Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
News conference on shoreline management guidelines
June 22, 2000
We're here today to talk about an opportunity we have in this state to restore common sense to the way we build and develop around our lakes, streams and marine waters.
There is nothing more precious than our clean and abundant water in Washington State - and nothing more important to preserving our water resources than the shorelines and beaches that surround them.
This common-sense approach will help us keep our water clean, enhance our quality of life, protect our property from floods and erosion and take a big step toward restoring wild salmon.
In 1972, Washington voters passed a law requiring all of us to minimize damage to the ecology and environment of beaches, stream banks and other shoreline areas.
But at best, we've merely slowed the damage to our shorelines - not minimized or prevented it. All over our state, development in shoreline areas has destroyed lives, homes, land, and financial investments. Quite simply, we should not build homes and businesses in flood plains or too close to the banks of streams, rivers, lakes or salt water.
Our ancestors knew that. They built their farmhouses well above the flood zone and out of harm's way. They called it common sense. But our generation seems to think the solutions are more dikes and lots of concrete bulkheads -- solutions that merely channel the problems somewhere else.
In the past six years, we've had five floods declared national disasters. They affected 38 of our state's 39 counties. They killed five people and did more than $1 billion in property damage.
It's a never-ending, expensive cycle. Bulkheads and dikes that protect one person's property merely push water further downstream to become someone else's problem. That's a lousy way to manage storm water.
Certainly, not all of the floods and slides and erosion are the result of development practices. But adding two and a half million more people to the state in the past 30 years has had an impact.
And unfortunately, the quality of our water and native fish also have paid an enormous price. Nearly every area of our state now has at least one fish species listed as threatened or endangered.
But we can accommodate growth without losing valuable habitat and without losing the benefits for clean water, salmon and our quality of life that shorelines and wetlands provide.
But we have to make some accommodations. We have to give our rivers and streams a little breathing room - and let them work for us, not against us.
The Department of Ecology has proposed a new set of Shoreline Management Guidelines - the first update in nearly 30 years. This was required by a bi-partisan Legislature.
There has been a lot of misunderstanding about the proposed guidelines so I'll take a moment to tell you what they are not meant to do. You won't have to tear out your dock, home or stop farming.
The process to adopt these proposed rules invites cooperation on new development, with public hearings to allow your input. These upcoming hearings are an opportunity for education on what methods best protect clean waterways. The rules may encourage planting of vegetation along shorelines, again as a common-sense measure to maintain ecological functions. This process of updating furthers a more enlightened way of protecting one of our most precious commodities - water.
We need people to study these guidelines, understand them and offer comment and suggestions to perfect them before final rules are adopted. We also need strong, enlightened leadership by cities, counties and the legislature to bring them to life in this new century.
For the past two legislative sessions, I proposed funding to help local governments update their local shoreline regulations, and I supported giving cities and counties a more time to get the job done. But there has been no action on this issue by the Legislature.
Clearly, the citizens of our state need to embrace a new way of thinking about shorelines. But we also need lawmakers to embrace their responsibility to provide the money and the time extension local governments need.
Together, we can get the job done.
And now I invite Councilman Dave Somers and Commissioner Joel Rupley to share their perspectives on this topic.