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Shoreline program created

To encourage involvement in preserving the shoreline environment, the Island County Commissioners established two Marine Stewardship Areas during their Monday meeting last week.

The “Saratoga Passage Marine Stewardship Area,” and the “Admiralty Inlet Marine Stewardship Area,” cover the entire shoreline of Whidbey Island while keeping current regulations intact. No new restrictions will be added.

Island County WSU Extension Coordinator Don Meehan said the stewardship designation should help spur environmental education.

“The more people understand it, the more they can appreciate it and protect it,” Meehan said of the Whidbey Island waterfront environment.

Existing WSU Extension programs, such as the volunteer Beachwatchers, will be modified to include the stewardship areas. Eventually kiosks and signs will be placed at parks to help educate people about the subject.

The Beachwatchers program has a history of rallying public involvement in environmental education, so working within the stewardship areas will be a natural fit. Beachwatchers provided 13,000 hours of volunteer labor annually, which is the equivalent of 6 full-time county staff workers.

Meehan didn’t have any specifics on the program yet. His first priority was to attain the designation from the commissioners.

Meehan said the stewardship areas will lead to more environmental protection without having to add further regulations.

Those sentiments were echoed by Gary Wood, Marine Resources Committee executive director.

“It recognizes the best assets in the county without regulating,” Wood said. “We didn’t create a regulatory area here. We did just the opposite.”

Meehan said the stewardship area concept is less controversial than a Marine Protected Area, which regulates fishing activities, for example. There are two such areas on the island, at Keystone jetty and Camp Casey.

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