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Residents scrutinize aquatic reserve plan

A proposal for an aquatic reserve near Protection Island and Miller and Quimper peninsulas drew enough interest to pack the Gardiner Community Center.

But a plan that adds no restrictions or regulations to use of waters near the federally protected island left many residents wondering why

Washington state officials are considering the reserve.

Kyle Murphy and others from the Department of Natural Resources asked a crowd of more than 50 to tell state officials what they would like to see in an aquatic reserve that targets key bird and marine life habitats near Protection Island.

The idea of such a reserve, said Jane Chavey, communications manager for the department, is to create a master plan for these waters to determine if future restoration, education, monitoring and research projects should be encouraged or allowed.

There is no comprehensive plan for managing the state-owned tidelands and bedlands outside the island's 200-yard boundary.

"Past that, there's no protection outside those 200 yards," Murphy said.

The proposed aquatic reserve does not restrict boating, fishing or crabbing, Murphy said, nor does it raise taxes to manage the reserve or do the master plan.

While some in the audience seemed puzzled about what the proposal is, others asserted that officials shouldn't waste time drafting a master plan with more pressing problems across Washington state.

"My question is, if it ain't broken, what are we fixing?" asked Wayne King, longtime area resident and fisherman.

"I keep asking, why do we need this?" Jim Pickrell asked. "You don't need to do a study. I'm ... concerned with our budget constraints. It's going to cost to make a plan and it's going to cost to maintain (the reserve). I hate to see us spend more money."

People for Puget Sound, a nonprofit group, submitted a proposal in 2008 that described why they wanted the state to consider establishing a reserve on the state-owned tidelands and bedlands in the area around Protection Island. They noted that the shorelines and deep waters surrounding Protection Island support critical life stages of exceptional fish and wildlife.

Seventy-two percent of Puget Sound breeding seabirds breed and rear their young near Protection Island, including an estimated 17,000 pairs of nesting rhinoceros auklet. It has some of the highest habitat diversity in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and supports herring, shrimp, Dungeness crab, elephant seals and harbor seals.

"You all know it's a special place," said Cyrilla Cook, shorelines program manager for People for Puget Sound. "Now I know it's a special place, too."

The Department of Natural Resources manages about 2.6 million acres of beaches, coastline, lakes and rivers. The department already has four aquatic reserves: Cherry Point, Cypress Island, Maury Island and Fidalgo Bay.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.



Spring 2008 - nomination process

for possible aquatic reserves

Spring 2009 - open process for public comments

Spring/summer 2009 - scientific evaluation of area

Summer 2009 - Review by Commissioner of Public Lands

Fall 2009 - Draft proposal

Spring 2010 - Environmental review

Summer 2010 - Proposal decision



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