Does residential development affect lake habitat?

What are the effects of urbanization on sediment characteristics in northwest lakes? National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, Tessa Francis, will answer this question and others having to do with the impact of residential develoment on the structure and functions of riparian and littoral habitats in a presentation of her research at a regular meeting of the Bellevue Planning Commission, on October 28 at 6:30 pm.

Content control is not our object

Beyond the commenting guidelines outlined in the commenting section, this blog does not have a policy of managing comments to control content. To date, we have not rejected a comment for any reason, although we know of at least one individual that has experienced problems logging on and using the commenting tools.

The intention of this blog is to provide a forum for Bellevue residents to converse on a range of issues involving shorelines and shoreline management. While it was our hope that part of that discussion might focus on specific content relevant to the update of Bellevue's Shoreline Master Program, beyond that we have no goal to drive the discussion in any particular direction. Propagandizing is not our object; what we want to hear about are management solutions that meet state mandates for ecological protection in the least obtrusive manner possible.

Anyone is free to comment about anything remotely related to this topic; however, it is worth considering that any updated Master Program will have to do at least three things: it must use scientific information; it must conform to the State's guidelines and rules; and it must respect property rights. So if your long-term interest is to affect the outcome, it is not particular helpful to grumble about property rights and taxes without giving an equal measure of attention to the scientific underpinings of salmon conservation or the State's focus on no net loss of ecological function. Likewise, while we might individually agree that a more comprehensive, watershed approach to environmental regulations might be more productive, the Shoreline Management Act applies only to the water and that area 200 feet from ordinary high water. So, like or not, our focus is, by necessity, more limited.

Striking a balance, with all interests in mind.

As school is winding down and summer begins I can't help but think of my childhood and the time when summer vacation meant something and for me it meant swimming. I mostly learned to swim at my grandparents cottage where the lake muck was everywhere and there was no such thing as water shoes to save me. My grandfather built the first cottage on that lake and I thought he owned the lake too. It’s not true, but even now I feel a sense of ownership when I visit.

So I can relate to shoreline property owners who struggle with the notion of government taking a role in regulating shoreline activities. The state has been entrusted to protect these bodies of water by regulating what happens on the shorelines, in your backyard. It is a privilege indeed to live on the waterfront here, but ownership of these waters is shared.

The Public Trust Doctrine holds that the waters of the state are a public resource held in common by citizens broadly for the purposes of navigation, fishing and recreation. In most cases, the area below the ordinary high water mark on our local lakes is publicly owned, though property owners are allowed to construct docks and use that area.

At our open house a couple of weeks back, some property owners cried foul about the role of the city regulating “their” shorelines. We have not and will not forget waterfront residents’ property rights as we work on this update. One of our biggest challenges is balancing the rights of private property owners and the public’s interest in the waters of the state.

Striving to find balance for all interests, how can we serve the public, protect the shoreline, and still ensure that you feel your property rights are being honored? For the rest of you who use the lakes and streams and their shorelines, where do you think we should strike the balance between waterfront property owners’ rights and the public interest?

What does stewardship mean?

In his essay The Unforeseen Wilderness, Wendell Berry, speculating about the stability of the world around him, suggests that the notion that the world is fixed and permanent is perhaps “the most persistent human delusion.” To illustrate his point, he offers an example of a house that a young child finds permanent and unchanging, but which the owner knows is in “constant jeopardy of decay” absent ongoing maintenance and care.

A similar jeopardy threatens our lakes and shorelines due to the persistent negative affects of urban development at the water’s edge and in the watershed above. These changes, including increased impervious surface, pervasive shoreline hardening, and removal of most shoreline vegetation, have degraded the physical, chemical and biological processes that create and maintain shoreline aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Absent a concern and stewardship similar to the homeowner caring for his home, continued decline in ecological health is inevitable.

Assuming you accept this premise, what does stewardship mean to those of you who live on the water and those of you that do not? Does a shoreline property owner have a unique responsibility that an upland owner does not share? If so, what is it? What role does the upland property owner play?

How should Bellevue's shoreline management change?

What would you change about how Bellevue manages shorelines and what would you have stay the same? These are among many questions we invite you to discuss in Shorelines, a conversation about how we in Bellevue might better use, protect and restore our lakeshore and wetlands.

Bellevue is in the process of revising the
Shoreline Master Program, and we are launching this blog, where comments are welcome, to facilitate the free flow of ideas. Whether you boat or fish in Bellevue's lakes and streams, play on its beaches, own shoreline property or just care about environmental protection and water quality, your input is wanted.

I am Michael Paine, a planning manager with the Development Services Department. My colleague Heidi Bedwell and I are managing the shoreline update project, but we hope to be less managers here than facilitators, raising questions to draw you into conversations with your fellow citizens about how we all use and protect our shorelines. This can be a place where citizens can share ideas, raise issues and learn from one another about Bellevue’s shorelines.

In 1971, the state Legislature passed the
Shoreline Management Act to put a halt to “uncoordinated and piecemeal development” of the state’s shorelines without sufficient concern for the resource or the public interest. Bellevue’s Shoreline Master Program, policies and land use rules that govern waterfront development, was drafted based on requirements and guidelines in the Act.

In 2003 the state revised its shoreline management guidelines to emphasize ecologically appropriate development. Bellevue and other cities must, in turn, update their shoreline rules. The underlying idea is to combine the community’s vision for its shoreline with the Shoreline Management Act’s three key policies:

· Provide natural resource protection
· Support “reasonable and appropriate,” water-dependent uses
· Promote public access

To put things in perspective, we’d like to ask you to think about what life might be like on Bellevue’s shorelines in 20 years. What do you think is special and unique about the shoreline environment? What do you enjoy about Bellevue’s shorelines?

Recognizing the goals of the Shoreline Act detailed above, how should the shoreline areas, both publicly and privately owned, be used? What things should change? What should stay the same? Where do things like businesses, people and wildlife and wildlife habitat fit into this future vision? Use your imagination and tell us what interests you.