To the editor:
I want to thank you for Richard Oxley’s recent article regarding the Shoreline Management Program (SMP). The article did a nice job of laying out some of the primary concerns about and the realities of the SMP, without amplifying the misinformation and panic that seems to surround this issue.
The key messages the article was trying to convey somehow keeps getting lost in the arguments: The SMP’s purpose is to protect the ecological functions of our shorelines; and the SMP is not a choice, it is a requirement of the state. If Bainbridge does not pass its own SMP, the state will provide one for us, and one that is likely to be less tailored and specific to our Island.
For the past few years, I and many other volunteers have devoted hundreds of hours to trying to help the city create an SMP that is meaningful for our Island.
I agree with some of the criticisms I’ve heard that the resulting document is extraordinarily lengthy, detailed and can be difficult to follow; to a certain extent this is a somewhat inevitable result of writing documents by committee. It’s great to hear that folks are reviewing the document and speaking to council about where they have questions or concerns about the reasonableness of the regulations.
However, it is a waste of our time, collectively, to pretend that we can somehow argue the SMP out of existence, or argue that the SMP is not designed to address real issues.
We all, collectively, as an Island, have a responsibility to steward our shoreline resources, because our activities, even in the upland, move downstream and down-watershed. But shoreline property owners, including our public shoreline spaces, have a direct influence on the shoreline in many ways beyond just water quality, including how shoreline armoring affects sediment regulation, how nearshore riparian vegetation affects upper beach microclimate and riparian habitat, and how overwater structures affect macroalgae and intertidal habitat.
Many of the shoreline homeowners I know care deeply about and are proud of their role in stewarding these resources, and the SMP should be a document that supports their ability to do so.
Of great frustration to me is that we are not implementing any monitoring that would help us take an objective look at whether the regulations we implement are actually helping make a difference for our shoreline resources. The SMP has never had and still does not have a monitoring plan that would help us understand the status and trends of our nearshore resources; without this information, many of our arguments about whether our SMP helps or hinders us is taking place in something of a vacuum of knowledge.