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Salmon protection changes course Consultants will look at the island's habitat areas before laws are changed.
"Bolstered by an $80,000 state grant and the services of an intern, the city is moving ahead with an inventory of near-shore conditions that may affect salmon habitat.But elected officials have not yet decided how aggressively to pursue restricting shoreline activities in the name of salmon recovery.What we need to do to protect salmon is far beyond what the political climate will allow, said city council member Michael Pollock, a professional ecosystems analyst.Like other local jurisdictions, the city has been under the mandate of the National Marine Fisheries Service, to implement a plan to protect the endangered Chinook salmon and other species.The city is facing two choices now, Pollock said. It can pursue an aggressive approach - which may involve significant land-use restrictions. If it implements a sufficiently stringent ordinance, the federal government would protect the city against any lawsuits resulting from habitat loss.The other approach, which the city is now taking by default, is to go slower on the habitat-protection program and run the risk of being sued.The city did not make deadlines last year for submitting salmon-protection plans to the federal government, Pollock said, nor did it pass a protective ordinance although a draft was introduced. More stringent protection plans have met resistance from property rights activists around Kitsap County and elsewhere in the Puget Sound area.The city basically lacks the resources to deal with the issue in the timeline the federal government wants, Pollock said. Right now, anyone is vulnerable to a lawsuit.Whether the city does or does not impose restrictions that would protect against litigation, it is also required by state law to update its shoreline management plan, its critical areas ordinance and its comprehensive plan. And as the first step towards completing those tasks, the city is taking an inventory of its present near-shore environment.The purpose is to study the physical and biological processes on the shoreline at selected sites and examine the effect that human intervention there has, said city long-range planner Marti Stave.The city has contracted with three consulting firms to do that work. The work will be paid for from an $80,750 grant awarded to the city by the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, to which the city will add $14,250.The state has asked that the scope of work be expanded, Stave said, and has indicated that it will enlarge the grant. The effort will start once the scope and funding are finalized.The city has also hired Peter Namtvedt Best as an intern to work on the assessment. His job will be to compile existing information on the Bainbridge near-shore environment from existing state, federal and city sources.Data should be assembled by June. Over the summer, that information will be analyzed; new rules, if any, are not expected to be enacted until September 2002.Pollock thinks analyzing near-shore conditions and possibly changing land-use rules is important. But he questions whether such measures will have a dramatic impact on salmon populations.There are harvest issues that we are afraid to deal with, he said. We have a threatened species, and yet we're out harvesting. We don't harvest spotted owls or bald eagles or peregrine falcons, but we do harvest salmon. "