Bremerton’s boardwalk will be bad for fish

Sound Off is a public forum. Articles are selected from letters to the editor or may be written specifically for this feature. Today, Port Orchard resident Linda Fischer argues Bremerton’s plans to build a boardwalk would be harmful to fish habitat.

Before Rep. Norm Dicks moves to bring the Suquamish Tribe and the city of Bremerton together to discuss the merits of moving forward with the marina boardwalk; I want to urge everyone to read and seek to fully understand the depth and breadth of the decision to be made.

A new over-water structure of the Bremerton Boardwalk will modify the shoreline for generations, with serious impact to the water quality and fish habitat of Puget Sound.

Let me cite a few papers on the subject:

• The Aquatic Habitat Guidelines Working Group (AHGWG): The excerpt cited below is from a 2007 paper by the AHGWG committee within Washington State that receives support and participation from the Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, Natural Resources, Transportation, Community Trade and Economic Development; the Recreation and Conservation Office and the Puget Sound Partnership.

“Piers, docks, mooring floats and other types of overwater structures have the potential to alter the physical characteristics of nearshore environments both at the site and beyond the footprint of the structure.

“By altering the physical processes that operate in the nearshore environment, such as light penetration, wave energy, and sediment transport, over-water structures can promote changes in habitats.

“Once habitats are altered, the species using those habitats and the way those habitats are used may also change, affecting the biological community in a number of ways.

“For example, the shaded, deep-water environment under piers can create a favorable habitat for predatory fish. Juvenile salmonids tend to migrate around structures that shade the water column and into deeper water where they can be exposed to predation as they migrate near the edges of the piers.

“Over-water structures can also impair habitat function. For example, by shading the nearshore environment and altering wave energy and sediment transport characteristics, overwater structures can degrade eel grass habitat, which is an important refuge for a variety of important marine species.”

• Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: The paper cited below is an excerpt from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife paper “Marine and Estuarine Shoreline Modification Issues,” April 2001.

“Direct physical disturbance associated with construction of all shoreline structures temporarily causes several types of direct impacts, which vary with the size and extent of the structure and the time needed to build it.

In the short term, heavy equipment associated with construction causes local noise (e.g., pile-driving), which can disrupt nesting waterfowl (Mulvihill et al. 1980) and alter animal behavior and distributions (Feist et al. 1996).

“Air and water pollution from machinery and watercraft exhaust emissions may also cause local impacts, and should remain well below federal air and water quality standards (Mulvihill et al. 1980, Kahler et al. 2000).

“Other construction impacts include temporary bottom disturbance, which increases sediment suspension, erosion, and turbidity.

“Juvenile and filter-feeding fish may be especially vulnerable to the lethal and sub-lethal effects of suspended sediments (O’Connor et al. 1976, O’Connor et al. 1977).

“Other obvious and immediate impacts associated with construction include burial or excavation of both subtidal and intertidal habitats and fauna, trampling, and direct mortality from heavy equipment operation (e.g., dredging (Armstrong et al. 1991)) or barge groundings. Construction impacts may continue episodically as maintenance activities continue...”

• The Suquamish Tribe and Chairman Leonard Forsman: I believe you are right to question the boardwalk. Specific to the marina and to its boardwalk development, there is regulatory overlap from USACOE, DOE, WDNR, and WDFW.

However, to my knowledge, no Federal or Washington agency has done any study to determine the cumulative effects of the Bremerton Marina before it was built or analysis of the boardwalk that is to be built.

And that should be done now.

We must have a full analysis on the potential impacts to fish habitat, water quality and sediments — especially because of the boardwalk’s size and length of the one proposed in Bremerton, including the boardwalk’s use for maintenance of the sewer system.

Any shoreline modification to Puget Sound should be looked at very carefully.

I commend your stewardship of the Puget Sound environment.

• Commissioners and mayors of Kitsap County: I personally am at a loss to understand how the city of Bremerton is still able to successfully persuade and/or influence state and federal entities along with the rest of the county commissioners and other Kitsap mayors to believe the most important thing in all of Kitsap County is the revitalization of Bremerton, to the apparent exclusion of everything else in Kitsap County, and which now includes the potential for destroying shoreline fish habitat and water quality in Puget Sound all in the name of revitalization of Bremerton.

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