Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thanks, But We Believe The Friends More Than You!

Suppose you come from an old island family, and you've lived on your property for decades. You have photos of your beach going back 100+ years.

Now suppose that the County identifies "shoreline armoring" on your beach, which the County characterizes as a potential ecological hazard to fish. The trouble is that you don't have any shoreline armoring on your beach, and you don't know what the County is talking about.

So you write to the County to try to set matters straight, but the reply you receive from the County essentially says, "Sorry, but the Friends have mapped shoreline armoring on your property, and I really can't correct the data now that it's in the database."
Thank you for your comments and pictures. The County was not involved in collecting the shoreline modification data used in the Inventory and Characterization Report shoreline modification maps. The dataset was collected by the Friends of the San Juan’s and subsequently passed along to the Department of Ecology to be used in the Washington Coastal Atlas.

Many of the datasets used in the Inventory and Characterization Report were developed by organizations other than the County, including the National Marine Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Native Tribes, Department of Ecology and others.

In order to be consistent with the state law, the County collected available information for inclusion in the Inventory and Characterization Report. That said, the County is not precluded from considering anecdotal evidence and your letters and pictures are part of the record that the Planning Commission and Council will consider when evaluating the merits of the updated Shoreline Master Program.

I relayed your concerns to the data providers and they have reaffirmed their original finding. I’ve attached a copy of an email I received from Tina Whitman of the Friends of the San Juan’s. Ms. Whitman, I understand played an active role in the collection of the data.

Without a site visit, I cannot determine the accuracy of this data point.

Please submit your comments to or to the mailing address above.

Thank you for your time and commitment to SMP update process.
Well, thank you very much indeed!  We (the County) believe Tina Whitman and not you, but thanks all the same. We think your homeowner information stretching back decades is anecdotal, but the Friends information is science.

Want to guess what all the fuss is about? I'm sure you've seen old piles of field stones that dot the pastures in these islands. Settlers used to pile rocks during land clearing to make the land easier to work. Many of these piles can still be seen around the county. It just so happens that in the case described above, an old pile of field stone was placed on the upper part of a beach instead of in a field. Roll forward about 100 years or so and along come the Friends, and they map the old rock pile as a "shoreline modification" ... a pile of field stone that's probably over a century old ... and is in rather shabby condition to boot.

See for yourself.  The homeowners are in disbelief (as is the Trojan Heron).
From: Tina Whitman []
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2012 3:28 PM
To: Colin Maycock
Cc: Stephanie Buffum
Subject: modification inventory question

Hi Colin,

Per your request I reviewed the tax parcel number you sent me in our 2009 shoreline modification inventory ARC GIS geodatabase. 
The attached document shows:
Pg. 1) tax parcel (red dot), armor line from modification inventory (red line), as well as the location of the two photos (black dot and purple triangle);
Pg. 2) the county’s vertical aerial photographs from 2008 with the rockery in question circled in red; and
Pgs. 3) and 4) the two project photos taken at the time of the boat based survey, in June of 2009. 

Our project mapped all shoreline armoring (hardening) greater than 5 feet in shoreline length.  The rock fill at the base of and along that section of bank met that criteria and as a result were mapped.  I don’t know if it has been since been removed, or if it’s a difference of opinion regarding more typical ‘bulkheads’ (the definitions of which vary widely depending on your discipline and region of the country and world)  versus ‘armoring’, but the photos indicate the presence of placed rock in 2008 (san juan county’s vertical aerials) and 2009 (modification inventory field photos).



Tina Whitman, MS
Science Director
Friends of the San Juans
P.O. Box 1344 Friday Harbor, WA 98250
(360) 378-2319


  1. Yes, you shoreline property owners do know that the Friends had their peeps out in kayaks taking pictures of your property a year or so ago, right? Did you ask them to do that? No. Did the County ask them to do that? No. But they're so darned HELPFUL.

    Unfortunately, they seem to have gotten a bunch of stuff wrong, but their "findings" (or the findings of their interns) are taken as gospel by the County, while your knowledge of your own property is "anecdotal" and unconfirmed. So get out your checkbooks to pay a fancy consulting scientist.

  2. What if the U.S. Census behaved like this?

    What if the government "tweaked" intelligence data to get us into a trillion dollar war?

    Data quality is important.

    Failing to properly vett data used to undergird public policymaking or regulatory enforcement ... or worse ... "tweak" it is unconscionable.

    Here it is really looking like common operating procedure.

    This is sick and twisted.

  3. You call that shore line armoring, THIS is shoreline armoring.

    I am, photogenically, Nick Power.

  4. In case you need a reminder, that is the house of this man.

    And he does not want you to have a pile of pebbles on your beach because well, because your rocks would threaten the wildlife, but his are organically grown, FOSJ certified good rocks.

    I am, unapolgetically, Nick Power

  5. One last thing and then I will shut up. TODAY, Monday, there is a Galtian Overlord Meeting, err I mean County Council meeting, on the Wetlands section of the CAO starting at 8:45. Try to make it if you can.

  6. Tina Whitman needs to get out more. When I complained to the consultants that there seemed to be NO baseline for what constituted "shoreline armoring" I got no response.

    Ms. Whitman needs to climb into her attack kayak with her telephoto gear and paddle on over to Canada, where close by us she will find the Saanich Peninsula.

    Here she will see "Shoreline Armoring," not a pile or rocks left over by some hard working farmer. (I have a similar pile pushed over my bank and it did take me awhile to figure out where those rocks came from because it was so long ago that the land had decided to grow 100 foot tall trees in place of what might once been a sheep pasture.)

    Now, not be be too simple about it, but the Canadians allow land protection measures above the high tide line, hence the incredible "armoring" on the Saanich Peninsula.

    Sorry, but I think their fish are our fish, and vice versa, and the Canadians seem to be doing studies that actually mean something, that actually have real data, IE as cited in the David Hyde Report. So I think we have reason to respect what they allow.

    Finally, since it would appear that if the Canadians think that level of "armoring" is OK, Ms. Whitman and her little crew of nosy zealots need to ADJUST their base line, like a whole lot. And the County was beyond stupid to allow this garbage to stuck into data supplied to the DOE and their own systems, and now landowners can't get rid of this damaging junk science?

    A lawsuit filing against Ms. Whitman and all members of FOSJ certainly would be appropriate.

  7. Mr. Power:

    Your original image file is protected. You might consider changing that, for the sake of transparency and communication.

  8. a fallen tree in the water becomes an "overwater structure" a pile of rocks becomes "armoring" and all this junk science gets put in machines we can't control or correct.

    This needs to end. And you folks signed up as members of FOSJ need to wake UP! Is this what you want?

  9. OOOPS. Took off file protection, let the world see it. Thanks Mr. Onkel.



  10. Well I took a look at these pictures of Mr. Stephens' place.

    What part of "I have mine, you can't have yours thus the value of mine goes up" don't you people understand.

    Some days I just feel like street noise.

    Thanks to those who pressed forward with the lawsuit. Any chance of an emergency injunction or something to stop this implementation??

    I get the feeling that some folks would say "We have to pass this CAO to see what is in it".

    According to science, the time to stop this is before it is implemented.

  11. Golly. No need to worry about setbacks with this (looks mostly new) structure.

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