residents look down on the sport he and his children have enjoyed for years.

“What are our kids supposed to do?” he asked. “Should we put up signs that say, ‘Don’t come here. This is a place just for old people who want to live a quiet life?’”

McCrudden said concerns about wakes were “horse pucky.” As an avid rower with a shell of his own, McCrudden said he is not concerned about flooding caused by water skiing wakes.

Llewellyn defended his ordinance changes, stressing wake boarding would be eliminated in the inner harbor and that water skiing would be prohibited during organized use of the harbor by rowing and other clubs.

Llewellyn also cited tests he has conducted in Manzanita Bay that show little shoreline impact from wakes.

– Tristan Baurick

City empanels ferry experts

The City Council agreed to establish a panel of experts Wednesday to advise the city as it negotiates a range of issues with the state ferry system.

“Most people are aware that the council is taking significant action (against Washington State Ferries) with significant consequences,” said Councilman Nezam Tooloee, referring to the city’s court challenge of WSF’s environmental review of proposed ferry maintenance yard upgrades. “They’ve got a lot of horsepower with experts and consultants that puts the city at a disadvantage.”

The new advisory panel would help even the odds, Tooloee said, with a roster of environmental, technical, financial, legal and operational experts acting on the city’s behalf.

Tooloee said a “fair number” of island residents are highly trained and experienced in these and other areas, and would likely step up to the task if asked.

The panel would also advise the city in other negotiations with WSF, including the design and rebuild of the Winslow ferry terminal. The city administration was hesitant to burden staff with assisting another committee.

“This is the fourth committee (or) panel this year,” said city Administrator Mary Jo Briggs. “It has a tremendous impact on legal and other staff.”

Despite the administration’s reservations, the council gave the panel unanimous approval.

– Tristan Baurick

City to unveil decant facility

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy will deliver the ceremonial “first load” of waste to celebrate the opening of the city’s new state-of-the-art street and storm water decant facility next Wednesday.

The ceremony, which is open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. April 19 at the decant station at the Vincent Road transfer and recycling station.

The facility processes waste collected from city streets and storm facilities, with the goal of reducing pollution runoff to surface water and streams that eventually flow into Puget Sound.

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