Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Catastrophically Bad Writing (to go with the incredibly bad science)

With all the talk about the CAOs, we shouldn't forget that there is an Inventory and Characterization Report in circulation about shorelines, as part of the County's effort to comply with the Shoreline Management Act (SMA).

The I&C Report, as it is known, was written by Herrera Environmental and The Watershed Company, among others.  If you've been following the County reports churned out for the CAO and the SMP, you may have noticed a repeating pattern of consultants. Herrera and Watershed are familiar names. They were co-authors of the San Juan County BAS Synthesis for the CAOs as well as the Shoreline I&C. The public appear to be generally underwhelmed with their work and with the draft ordinances based on their work.

Yesterday, a packed house at the Planning Commission were mostly critical of the latest BAS-based version of the wetlands CAO. Former code enforcement officials, former planners, scientists, farmers, and just plain ol' regular folk testified against it, calling it something that looked like it "came out of the back-end of a cow" according to one meeting participant.

These sentiments are reminiscent of a meeting last week (February 29) about the I&C report. Meeting attendees were highly critical of that report, and with statements from the I&C report like the excerpts below, it can be little wonder. Aside from allegations of poor quality science, the writing of the I&C report appears to be an affront to the English language.

The following excerpts are just a small set of examples that left me scratching my head and saying, "Huh?" Also, generally, I think words like "incredibly" are about as appropriate for a scientific report as words like "awesome." I wonder if Herrera and Watershed have ever owned a copy of Strunk & White?

The geology of the Doe Bay management area is both complex and simple.

If a landslide or earthquake were to occur in the management area it would occur catastrophically and would likely be very large.

The physical forcing on the shorelines of the Mud Bay management area varies dramatically.

The relatively competent bedrock means that very few areas are potentially unstable, even though slopes can be incredibly steep.

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