Ask SJC to Protect Shorelines for Orcas

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Since 2012 we have been taking action to protect our Salish Sea, the San Juan Islands, and all the creatures that depend on a healthy marine environment for their/our existence.

Beginning 5+ years ago with our fight against — and subsequent vanquishing of — the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point, Safe Shippers have worked hard to say, “No!” to the threats that would lap at our shorelines.

Most of these threats have been from outside our county and we had to yell that much louder for those in the distance to hear us. But this time, the threat is right under our own noses — the failure to protect our own island shorelines and the salmon and orca whales who depend on these natural shorelines for their survival.

San Juan County has nearly 410 miles of shoreline and our county government recently approved a Shoreline Master Program that was supposed to protect them. However, only a small fraction of essential salmon habitat along these shorelines was appropriately designated “Natural,” leaving them vulnerable to potential harm in the form of new docks, armoring, and upland clearing within the shoreline buffer.

We deserve better. The salmon and orca require better. Let’s ask our county councilors to make it better.

• Only 2% of the 10 miles of forage fish spawning beaches are now protected.

• Only 15.5% of 29.5 miles of feeder bluffs that maintain the spawning beaches are now protected.
• 0% of high-use juvenile salmon shorelines that include eel grass meadows and kelp beds are protected.

• Now there are 1.5 fewer shoreline miles designated “Natural” as compared to previous shoreline protections.

Other shoreline protections that were eroded:

• House setback requirements are reduced by measuring from “ordinary high water” instead of from the “top of the bluff”
• 40% of shoreline trees are allowed be cut every 10 years in what is ironically called “The Tree Protection Zone”

• 20% of all types of vegetation can be removed annually in all buffer zones — including the 35 feet nearest to the water and including fragile native plants and trees not adapted to frequent pruning.

San Juan County has maps clearly showing the undeveloped shorelines that host these sensitive areas, and yet the County has failed to recognize them.

We need to take action at our own doorstep. We need ask San Juan County council members to designate these essential shoreline habitats as “Natural” — to protect the forage fish that nourish the salmon that feed the orca; to protect our island economy and way of life that rely on healthy shorelines. For the orca and salmon, it is life.

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Please take action now! Call or write to our county councilors before Tuesday, January 9 when they plan to discuss this issue. It doesn’t matter if you are a San Juan County resident, an island visitor, or an admirer from afar, the council members need to know that we all care about protecting the Salish Sea. 
Mr. Rick Hughes
(360) 298-5103
rickh@sanjuanco.com
Mr. Jamie Stephens
(360) 378-2898
jamies@sanjuanco.com 

Mr. Bill Watson
(360) 370-7473
billw@sanjuanco.com

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The forage fish, salmon and orca thank you, Safe Shippers!