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Action Alert for Tonight: Waterfront Wildlife and Habitat Not Being Protected as Promised

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Action Alert: I am requesting that people come to the city council meeting tonight, at 7p.m. to speak at open session regarding habitat connectivity and wildlife protection at the waterfront. The administration agreed to provide this after the waterfront plan was approved, but it is not fully honoring its promise.

Now that the waterfront plan is approved, the city administration is trying to implement a fish restoration project that does not address biodiversity, or upland habitat connectivity. The administration provided information to the City Council that indicates they are working on a $50,000 habitat connectivity project, but a review of the RFP reveals a different story… it reflects a project that is focused on protecting and restoring nearshore fish habitat. It will not protect marine mammals. It will not protect our important bird populations. It will not protect our terrestrial species. It will not prevent fragmentation of habitat.

A fish restoration project is great, but it is not a substitute for what we asked for, what we need or what we were promised. We need an updated or supplemental Environmental Impact Analysis (EIS) for plants and animals. When the city and port administration issued a revised plan earlier this year, the port updated the EIS, but failed to address the impacts of waterfront development on plants and animals.

Please turn out tonight to ask that the City Council provide us with what we were promised: an updated waterfront analysis that protects biodiversity and habitat connectivity. The analysis must do the following things:

° It must incorporate the entire waterfront district (near shore and upland).

° It must incorporate all local species (and the important Caspian tern colony that was dissuaded by the port)

° It must identify specific impacts from waterfront development on wildlife and habitat. Impacts are likely as the result of:

o increased marine traffic

o increased intensity of human use (more people and pets and recreational waterfront, more noise, more lights, more vibrations, more activities more times of the day and night)

o conflicting land uses (habitat vs. public access, light industrial, commercial, loss of high value estuarine habitat)

o An inadequate 50 foot habitat buffer that contains pedestrian and bike trails

o Tall buildings and glass along a bird migration route

o Roads and utilities that fragment habitat and create a barrier to wildlife movement

o Construction impacts and MTCA site cleanup impacts

° It must discuss whether or not mitigation can off-set these impacts, including compensatory mitigation (creating replacement habitat elsewhere)

· A current, quantifiable baseline standard must be established in order to determine whether or not waterfront development results in a loss of ecological function and requires mitigation. The baseline standard is critical and the city has significant data gaps in its information regarding waterfront wildlife and habitat connectivity.

° The waterfront development plans must be reviewed and revised based on the information developed from the supplemental EIS. We need to ensure we are protecting the areas of highest conservation value and not creating barriers in areas of habitat connectivity. We need to identify areas where habitat and connectivity needs to be restored, and this information must inform the placement of building, roads and infrastructure.

Why won’t the city administration give us a supplemental EIS? If we do not develop this information, then developers have no obligation to provide expensive mitigation. Protecting wildlife and habitat reduces the waterfront land available for development and reduces profit. But this does not further the public’s interest in keeping our water and our land healthy for ourselves and our future.

Please turn out tonight at open session and ask the City Council to enforce the mayor’s promises, in full, as understood by the general public.

About Wendy Harris

Citizen Journalist • Member since Mar 31, 2008