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Fish map nets fight

A map outlining the location of fish populations in Island County came under criticism from several residents during a public hearing Monday.

The county is looking to approve a map that shows known locations of anadromous fish populations and resident salmonid populations in Island County. Those populations are scattered throughout Island County and can be found in drainage basins at Dugualla, North Bluff, Maxwelton and Glendale.

Jeff Tate, assistant planning director, said the map will help provide a link from the county’s salmon recovery plan to the critical areas ordinance. That will provide help with the ordinance update and attract grants.

However, people attending the hearing Monday wanted the map to include potential areas for salmon restoration, rather than just existing populations.

“Why don’t we make a map that shows it all,” said Angie Homola, who is a West Beach Road resident and member of the Swan Lake Preservation Group that has been working on restoration efforts on the body of water located near West Beach Road, which separates the Swantown Lake from Puget Sound.

Homola urged the commissioners not to approve the map as presented. She said not mentioning the potential restoration areas will make it hard for the Swan Lake group to obtain grants to fund restoration efforts.

Homola added that she had contacted county officials about her concerns prior to the meeting but she hadn’t gotten a response yet.

Tate said the county already has a map showing potential areas for salmon recovery. That map is in the county’s Salmon Recovery Plan. He added the proposed plan shouldn’t be used to preclude the restoration efforts outlined in the salmon plan.

The proposed plan highlights anadromous fisheries, which are places where there are connections between a fresh water system and a marine environment, and resident fisheries, where there is a barrier between the fresh water and marine environment. Anadromous fish species in Island County include salmon and cutthroat trout, which spend their early lives in fresh water before moving out to salt water.

Other people are concerned that the proposed map is vague.

Steve Erickson with the Whidbey Environmental Action Network said the purpose of the enactment isn’t clear.

He questioned whether the map will give priority to currently occupied basins. He was also concerned that the map would justify reduced protection for resident salmonid populations.

WEAN is also concerned the map would allow further degradation of basins that could be restored by fixing such barriers as a malfunctioning tide gate, as is the case with Swantown Lake, according to Homola.

“I am concerned that this enactment will be used in the ongoing critical areas ordinance update to justify allowing degradation of watershed and aquatic function in those currently unoccupied basins where recovery is a relatively straightforward matter of fully reconnecting currently isolated pocket estuaries with adjacent marine waters,” Erickson said in a written statement provided after the meeting.

West Beach Road resident GayLynn Beighton was concerned that the city designations on the map could be confused as a drainage basin. Significant development is proposed around the watershed in coming years.

“Each city is its own boundary and that is not the case,” said Beighton, who wanted county staff to remove city and military installation boundaries from the map.

In the end, the commissioners chose not to immediately approve the resolution. They continued the public hearing to Monday, April 16.

However, the commissioners closed the public comment portion of Monday’s hearing and they aren’t expected to take further comment when the meeting continues Monday.

Erickson claimed closing the public comment part was improper. He said the public had only several minutes to review the findings of fact that were released at the public hearing and that wasn’t enough time.

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