Minter Creek watershed study, stakeholders wanted


Rick Sorrels

Minter Bay is healthier now. The Washington State Department of Health would now allow the commercial sale of shellfish grown in the outer portion of the bay, but not the inner portion near the fish hatchery, which still tests too high for bacteria.

Puget Sound Partnership, a state organization chartered to restore the health of Puget Sound waters by 2020, has an action plan that both Pierce and Kitsap counties have agreed to support with a stakeholders group to find ways to implement that plan.

According to Barbara Ann Smolko with Pierce County’s Waste Water Management, it is too late to save many watersheds.

“The Minter Creek watershed is in better shape, with a lot of valuable biological resources which we can still save,” she said.

The Minter Creek watershed extends from the Minter Fish Hatchery north to a point near Albertsons on Sedgwick Road, and from the Lake Katherine shopping center west past the church on 134th Avenue. All rain that falls within this area ends up downhill in Minter Bay.

The three priorities of the action agency, as established by the Puget Sound Partnership, are to prevent pollution from stormwater runoff, to protect and restore habitat, and to restore and reopen shellfish beds.

The state Department of Commerce is tasked with implementing portions of the Growth Management Act and the action agenda. Funding comes from EPA. The action group is tentatively called the Minter Creek Stakeholders Group. Residents, business owners and other interested parties are sought to provide a balanced input to the process as stakeholders.

There are several local residents already signed on as stakeholders, but only one business owner. From the summary of comments made at the initial meeting hosted on Aug. 27, the attendees appeared not that friendly to business operations.

According to published documents and Heather Ballash, the facilitator provided by the Department of Commerce, the stakeholders group will concentrate on “land use,” which according to Ballash, equates to proposing changes to the Pierce and Kitsap County zoning regulations.

By definition, zoning regulations are restrictive in nature, taking away property rights for the common good. A balance of interests between homeowners, commercial business owners, cottage industry owners, animal owners, farm and ranch owners, working folk, retirees, nature lovers, et cetera, may be needed for the process.

Smolko believes the process will not dwell only upon land use. Pierce County spent a lot of time and effort on the Key Peninsula Community Plan and the resulting zoning regulations for the KP, she said.

“It is more likely that zoning changes might be expected for Kitsap County, which has an airport, gravel pit, concrete plant and industrial facilities within the watershed, but nothing has been decided yet. We are just starting the process, which will end with a finished proposal in January or February,” she said.

The next meeting for early October has not yet been set.

For information, contact Heather Ballash at (360) 725-3044 or Barbara Ann Smolko at (253)798-6156.