SMP misnterpretations are often accepted as fact | Letters | Oct. 21
October 21, 2011 · 12:09 PM
Decisions on the update of the Bainbridge Island Shoreline Master Program (SMP) must be based on facts and scientific interpretation. Unfortunately, statements, whose factual basis is suspect, have been made in some of our discussions. They have been successfully challenged but often have persisted.
In order to make progress we must correct misinterpretations in order to design a SMP which is of uniformly high quality. I illustrate the problem by describing a recent example.
I attended a meeting on Sept. 26, that was organized by the Bainbridge Shoreline Homeowners.
One of the three speakers made reference to a publication he had seen on a visit to the city Planning Department. He could not identify the origin of the publication, but reported that the publication asserted that “protecting a house from erosion by armoring the shoreline is no longer allowed.”
This statement understandably alarmed people who are concerned about assaults on rights to protect their property. I pointed out from the floor that recently the city has approved many bulkhead permits.
In fact I have installed a bulkhead to prevent erosion of the roadway in front of my house. My comment was not responded to by the speakers.
After the meeting, I asked Ryan Ericson, the city’s shoreline planner, if he knew where the quotation came from. He said the phrase, in quotes, was included in a Department of Ecology August 2010 publication of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) entitled, “Shoreline Master Program: Making sense of tough issues.”
The phrase was used to illustrate a common public perception that is incorrect. The article went on to clarify the policy, which is as follows: “DOE views bulkheads as one possible acceptable strategy to reduce shoreline erosion.”
By quoting only the provocative lead sentence and ignoring the accompanying policy statement, the speaker misled the audience. Whether this action was intentional or was simply sloppy I do not know.
I describe this incident to alert the community to the importance of examining testimony they hear. False assertions should not go unchallenged. Even people with impressive credentials should be asked hard questions. If we adopt high standards in our discourse, the quality of the SMP update will benefit accordingly.
Bruce Taft, PhD in oceanography