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Residents 'speak out' on natural resources

Many local residents are frustrated at county government attempts to regulate what they can or can’t do on their property, judging by speakers during a community forum Saturday, March 23.

The forum at Central Kitsap High School, sponsored by the county Department of Community Development, was the second in a series of “speak outs.” The final session is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. today, March 27, at South Kitsap High School.

Officials wanted to meet with residents to discuss a number of federal mandates facing the county, including the Endangered Species Act.

“We need to make those choices and (determine) how they are going to make an impact,” Commissioner Tim Botkin said. “It’s a community discussion to give us direction to decide where to take those plans, because once we change those natural resources, it’s hard to go back.”

An hour of public comment was scheduled, but the time allotted to the hearing was doubled after nearly half the audience asked to express opinions.

“We need to educate ourselves on the issues of the environment,” said Lake Tahuya resident Jean Bulette, who likened the county’s role on environmental matters to that of a controlling, authoritative parent. “We need the county’s expertise, but it should not consider itself as the authority figure.”

Biologist Paul Dorn, the Suquamish Tribe’s salmon recovery coordinator, said the environment and growth are extremely complex. Yet if the proper steps are taken, such as providing sufficient clean water and habitat, salmon will continue to spawn in county creeks.

“If we do the right thing,” Dorn said, “the salmon will be there.”

Bulette said salmon buffers and similar measures designed to protect endangered salmon habitat probably would have been less polarizing if the speak outs had occurred several years ago.

Silverdale resident Robert Ross, like many speakers, said property owners can manage natural resources without further county interference. He said the county’s roads are a major source of impervious surfaces that should be properly maintained to reduce pollution and flooding.

“My biggest frustration is that property owners see problems long before they happen,” Glen Jurvis said. “And unless there’s an endangered species involved, getting the county involved in the mundane efforts is difficult. We need involvement by the county before problems arise.”

Some said the best way to help the environment would be for the county to do nothing.

“We can do things without regulation,” Jack Hamilton said.

And new regulations should be based on proper scientific models.

“I want to see the need for the changes to ordinances so I know why they are being enacted,” Bulette said.

“What works best with the county is a spirit of cooperation,” Kathy Annette said. “A blanket approach isn’t fair to the homeowners. Both the environment and people need to work together.”

Commissioner Chris Endresen called the speak out a success and said it was important to provide a forum for residents to get information and vent frustrations.

“We got good suggestions but we thought we would get more suggestions than complaints,” Endresen said.

Another series of community meetings is planned for later this year. County officials will discuss residents’ suggestions and complaints at the later meetings.

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