Sound Off: Estuary must be restored

I am continually frustrated that Island County commissioner meetings generally occur during the day while I’m working and unable to attend.

Regarding “Designation of basins that have anadromous fish populations and resident salmonid species,” I oppose further degradation and continued neglect of the historic Swan Lake estuary located on the north end of West Beach Road, Whidbey Island.

Over development of the sand spit/beach coupled with poor engineering and poor maintenance has resulted in an ecological and human habitation disaster in this location. Further development without regard for or restoration of the natural environmental processes in this area will only compound the trouble and long-term cost and loss.

I ask you to please move toward restoration and protection of the natural habitat processes of the Swan Lake estuary for the benefit and restoration of the Puget Sound salmon fishery, the benefit of all marine flora and fauna on North Whidbey Island, and the benefit of all Whidbey Island residents and visitors.

Please consider my concerns and wishes seriously.

Does anyone know the extent of the damage to the houses on the beach from this winter’s storms? I think it’s important information.

It’s obvious that Swan Lake habitat has deteriorated as a result of being cut off from natural tidal exchanges and that this has occurred due to poor engineering and poor planning by the county in an effort to maintain the road and the properties on the beach.

As more property is developed and homes are enlarged or improved, this problem is compounded and more private property is put at risk, which is frustrating and expensive to both the property owners and the county taxpayers.

Additionally, the present situation there is dangerous for people and wildlife.

When I first moved to this area in the early 1970s we used to see otters on the beaches all the time. Until recently, the last sea otter I had seen on West Beach was one I saw dead on the side of the road across from Swan Lake about five years ago. It was a large adult that had obviously been hit while trying to cross West Beach Road to or from Swan Lake. Now, a couple of nights ago I spotted a young otter pup, perhaps one year old, trying to cross the road from the Swan Lake side to a spot between the houses on the beach. When my car approached it retreated. There is hope for the wildlife, but, presently, not much chance.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a little bridge somewhere along West Beach Road that would allow for the natural exchange of water and wildlife between the marine side and the Swan Lake estuary side, allowing a safe and natural passage way for the animals and fish. Perhaps one of the undeveloped or under developed lots could be purchased to provide an open channel. Or, perhaps a channel could be developed through county and/or state land.

Such a channel would immediately begin the natural restoration of the estuary and turn it into a much more vibrant and healthy ecosystem. As it is now, it’s not fit for man nor beast.

Vern M. Pederson

lives in Oak Harbor.

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