Opinion

Editorial: Quartermaster needs our help; let’s wait no longer

It’s understandable that homeowners are hesitant to step forward to become the “poster child” in King County’s efforts to clean up Quartermaster Harbor.

The county, hidebound and bureaucratic, has been notoriously difficult on these matters. Few governments are lean, nimble and responsive; King County — at least when it comes to land-use issues — is certainly not one of them.

At the same time, it’s not only government’s responsibility to make an effort like this work.

Consider what’s at stake here: Clean water, clean beaches, a healthy ecosystem. Those who own waterfront property have an obvious stake in the health of Quartermaster Harbor. All of us on Vashon have a shared, civic responsibility for its health.

This is a bay — with its eelgrass beds and stretches of unspoiled shoreline — that feeds much of central Puget Sound. It’s also where the Puyallup Tribe historically gathered shellfish and where, by treaty right and case law, its members are allowed to harvest today.

Some homeowners, even though they own property worth a bundle, may not have the financial wherewithal to step forward and address a failing septic system. It’s not unusual on Vashon to be land rich and cash poor.

But some do have the means. We urge them to begin the process. There’s no excuse anymore.

At the same time, the county needs to prove to well-meaning but dubious Islanders that this time around — when they come to the county toting plans for a new septic system — they’ll be treated fairly. Richard Gordon is one Islander ready to do that. But he can’t stomach the thought of pouring thousands of dollars into a new design only to have county officials reject it, without a word of explanation.

Why does he fear that will happen? Because historically, that’s been the county practice; the county, in normal circumstances, doesn’t do what Larry Fay, the county official heading up the process, called “design consultations.”

But as Fay pointed out, the county’s establishment of a marine recovery area along outer Quartermaster Harbor changes the playing field. And this time around, he said, the county will do its best to find creative solutions.

It’s a classic conflict on Quartermaster Harbor, a sort of “you go first,” “no, you,” dilemma. But the hesitation spells out a different reality — fiddling while Rome burns.

Fay, by many accounts intelligent and fair-minded, is saying “trust us.” It’s time for homeowners to take the leap.

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