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

1 comment:

  1. Well, I guess Council really straightened Shireene out. Her behavior has improved SO much.