County to NMFS: the plan is (almost) in the mail

"Kitsap County has a fish story for the National Marine Fisheries Services, and it's one the federal agency will want to hear.According to Keith Folkerts, natural resources coordinator for Kitsap County, the revised version of the county's Endangered Species Act compliance plan should be to NMFS by February.County officials have acknowledged that they will miss a January deadline to turn over an updated plan to the federal agency. The plan will focus on protection of endangered Puget Sound chinook and Hood Canal summer chum.Folkerts said the county has been working with the government since last February to come up with an ESA-compliance plan.This plan will allow local jurisdictions to issue development permits and will allow developers to develop land with the assurance that by doing so we are not violating the ESA's mandate to protect endangered species, Folkerts said.The plan will not address shorelines permits or issues. Those will be addressed separately through revisions to the county's Shoreline Management Master Plan, according to Folkerts.Agriculture also is not add-ressed in this revision.This most recent version of our draft 4(d) compliance plan (of the Salmon Habit Protection Plan) explains to NMFS what standards will be implemented locally in exchange for NMFS's certification that our development activities are consistent with the ESA, said Folkerts.NMFS approval of the compliance plan will protect Kitsap from lawsuits by people who claim the county is harming salmon habitats, he said.If it's successful, we and the homeowners and developers will be able to get building permits knowing we have the full force of the federal government and state (behind us), saying 'yes, it won't harm the habitat.' So if someone did sue (on behalf of the salmon) the feds would be there to protect us, Folkerts said.He said that for the most part, the standards outlined in the plan are those standards already in place in Kitsap County.In other words, this plan says to NMFS that many of our current standards are already good enough, he added.The significant changes will be in the stormwater management areas, which are not included in the plan yet, he said.We're still working on it, Folkerts said. That part will deal with how the county manages stormwater, the quantity and quality of the water that goes into salmon-bearing streams.The goal we're shooting for, NMFS says to maintain the natural hydrography of the streams, which means the natural flow patterns, Folkerts said. Not too much (runoff) in winter, and not too little water in the summer. Stormwater is a big part of the compliance plan, he said.The document is changing constantly with revisions, and will be a work in progress continuing to evolve until it is brought to NMFS, Folkerts said.The county plans to add a citizens' guide to the plan in the coming months as well.The plan is written with a lot of (technical) jargon as it's intended for policy folks at NMFS, Folkerts said. We're going to explain it in every-day language to residents and take it to community groups and whoever else is interested, and explain what's in this rather detailed plan, he said. Not everyone understands jargon. "

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