Monday, April 30, 2012

The Gravity of Sea Level Rise

Did you know that "sea level" really isn't level at all? If you were sitting in a sailboat off the Dingle Peninsula in western Ireland, you would be about 160 meters "higher" than if you were in that same sailboat around Sri Lanka. In addition to steric factors (temperature, salinity) and meteorological factors (wind, barometric pressure), the global distribution of sea water has a lot to do with gravity, which is not uniform across the globe. Gravity is stronger around Ireland, for example, than around Sri Lanka, and that leads to more water being attracted to the area around Ireland; hence, the "higher sea level" there.

One of the points I hope to impress upon readers is that, whatever you may believe about carbon dioxide levels and global warming, prediction of any resulting sea level change is very tricky stuff. Many factors are involved, not the least of which is gravity. And gravity itself can be enigmatic. There are natural spatial variations in gravity across the globe, and even the ice caps exert their own individually distinguishable gravitational pull on the surrounding sea. In other words, right now sea level is higher around Greenland and Antarctica than it would be if there were no ice caps there. The gravitational pull of the ice caps "piles up" sea water next to them. Melt the ice caps, and their gravitational influence melts along with it. The sea level around Greenland and Antarctica would likely fall, even before considering isostatic rebound.

According to the GOCE readings, gravity in our part of the world is somewhat lower than average, suggesting we won't be strongly attracting gravitationally redistributed sea water resulting from melting ice caps. In fact, analysis of the absolute gravity stations from our area suggest sea level is rising very slowly here, much less than suggested by GPS and tide gauges.

Global and local gravity variations, steric factors, meteorological factors, isostasy, and tectonic movements, to name just a few, all serve to influence the global distribution of sea water (and sea level). There can't be one "sea level rise forecast" for the globe any more than there can be one weather forecast for the globe. And our ability to predict the weather is almost certainly better than our ability to predict sea level rise.

When you hear "experts" make sea level predictions for 50 or 100 years from now, imagine they are forecasting the weather for a particular afternoon that far into the future. What will sea level be around here 100 years from now? You might as well ask if we'll need an umbrella for May 1, 2112.

GOCE geoid showing areas of stronger gravity (red) and weaker gravity (blue)

Those Romans Were Such Environmentalists!

I wonder if former EPA official Al Armendariz ever lived in Washington State? He might be a villain to some, but for others, he's probably a role model who would fit in around here. In any event, he was forced to resign over his statements regarding enforcement. When the enforcement code is cited, we usually don't think of Mark 15:13-15 or the practices of Roman conquest in Turkey.

Eerily, Al Armendariz's comments bear a strong resemblance to some made in our County, especially in the way he justifies his harsh enforcement stance because of limited manpower. According to Armendariz,

"And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law," he said." Find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them."

At least Armendariz was directing his comments towards companies instead of hapless homeowners. Maybe it should be a reminder to all of us that there are bigger environmental issues out there to deal with.

Mark 15:13-15
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder,
     “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus
     flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Not very civil, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lovelock's Inconveniently Truthful Confession

As we hear of citizens struggling through the dozens of maps in the Shoreline I&C Report, the SMP update seems to be enjoying the same level of early community acceptance as the CAO (see email below). Collectively, the community seems to be saying, "Huh?"

Unfortunately, the SMP discussion is likely to be infused, at some point, by influence from the globally dysfunctional debates about global warming, climate change, sea level rise, and ocean acidification. In future posts here, I'll discuss some of the science and data related to those issues.

From my perspective, there are a lot of misconceptions (dare I say misinformation) about the data related to those topics, and I want to highlight some of it. Ever heard of principal component analysis or hockey sticks? Well, if you haven't, then you're missing out on one of the biggest science controversies surrounding global warming, and you should stay tuned. Also, I want to say that I am generally not a global warming denier. I certainly am not a climate change denier. For me, it is well established that the climate varies over time, and on balance, I think the world probably has been in a warming phase. I'm just not convinced it's a disaster or that we have that much control over it. In that respect, I appear to be in the same company as James Lovelock.

While not a climate change denier, I most certainly do deny that the Friends of the San Juans or their cohorts at Coastal Geologic Services can predict sea level rise around here with any reasonable degree of accuracy.

There is no end of people, it seems, who are willing to exploit the prospect of a good disaster for their own purposes, especially if there may be a grant involved.

From: Leith Templin <>
Subject: Requesting Shoreline Extention
Date: April 27, 2012 9:34:21 PM PDT
To: Richard Fralick <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>
Dear Council Members,
I became aware last week that the deadline for submitting a review of the Shoreline Characterization Report was due on Monday 30th, 2012.  As I waded through the documents at the library and then had a disk sent to me from the community development and planning department and reviewed all 39 maps I wondered if anybody else was having as much trouble as I was. It was very frustrating to discover that the county employee in charge of this was on vacation, so there was no one to help me.  I met with around fifty people at the Orcas Fire Department last Wednesday night only to discover that none of them had any idea about this review let alone that a report was due on Monday. I shared with them on how to find their management areas and their Reach area and the importance of checking out the maps to see if they were an accurate reflection of their property.  The next day I received numerous emails and phone calls asking for help.  I have not talked to one shoreline property owner that new anything about this. Something is wrong with the communication from the county to it's property owner's on this important issue.  I am requesting that the deadline be extended to a later and more appropriate date this summer so property owners can participate in this important issue.
Leith Templin
Orcas Island

No Net Loss of Obfuscation

While we're not done with the CAO, the SMP controversies are heating up. There was a technical workshop on Friday, with its accompanying talk of "no net loss".  What does the Shoreline Management Act actually say?

RCW 90.58.020 - Alterations of the natural condition of the shorelines of the state, in those limited instances when authorized, shall be given priority for single-family residences and their appurtenant structures, ports, shoreline recreational uses including but not limited to parks, marinas, piers, and other improvements facilitating public access to shorelines of the state, industrial and commercial developments which are particularly dependent on their location on or use of the shorelines of the state and other development that will provide an opportunity for substantial numbers of the people to enjoy the shorelines of the state.

In other words, in passing the SMA, the legislature found that we were to enjoy the shorelines, not be excluded from them. Also, single family residences were explicitly named as a use that is protected under SMA.

The SMA requirement is "no net loss of shoreline ecological function", not "no change of shorelines". The "no net loss" requirement of the SMP places added emphasis on those areas defined as critical under the CAO (WAC 365-190-030), which is why some in our community want to designate all the shorelines as critical. The CAO standard is "protection" of functions and values, but under the SMA, the standard is "no net loss" of function.

However, one of the major problems with the Shoreline I&C Report, from my perspective, is that the scoring system it uses is utterly inadequate for making determinations of critical areas under the GMA or SMA.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is This Helpful?

Did you hear that the Council has decided to evaluate the proposed cell phone ordinance's effect on property values? No such luck with the CAOs. According to one Council member:

My reason for supporting language in the wireless ordinance regarding impacts to property values is because it is my understanding that it is appropriate for aesthetics to be considered when drafting local wireless regulations. It is also my understanding that aesthetics and/or property values are not an appropriate consideration in the CAO update process.

I hope this is helpful.

What do you think readers?  Is this helpful?

Regardless, have a look at a recent letter from one of our fellow islanders. Our citizenry continues to speak out, and the question remains whether anyone is listening.

An Open Letter to the San Juan County Council

Re: Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) and Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) Revision For months, we have been subjected to the charade of the CAO and SMP update process. We were promised that the Best Available Science (BAS) would be used to justify changes in regulations but in reality the science that is being used is nothing but a smoke-screen for an agenda being furthered by certain elements in the County with the encouragement of the Department of Ecology (DOE) and the so-called "Friends" of
the San Juans (FSJ). This ''Troika's'' starting premise is clear but officially unstated. They believe the regulations on property owners need to be radically tightened and future development further restricted . The problem is that they have not provided ANY facts that substantiate that the existing development standards and regulations are ineffective in protecting the environment from REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE.

It was apparent from the outset of the CAO and SMP update process that the County and the rest of the Troika wanted to increase the "setback" or "buffer" along the waterfront. The Troika wants us to believe that all residential development adjacent to the waterfront causes REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE to the environment. If the County continues on its current path many existing waterfront homes will end up as "non-conforming" structu res when the County increases the setback. The BAS contained in the reports provides no factual evidence of any REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE to the environment created by the construction and occupancy of residences constructed consistent with current or relatively recent regulations.

In reality, each and every one of us "impacts" the environment every day. We breathe, drink water, eat, flush the toilet, and so on. Are these actions causing any REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE to the environment? No! They produce an acceptable and minimal impact on the environment! In the overall context of life and the ecosystem we live in, a properly built residence constructed and used under the current regulations with the existing setbacks/buffers also produces an acceptable and minimal impact on the environment. Yes there are occasional actions by some individuals which do not follow the existing guidelines and these individuals need to be dealt with, but the existing regulations do work!

In a way, the Troika of the County, DOE and FSJ are intent on transforming San Juan County into a giant petri dish. This is a county-wide laboratory experiment that will be at OUR expense. There has not been any publicly disclosed Cost - Benefit Analysis undertaken by the County to demonstrate the real cost impact and supposed environmental benefits of these new regulations. It is only logical that any proposed regulations should include a Cost-Benefit Analysis to see how much the environment will gain by their imposition. With no real data documenting REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE caused by following the current regulations, the County therefore cannot describe any tangible benefit that will result from their new, more onerous regulations.

That leaves us with the incredible looming cost to everyone who lives in San Juan County. These costs will include more County staff to administer and enforce the processes and regulations, litigation costs that the County will be exposed to as property owners contest the loss of property use, costs to landowners to pay for offisland consultants to defend their routine development and property management actions, construction jobs lost, etc. Perhaps more onerous, it will make building or renovating homes or businesses in the San Juans substantially more expensive than at present which will result in the San Juans becoming more of an elitist and moneyed community. The "Friends" are probably ok with that shift as are the DOE but the County doesn't even seem to have considered the impact of the direction in which they are heading.

Look around you. San Juan County is a beautiful place. It is that way because the current regulations are effective and the vast majority of the residents care for environment they live in. Yes there are occasional violators of the current regulations and they need to be dealt with, but you do not need to impose draconian regulations that have no real justification nor tangible benefits to offset the cost burden on virtually all property owners.

Washington State law does not require the County to change the existing standards. Washington State law only requires that the County review the existing CAO and SMP regulations. If you look around it is clear that overall the existing standards are working and at most, require only some minor adjustments, not arbitrary and unjustified draconian changes.

Don Webster
Orcas Island

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Advert Is Worth A Thousand Words

If you've been keeping track of all the consultants hired by our County, you'll recognize the name of the Watershed Company. They were involved in the BAS synthesis. They're currently involved in the Shoreline I&C. They're on emails (look under "Para" in the previous "Asunto" posting). They're everywhere. They are about as plugged in as you can get.

After helping to design our buffers, apparently they can assist in solving our buffer problems too. Not a bad business model, wouldn't you say? Their use of the word "fix" seems to suggest a whole new meaning in that context (see advert below), but at least the quote is free.

On A Slightly Different Asunto

As many of you may already know, the County is working on its Shoreline Management update too. While the CAOs have their BAS synthesis, the SMP has its Shoreline Inventory & Characterization Report. The County has set a deadline of April 30 for public comments on that report, and there is a workshop on April 27 (see the emails below, note the spanish headers for some reason).

At least one community group has provided guidance for how we might protect ourselves by getting on the record about the errors in the I&C Report. Follow the link for instructions. If you've got shoreline property, you probably should attend the workshop on Friday to watch events unfold as well. There is a large cast of characters involved in the SMP update. In addition to consultants and the Department of Ecology, the County has appointed a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to guide them through the process. Overall, there are dozens of people making decisions that will affect us.

Bear in mind that unlike the CAOs, Ecology has authority over the shorelines. Whenever Ecology puts out a brochure titled "Making Sense of Tough Issues", you know we're probably in for it. Take that brochure's opening advice and participate in a "healthy dialogue".



De: Shireene Hale
Enviado el: vie 20/04/2012 9:01
Para: Colin Maycock; Linda Lyshall; Dan Nickel (; Barbara Rosenkotter; Rene Beliveau
CC: Lisa Brown
Asunto: Revised Agenda for April 27 Workshop
Good Morning,

Attached is a slightly revised agenda for the April 27 technical data workshop in Friday Harbor. Unfortunately I don't have the participants e-mail addresses and would appreciate it if you could forward it to those you know will be involved.

I also think it is important to make participants aware of the conference call we had, and that as a result of that discussion, the following options have been identified. Some are minor additions which could be included in the shoreline characterization report without additional cost. For those that are not minor, the County and our consultants will need to weigh the cost of making the changes against the benefits associated with those changes. Following are the options identified during the conference call: 

a) Provide additional explanation of what was included in the scoring system, and its strengths and weaknesses;
b) Add a note that habitat is an important component that can be seen, and that to assess cumulative impacts, changes in habitat need to be tracked over time;
c) Add a clearer statement that not all issues discussed in the text of the document were included in the scoring system;
d) Provide a discussion on the use of a digital elevation model (DEM) rather than Lidar;
e) Provide meta data, a description of how the mapping work was done, and information on materials and methods used; and
f) Consider adding a readers guide to the scoring system and what is and is not included.

Kind regards,

Shireene Hale
Planning Coordinator/ Deputy Director
San Juan County

From: Colin Maycock
Sent: Thu 4/12/2012 3:31 PM
Subject: Inventory and Characterization Report Data Workshop with Consultant
Please find attached a draft agenda for the Technical Data workshop scheduled for the morning of Friday April 27th.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact Shireene Hale-360-370-7569.
I shall be back in the country on the 26th and present on the morning of the 27th.
If you have specific technical questions for the consultants that are not covered by the agenda, then please submit the questions in writing by April 20th so they can be passed along to the consultants ahead of time.
It would be ideal if your concerns/questions included the following:
a. Specific citations/references where appropriate.
b. A brief description of the preferred resolution.
c. A concise analysis showing how the proposed changes would impact the goals, policies and potential regulation changes of the SMP?
Thanks for your time.

Colin Maycock, AICP
Planner IV
San Juan County Community Development and Planning
PO Box 947, Friday Harbor, WA
Phone: 360-370-7573

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Latest "Shaddup You Face" Message

From the online "news" that appears to resemble the unofficial CDPD blog at times comes the latest high-minded "Shaddup You Face" scolding. For all we know, it might be part of the "misinformation" messaging launched by the County.

Since there is so much talk about personal attacks and denigration, let's review some recent personal attacks and denigrations:
  • Shireene Hale refers to the public's participation in the recent Planning Commission meetings as "awful".
  • SLM (Stan Matthews) says people should "seek counseling" if they don't understand the County's old "joke" sign about lethal force.
  • Erik Stockdale of Ecology emails a Council member to characterize as "belligerent treatment" a citizen who simply disagreed with Dr. Adamus over the Mayer paper.
But getting back to Kivisto's article, what exactly is she referring to when she says?

Outside agitators are invited to meetings to distort facts and stir up citizens. They appear on talk shows in Seattle to spread lies about the county. Edited YouTube videos perpetuate the lies.

How can someone "invite" outside agitators? If you're invited, you're a guest, are you not? Lies? She actually uses the word "lies"? Name them. The article depends so much on vague innuendo that we cannot really be certain what it's talking about. By "outside agitators" does she mean the Friends? Most of the Friends' money comes from outside the County. Maybe the passage is referring to them.

The Kivisto article is long on accusations without any attribution or mention of fact checking. As such, it resembles agitprop that fans the flames while yelling not to fan the flames. She is pouring gas on a fire she is partly responsible for kindling.

Where was Kivisto's concern for the truth during official testimony about the CAOs? What about the hordes of outsiders from Ecology, consultants, and the Puget Sound Partnership? Does she have any concerns there? Think about some of the official CAO testimony of County officials and consultants in light of the following. In Washington State:

To sustain a finding of common law fraud, the trial court in most cases must make findings of fact as to each of the nine elements of fraud. Howell v. Kraft, 10 Wash. App. 266, 517 P.2d 203 (1973). Those elements generally are: (1) a representation of an existing fact, (2) its materiality, (3) its falsity, (4) the speaker's knowledge of its falsity or ignorance of its truth, (5) his intent that it should be acted on by the person to whom it is made, (6) ignorance of its falsity on the part of the person to whom it is made, (7) the latter's reliance on the truth of the representation, (8) his right to rely upon it, and (9) his consequent damage." (Pedersen v. Bibioff, 64 Wn. App. 710, 828 P.2d 1113 (1992))

If the population is upset, then Pete Rose and the Council should consider the likely causes. I don't think they have to look much farther than their own offices, and maybe some house cleaning would be in order.

Or maybe all this messaging is a just another manufactured crisis to generate support for more revenue via the proposed sales tax increase (0.078 to 0.081). After all, the stated reasons for the increase are:

The San Juan County council desires to provide residents with the level of services, equipment and facilities in the areas of criminal justice and public safety to maintain a safe and strong community.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dumb and Dumber

At least one Council member keeps saying that our current buffers are "dumb" because they were established without the benefit of Best Available Science (BAS). In her mind, the "problem" with our current version of the CAOs is that we must revise our buffers to comply with WAC 365-195-900 (RCW 36.70A.172):

Counties and cities must include the "best available science" when developing policies and development regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas

But the requirement to include BAS in our considerations doesn't automatically mean changing our buffers. Besides, many who have been following our County's BAS and the travails of Dr. Adamus are not at all convinced that the new proposed buffers are any smarter than our current buffers, and they may be a good deal dumber.

The fact is, whatever the official BAS might say, our current buffers are the only buffers we have empirical evidence for, and they appear to have been doing a pretty good job. In that regard, they represent the best, most local, and only proven BAS we have about buffers for our County environment. Who abandons a system that is working for a theoretical, unproven method of protection?

It looks like our County might, that's who.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

No More "Shaddup You Face"

Joe Dolce may not be a name familiar to most of you, but back in the 1980s, he had a hit song which parodied the kind of civility he learned from his Italian mother. Having had some experience with that variety of civility myself, I have named it "Shaddup You Face" civility. It is, of course, based on the premise that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Some from our community have begun a public lament over declining civility. However Beatitude-like their sermons, bear in mind that when "they" are pleading for a return to civility, they really just want us to be quiet and conform. They want a return to "Shaddup You Face" civility:  the bogus civility that has existed around here for a long time.

There is nothing more uncivil than silence while our community is being taken away from us.

Civil discourse must be organized around the central principle of fair, open, and honest debate. Since debates are discussions between opposing views, they necessarily involve advocating for one's own view while critiquing an opponent's. For me, the ideal is British parliament, which outshines American political discourse in nearly every respect. Whatever failings the British political system might have, their civil discourse is raucous and brutally honest. We need more of that. Civil discourse shouldn't be a synonym for being vacuously "nice", "kind", "sweet", or "agreeable". It should be substantive and must often involve a requisite amount of uncomfortable bluntness. Civil discourse is speaking one's mind without resorting to ad hominem attacks.

Far from a decline in civility, I feel our community is having a re-birth of civil discourse. From my perspective, these islands have languished somewhere between a one-party political state and suspended animation for several years. A much larger cross-section of the island populace is now engaged and participating in political discussion. Unfortunately, the new voices are receiving push back from those who thought they knew and controlled this community. It turns out they probably didn't.

I hope the emerging civil discourse continues to blossom. Honestly, I do not think there is any way to put the genie back in the bottle anyway.

As for those advocating for a return to civility, I think they need to examine the civility of the system that brought us to this state of affairs. When I hear laments about our County's supposed loss of civility; when I hear County officials claim they've been personally attacked when they've simply been disagreed with; when I hear sentimental pubic appeals for "community" while many of those same people privately work to divide, punish, control, and abuse; then like some Italian mothers I know, all I can think of is, "Che cavolo stai dicendo?"

Happy Earth Day

Research shows that 80% of Americans consider themselves environmentalists, including the Trojan Heron.

Enjoy your piece/peace of the earth today!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Removing All Doubt

For the Planning Commission hearings on the wetlands CAO, hundreds of people showed up dispersed over four days to testify to the Planning Commission or just watch the proceedings. It was a remarkable sight to see so many bright, concerned people from all over these islands participate in our democracy. It was especially wonderful to see the diversity of the people. Gone, at least for the moment, were the days when no one but just a few Friends or government staffers were sprinkled about the gallery while the Commission considered matters in relative obscurity.

But not everyone saw the experience in a positive light. During last week's Council meeting, Shireene Hale, the planner in charge of the proposed CAOs, characterized the Planning Commission meetings immoderately. When speaking about the upcoming schedule for further Planning Commission meetings, she couldn't help but editorialize:

"by May the PC will have recuperated from the 4 awful Planning Commission meetings"

Awful?!? Recuperated? That's how a senior County staffer views us and reacts to the diverse public participation surrounding this crucial topic, arguably one of the most important pieces of land use legislation ever to be considered by this County?

Perhaps Shireene prefers the way things were working last autumn, when she appeared to be making decisions out of public view, in conjunction with the Friends and the State, and then simply informing local officials after the fact, including suggesting what is or is not a scientifically defensible approach.

Judge for yourself. What's closer to your definition of "awful"?

From: Richard Fralick
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2011 10:31 PM
Cc: Patty Miller
Subject: RE: What the heck is going on?

Hi Rich,

I received a call from Lovel  mid-afternoon today telling me that Paul Adamus threw a monkey wrench into the Planning Commission process on Thursday.  She also told me that Shireene was going to schedule a telecom with various players including Janet Alderton some time soon.  I told Lovel that I felt the process was spinning out of control and that Janet among others had no business being involved at this point in time. I strongly suggested that the Implementation Team needed to meet ASAP to sort things out, even if it meant meeting Thanksgiving Week.  At my insistence we are trying to schedule an Implementation Team Meeting next Monday.

Until your email, I had no idea that the call including Janet had been made as I was not copied on Shireene's email on Saturday.  I share your distress and promise that if it is at all within my power we will sort things out if and when we meet next Monday.  Please bear with me till then.

Richard Fralick  

From: []
Sent: Mon 11/14/2011 8:24 AM
To: Richard Fralick
Cc: Patty Miller
Subject: What the heck is going on?

I'm sending on a memo Shireene sent to the Planning Commission for your information and to see if either of you have some of the questions I have about this process. Among mine is: What is it about Janet Alderton that gives her special standing enabling her participation in a conference call that ends up changing a staff reccomendation?  Rich

From: Shireene Hale []
Sent: Saturday, November 12, 2011 1:03 AM
To: Shireene Hale; Lynda Guernsey; Janice Biletnikoff; Amy Vira; barbara thomas; Bob Gamble; Brian Ehrmantraut; Evelyn F Fuchser; John Lackey;; Jon Cain; Karin Agosta; Lynda Guernsey; Mike Carlson;; Susan Dehlendorf
Subject: Update on discussion with scientists

Hello again,

After the Planning Commission hearing we had a conference call that included Dr. Adamus, Erik Stockdale (Ecology), and Janet Alderton. The main purpose of the call was to discuss Dr. Adamus' comments - which came as quite a surprise considering he told us he had reviewed the proposed changes, and he provided comments that were incorporated into the most recent draft. After talking he understood how we got from his prior version of the buffer sizing procedure to the simpler version.

Among other topics of discussion, most if not all of us reached the conclusion that 50% pollutant removal and 15 foot buffers are probably not adequate to protect wetland functions and values from the type of pollutants typically found in residential runoff. For water quality purposes, Dr. Adamus explained that the 15 ft. was based on the removal of coarse sediment (the easiest contaminant to remove) - not the fine sediment and soluable contaminants common in residential runoff.  It would have been great to have sorted that out before now - but better now than later.

In addition, I reached the conclusion that part of our problem in dealing with some of the water factors is that there are at least two important variables, slope and amount of impervious area, that both influence whether runoff is above or below ground and that vary independently, resulting in an array of combinations (both low, one high the other low, both high, and everything in between) that are difficult to show in a table format. (Whether runoff is above or below ground makes a difference because pollutant removal is more effective when the water stays below ground). The discussion with the scientists is continuing and I have proposed that we consider switching gears and using a simple equation to determine the necessary width of the water quality portion of the buffer, based on impervious area, slope and the presence (or absence) of a drainageway. The high and low ends of the buffer spectrum would remain the same (except for the 15 ft. buffers) and the buffers would still be based on the Mayer 2007 paper - there would just be a lot more incremental steps in between the small and larger buffers - which seems like a more scientifically defensible approach.

Anyway, I will keep you posted.

Thanks for your patience - this is not an easy task for any of us.

Shireene Hale, EHS
Planning Coordinator/ Deputy Director
San Juan County Community Development & Planning PO Box 947

Friday, April 20, 2012

It Couldn't Happen Here, Could It?

In a previous post, we pointed out that Stephanie Buffum of the Friends is the ex-wife of renowned hardball environmentalist Kieran Suckling. Here is what he has to say in a 2010 interview:

Were you hindered by not having science degrees?
No. It was a key to our success. I think the professionalization of the environmental movement has injured it greatly. These kids get degrees in environmental conservation and wildlife management and come looking for jobs in the environmental movement. I’m more interested in hiring philosophers, linguists, and poets. The core talent of a successful environmental activist is not science and law. It’s campaigning instinct. That’s not only not taught in the universities, it’s discouraged.

Suckling's words lend credence to the P.J. O'Rourke quote, "Some people will do anything to save the earth, except take a science course." Meanwhile, in a separate story about environmental bullies elsewhere, the residents of Cape Hatteras are learning what it means to go up against big green beach bully birders.

Couch and 15 other local business owners each signed their own affidavits swearing the consent decree was destroying their lives and the lives of employees they had to let go. Families were losing their life savings, their college funds and their homes.

At the time, Defenders' president, Rodger Schlickeisen, scrimped along with his $295,641 salary and Audubon boss John Flicker got by on $322,422 -- not counting their handsome $30,000-plus benefit packages.

Jim Keene, director of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, is the go-to guy on how this disaster started. "The green groups wanted to get rid of ORVs [off-road vehicles] with the usual 'beer belly cowboy bird killers' propaganda," he said. "They don't recognize it was ORV users that first went out and flagged nests so everybody would drive with extra caution. We do more to protect beach birds than these big-shots in their fancy New York City skyscrapers -- we need this beach, and we need it open."

If you click on the linked article, be sure to note the size of the bird buffers. Each bird has its own individualized buffer with a diameter of 6,000 feet.  And yes, you read that right: 6,000 feet.

Let's Help Councillor Miller et al. With A Better Answer

Repeatedly, many in our community have asked "What's the problem?" purportedly being addressed by stringent new CAO proposals. We have received no clear answer.

Last October, at least one member of our Council was looking for answers too (see emails below). For the sake of argument, let's ignore whether the right questions were being asked in her email. The community isn't saying, for example, that we shouldn't comply with the law regarding the CAOs. The disagreement is over what compliance looks like.

That said, I think the email reply from Pete Rose speaks to the real need for the CAOs. We need them to protect the ecosystem. Not the natural ecosystem, but the grant and funding ecosystem that is our County's fiscal habitat. That's the habitat we're really protecting with buffers.

There exists an interlocking network of legal requirements and grant eligibility rules that serve to fiscally coerce local governments down a path of State-sanctioned propriety, especially eco-propriety. The CAOs appear to have less to do with on-the-ground ecological impacts than with impacts to the fiscal environment where our government's budget psyche lives. Like an insecure beauty contestant, our County feels pressure to satisfy some wink-and-nod notion of grant attractiveness to the State.

Pure and simple, our County government wants money. It feels strongly incentivized to externalize questionable costs to private citizens under the guise of environmental protection for the underlying authentic purpose of simply improving its own prospects for grant and loan eligibility with the State. It will then use those grants and loans to undertake projects for us, whether we want them or not and whether we need them or not. If the past is any guide to the future, the grants and loans will establish policy and fiscal obligations that will end up costing us more than had we never taken them to begin with. Back in 1990, our County Commissioners (Cowan, Orchid, LaPorte) opted into full compliance with the GMA in part for the promise of grants, and we've been chasing grants ever since.

Grants and loans are not the solution to local government finance; they are the problem. Instead of asking Pete Rose for answers, I wish our Council would have picked up a book and read Nobel-prize winner Muhammad Yunus' bestseller Banker to the Poor. In fact, I wish the Council would recognize the analogies between the grant/loan ecosystem they inhabit and the ecosystem of international aid for poor countries, because the dynamics are very similar.

Yunus witnessed how billions of dollars in foreign aid created colossal projects (dams, bridges, huge industrial plants) but did not create a situation in which the local population had to organize itself to solve its own problems. And that, according to Yunus, holds the key to poverty:

"Poverty is a creation of a complex system of conceptions, rules and attitudes we have thought up ourselves. Therefore, if you want to eradicate poverty you have to go back to the drawing board, discover where we have planted the seeds of poverty and make changes there."

Yunus' revelation was that international aid primarily benefited the countries and organizations providing the aid, not the supposed poverty-stricken recipients.

When grants/loans become a raison d'etre, all economic perspective (and control) has been lost. The community is no longer looking to itself to solve its problems. In our own community, the people who peddle grants/loans and the people who crave them probably have more in common with John Perkins than Rachel Carson.

If the Council wants an answer, they should contemplate Mohammad Yunus when he says, "go back to the drawing board, discover where we have planted the seeds of poverty and make changes there."

Stop thinking of the CAOs as a fundraiser for the County.

-----Original Message-----
From: Patty Miller [] 
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 5:29 PM
To: Richard Fralick
Subject: FW: What happens if we do not update CAO?

fyi in case you find this useful

From: Pete Rose
Sent: Wed 10/12/2011 11:27 AM
To: Patty Miller; Randall Gaylord
Subject: RE: What happens if we do not update CAO?

Hello Patty,

I'll take a shot at this and see if Randy wants to add or correct anything.

We can be in non-compliance either by missing a GMA deadline, which applies now to the CAO update and certain comp plan updates, or by having a compliance order in effect.  Anyone who feels aggrieved by our missing the deadlines can make a "failure to act" filing before the GMA hearings board and try to get us under a non-compliance order (which is generally a schedule to comply). 

The grant programs are:

*         Centennial Clean Water Fund;
*         Public Works Trust Fund;
*         Recreation & Conservation Office (RCO) various funds;
*         Emergency Management Hazard Mitigation grant program.

We are currently precluded from applying for loans or competitive grants from the Centennial Clean Water Fund (mainly sewer/septic and stormwater) and the Public Works Trust Fund (mainly infrastructure), with the exception of their emergency fund (such as a public health emergency due to septic or sewer failure).  These programs distribute hundreds of millions and loan at very low rates, which get lower with your increased percentage of match.  Centennial also has major grants for sewer improvements.  

To give you an idea of how you finance a public improvement, a city I previously worked for had to finance a $12 million sewer plant.  We started with a $2.5 million Centennial grant, worked a $2 million partnership with a state agency that needed the plant for its facilities, saved a couple million over 5 years in ramped up rates, and borrowed the rest from the Public Works Trust Fund at 1%.  Monthly rates were at one time projected to rise to $100 a month per house.  This approach kept them under $40 at the time the plant opened in 2000.  Our future needs for stormwater projects and possibly a transfer station come to mind.  Access to this money can help us be more creative in meeting our needs and wants.

The other two grant programs listed above simply cost the applicant agency a point on the scoring form.  These programs distribute tens of millions and the points are often split by 10ths in landing in or out of the money.  An example of how this costs us was in the purchase of the marine access dock at Orcas Landing.  We were the last project in at the cut line and got what was left after those above us got fully funded.  My noggin is too full of thoughts and data to tell you how much more we would have gotten if we did not have the point deducted, but it was in the hundreds of thousands.  On the Odlin project, we were the first one out of the money and then when someone else cancelled a project, we again got what was left over, not the original request.  Public Works, Parks and Land Bank compete in the RCO programs.  Brendan Cowan does not believe we have been hurt in the Emergency Management Hazard Mitigation program.

For the extremely recalcitrant local governments, the Governor may impose sanctions allowed by 36.70A.340 & 345.

RCW 36.70A.340
Noncompliance and sanctions. 

Upon receipt from the board of a finding that a state agency, county, or city is in noncompliance under RCW 36.70A.330, or as a result of failure to meet the requirements of RCW 36.70A.210 , the governor may either:

    (1) Notify and direct the director of the office of financial management to revise allotments in appropriation levels;

    (2) Notify and direct the state treasurer to withhold the portion of revenues to which the county or city is entitled under one or more of the following: The motor vehicle fuel tax, as provided in chapter 82.36 RCW; the transportation improvement account, as provided in RCW 47.26.084 ; the urban arterial trust account, as provided in RCW 47.26.080 ; the rural arterial trust account, as provided in RCW 36.79.150; the sales and use tax, as provided in chapter 82.14  RCW; the liquor profit tax, as provided in RCW 66.08.190 ; and the liquor excise tax, as provided in RCW 82.08.170; or

    (3) File a notice of noncompliance with the secretary of state and the county or city, which shall temporarily rescind the county or city's authority to collect the real estate excise tax under RCW 82.46.030 until the governor files a notice rescinding the notice of noncompliance.

RCW 36.70A.345

The governor may impose a sanction or sanctions specified under RCW 36.70A.340 on: (1) A county or city that fails to designate critical areas, agricultural lands, forest lands, or mineral resource lands under RCW 36.70A.170  by the date such action was required to have been taken; (2) a county or city that fails to adopt development regulations under RCW 36.70A.060 protecting critical areas or conserving agricultural lands, forest lands, or mineral resource lands by the date such action was required to have been taken; (3) a county that fails to designate urban growth areas under RCW 36.70A.110  by the date such action was required to have been taken; and (4) a county or city that fails to adopt its comprehensive plan or development regulations when such actions are required to be taken.

Imposition of a sanction or sanctions under this section shall be preceded by written findings by the governor, that either the county or city is not proceeding in good faith to meet the requirements of the act; or that the county or city has unreasonably delayed taking the required action. The governor shall consult with and communicate his or her findings to the growth management hearings board prior to imposing the sanction or sanctions. For those counties or cities that are not required to plan or have not opted in, the governor in imposing sanctions shall consider the size of the jurisdiction relative to the requirements of this chapter and the degree of technical and financial assistance provided.


Pete Rose, County Administrator

San Juan County
350 Court Street No. 5
Office Location 55 Second Street
Friday Harbor, WA  98250
(360) 378-3870

From: Patty Miller 
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 10:34 AM
To: Pete Rose; Randall Gaylord
Subject: What happens if we do not update CAO?
Importance: High


I would like to develop a more accurate response to the question "what happens if we do not update the CAO" or if we say "we think our current regulations adequately protect the critical areas".  I am able to provide the standard answers but am repeatedly being pushed or challenged regarding the answer.

Pete - what types of grants are and are not subject to our GMA compliance.  I do not expect that you will list all of them but if you can tell me what types are not at jeapordy and which types are, it would be helpful.

Randy - what are the legal ramifications of us not updating.  I have been told that Jefferson County refused to do it and a moratorium for building permits was put in place however I have been told that this would be highly unusual.

Can you help me develop a better answer?

Thanks, Patty