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County launches new salmon committee

"The Kitsap County Commission-ers last week put out a call for Kitsap residents who know their salmon streams.The commissioners are creating a committee to prioritize stream projects so the federal government will have a better handle on where to send restoration money.The best way to skin this cat is for local recovery groups to identify and prioritize projects. Locals know best the streams where they live, said Keith Folkerts, the county's natural resources coordinator. The East Kitsap Salmon Habitat Restoration Committee will be composed of about 15 volunteers who will identify and prioritize salmon restoration projects. The federal government will allocate funding based on their findings.East Kitsap refers to the entire Kitsap peninsula with streams draining into Puget Sound, from Bainbridge Island to portions of Pierce County.Federal funds are limited and several Kitsap groups have been vying for stream support for years. Folkerts conceded there will be some competition for funding from big projects in the county, but encouraged potential committee members to be fair to all projects. Let's not make it a competition, because competition brings secrecy, he said. Let's leave the competition hat off.Technical expertise will be available to committee members, Folkerts said, and biologists will also have the opportunity to give their side. But the citizens will have the final say, he added.Though the National Marine Fisheries Service has been mostly supportive of the county's efforts to restore salmon habitat, insufficient stormwater management in rural areas gave the federal agency pause.According to Folkerts, NMFS also wants to see more information on shoreline management, with an eye toward compliance with state shoreline standards. In response, the Department of Ecology is creating a two-track program to revise shoreline development guidelines: Track A simply follows state guidelines, while Track B adds compliance with the Endangered Species Act.Potential alternatives to the standard 200-foot buffer around salmon-bearing streams are also being re-examined, Folkerts said. The county currently requires developers to leave at least a 200-foot buffer around salmon-bearing streams. The county has yet to draft a solid salmon habitat restoration plan, but Folkerts said they hope to have something people can agree upon by mid-summer.For an application to the East Kitsap Salmon Habitat Restoration Committee, contact Jan Koske, the Kitsap County volunteer services coordinator, at (360) 337-4650. Applications are due on May 12."

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