Letters to the Editor

Washington state's shoreline regulations are badly out of date

I represent the Washington Department of Ecology and am involved in providing public information about shoreline master programs and the 1971 voter-approved Shoreline Management Act and I am responding to Karl Duff’s May 20 Guest Opinion (“The battle to preserve property rights is in danger of being lost”).

The record needs to be set straight.

First, on May 10, the Washington State Court of Appeals upheld an important challenge to Whatcom County’s Shoreline Master Program, which Ecology approved in 2008. (www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/63646-4.pub.doc.pdf).

I would like to make a few more points regarding Mr. Duff’s Guest Opinion.

The 2003 Washington Legislature passed the law requiring more than 260 towns, cities and counties to comprehensively update their Shoreline Master Programs by 2014.

Most local SMPs had not been fully updated in more than 30 years.

Since voters passed the Shoreline Management Act in 1972, Washington’s statewide population has nearly doubled from 3.4 million to 6.5 million people.

Our old shoreline programs need to address current conditions, consider new science and be aligned with current laws.

Effective, comprehensive updates will reduce unsustainable development and provide shoreline land owners with a clearer set of standards.

Since 2003, Ecology has approved 30 Shoreline Master Programs. We have about 230 more to approve.

Besides Whatcom, Ecology has approved SMPs for Douglas, Jefferson and Yakima counties.

Ecology also has approved SMPs for more than 20 towns and cities.

SMPs are not and cannot be retroactive.

SMPs are reviewed by local attorneys and attorneys from the Washington Attorney General’s Office to ensure they do not usurp private property rights.

The Washington Constitution and U.S. Constitution provide both the authority for conducting the activities necessary to carry out the Shoreline Management Act and significant limitations on that authority, including due process and takings. (See more at: www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/sma/st_guide/intro.html#constitutional)

Ecology did not select the timing to work with Jefferson County to update its SMP. The timetable was adopted by the state Legislature under RCW 90.58.080.

The San Juan Citizen Alliance for Property Rights and Common Sense Alliance both removed an unflattering video of Erik Stockdale after realizing that they hadn’t properly verified the facts presented in their video — most of which were based on a Bainbridge Island code enforcement case.

Ecology had nothing to do with the case. It was brought to the attention of the city of Bainbridge Island through a neighbor complaint.

We believe absolutely in the right to free speech and find a civil discourse of the issues is far preferable than random accusations.

Everyone at Ecology is a public servant, and most of us are property owners, too.

None of us would want our property taken away, either.

Finally, we urge everyone to get involved in the shoreline management process.

Public participation has been a cornerstone of local shoreline regulations since the Shoreline Management Act was passed by public referendum in 1972.

It is essential to ensuring shoreline master programs reflect a widely held vision for the future use and enjoyment of our shorelines.

The public, including shoreline property owners, are an important co-partner in shoreline stewardship.



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