Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tourism Anyone?

I know ... I know ... I haven't posted in a while.  I apologize, but I needed to attend to some pressing matters.

While I was away, there was another meeting about the Fish & Wildlife Habitat CAO. There was a joint meeting between the Planning Commission and the Council on May 18, 2012 and another Planning Commission Meeting on the FWHCAO on May 25, 2012.  The next Planning Commission meeting on the FWHCAO will be on June 7.

Several interesting items came up during these meetings. During the May 25, 2012 meeting, the Planning Commission took a "straw poll" (whatever that means) to indicate their intention to designate all shoreline areas as critical areas. This despite the fact that even the research of the Friends of the San Juans suggests only 11 miles of our 400+ mile long coastline constitute forage-fish spawning sites. Nevertheless, the Planning Commission wants all 400 miles to be critical, and because the shorelines are critical, the Planning Commission wants all streams that flow to shorelines to be critical. Of course, using that logic, every bit of of the universe could eventually be "linked" to something else in the universe that was already deemed critical. Everything therefore is, or could be, critical.  That's probably the intent of the Friends and their friends on the Planning Commission anyway.  Using language worthy of Napoleon and Squealer, they want to designate everything as critical, with some areas just being more critical than others.

On May 18, we also witnessed Stephanie Buffum speaking up for the contribution that tourism makes to our local economy. She claimed that it was $50 million per year. Many people believe the Friends are anti-development, but they really aren't. They are big supporters of transportation corridors and tourism development. They support the Scenic Byway designation, for example, which reportedly has been used in some of the Friends' complaints against property owners. In other words, the Friends have claimed various docks or other structures cause a "visual impact" on the Scenic Byway. Also, various members of the Friends are often heard to complain about visitors being able to see the homes of residents, especially from the shorelines. Yes, the Friends are big supporters of the tourism experience, and in the Friends' minds, the daily lives of average residents are really ugly for our visitors (and their donors) to look at.

If that attitude were just among the Friends that would be one thing, but this anti-resident/pro-tourist attitude seems to be pervasive in our County government too. Every day, life becomes harder for average residents, but the land-use juggernaut that is remaking the County into a park-like eco-tourist destination, and essentially only a park-like eco-tourist destination, picks up steam. In the end, we might have nothing but eco-tourists, a few wealthy people, and legions of soft-science environmental researchers living off of grants (and probably living in high-density affordable housing too), while our community will have no tax base to speak of to support anything more than planners, enforcement officers, and stormwater specialists. It feels like this plan has been predestined for years.

In a way, "they" are right because this approach to our community development ultimately will mean everything is critical.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Force Feed Them Cheetos?

In earlier posts, this blog has included links to the famous Milgram and Zimbardo experiments. Now there is a new study that suggests buying organic food turns people into self-righteous jerks (their words, not mine). Maybe the answer to our CAO/SMP problems is to put many in County government on a diet of Cheetos. Too bad the study didn't examine whether there is a difference between the people who buy organic food versus the people who grow it. The people who produce organic food seem to be victimized by our eco-know-it-alls just as much as anyone else.

By the way, study or no study, the Trojan Heron is very supportive of people eating organic food, especially if it's done without an attitude. Regarding attitude, same goes for land use planning.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Odds and CAO Ends

Looks like there's going to be a race for the 40th District Senate seat after all. Interestingly, Ranker is being challenged by an Independent-GOP Party candidate (San Juan County resident, John Swapp) and a Democrat (Bellingham homeless and low-income advocate, Jim Cozad). Read the interesting comments on the Bellingham Herald blog because it looks like Democrats will have a choice between a green Democrat (Ranker) and an honest-to-goodness social justice Democrat (Cozad). Remember we have a top two primary, so only two of these three fellows will advance to the general election after the August primary.

Back here on the CAOs, here's how one Lopezian sees the CAOs unfolding.

Why The CAO Will Pass- By Dr Kenneth R. Sinibaldi

Why the CAO will pass.
As a concerned citizen and property owner in San Juan County, this CAO has been driving me nuts. As I think about it and observe the document coming to completion, I am left with a few thought. Let me state out right that I oppose this ordinance for a number of reasons, mostly because the Best Available Science is so subjective and no one has been able to definitively show that there really is a problem! The Growth Management Act states the CAO should be updated if there is a need or problem. This document is full of too many “could be”, “maybe”, “most likely”, “probably”, and assumptions that if this, this, and this is present most likely this will happen (I might add that there is no “base” science data for wetlands for example, to compare to when specifically talking about the San Juan Islands. It blows my mind that the wetlands from maps in 1993 have increased when we compare the maps of 2010. Do they multiply?) That is like saying everyone should where a protective helmet all the time because you “may” get hit with a baseball. Or everyone should have hard rubber tires because you “probably” will run over a nail at some time and get a flat. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. The real question should be why did we opt into this in the first place when there was no problem? I wasn’t around when this was passed but I can guess that the County Council who voted for this were environmental “greenies” who would rather save a tree or frog and stifle growth, then to think about the socioeconomic and property rights of human beings. Last time I read the Constitution I don’t remember life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for plants and animals. There is a solution to this but it is not the current intrusive CAO.
The Planning Commission has tried to do a good job. Some of the members are critical thinkers while others are witless and think they are doing the right thing. In the end they have to take responsibility for their actions. That takes us to the County Council who appoint the Planners. The Council seeks the advice of the Planners when making their decision on issues such as the CAO. This ordinance, as I see it, is a politico-scientific grab for power and control. The Planners are trying to do what they were told, knowing that there really is little accountability on their part. The County Council members are accountable and being that no one on the Council has the intestinal fortitude to buck the system, we the people have only one option, recall. It is sad when money in the form of grants is at the root of all of this. No CAO, no grants, no money.
That leads us to the head of the snake. This ordinance stinks of the Department of Ecology. Past history of this bureaucracy speaks for itself and this is just another example of control and loss of property rights. Add to this the environmental special interest groups and you have a double edged sword. In the end it is a joke that the law requires public input to the Planning Commission and County Council. The Council is going to pass this ordinance no matter how much input there is from the people. They can listen and sure make some token changes to appease us, but no one will stand up and do the right thing and say this is not fair and really is burdensome, stifles growth and affects the economy of the County, not to mention, violation of the rights of property owners. Unfortunately, the need for money is too great.
I wonder what the judicial actions will look like in the near future?
Dr. Kenneth R. Sinibaldi
Lopez Island

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'm Just Sayin'

Tim Hyatt from the Swinomish Tribe, who is also the Environmental Protection Ecologist for the Skagit River System Cooperative, attended the County meeting on the Fish and Wildlife Habitat CAO.  He made comments regarding non-conforming uses on the shoreline. Apparently, he and the organizations he represents are concerned about development along shorelines, given the prospect of sea level rise due to global warming. If I understand his position about "non-conforming" correctly, he wants the County to require our citizens to gradually abandon their homes and other structures along the shorelines, so as not to affect habitat as sea levels rise.

The Swinomish operate a casino, gas station, convenience store, and RV park on the shoreline in Skagit County. They sell some of the cheapest gasoline in the region, too. Excerpts from their webpages say:
Explore our unprecedented 98-room luxury Lodge on the shores of the beautiful Padilla Bay in Anacortes, Washington.
Explore unparalleled Las Vegas style casino action now open 24hrs with the pinnacle of personal service.

The Tribe is one of the five largest employers in Skagit County with over 250 employees in Tribal government and approximately 300 employees in its casino and other economic enterprises.

The Swinomish RV Park is located at the casino on Fidalgo Island overlooking the Swinomish Channel. With views of Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountains, our park features 35 affordable, full-service sites.

Google Earth Image of Swinomish Casino, Gas Station, RV Park
Description of Swinomish Gas Station ... Wow, expanded gas islands and new dispensers!

Hmmm ... it makes me wonder how many Friends or other environmentalists concerned about global warming and shoreline structures patronize the Swinomish gas station? If they do, I suppose they're the kind of environmentalists who reckon if they're going to contribute to global warming, they might as well do so at a great price while having a front-row view of sea-level rise as they fill up.

Friday, May 18, 2012

De Minimis Anyone?

Today is a joint session between the Planning Commission and the County Council on the Fish and Wildlife Habitat CAO (FWHCAO). People continue to voice eloquent and well reasoned arguments about our County's approach to CAO and SMP compliance (see letter below). I hope today continues the trend of vigorous public engagement.

For me, a pattern seems to be emerging that divides the waters between two fundamentally different types of environmentalists. That is, either you believe in de minimis or you don't. The cornerstone of the US strategy for environmental protection has been to quantify excess human health and ecological risk, and then to take measures to reduce that risk. An integral aspect of that approach is the notion of de minimis risk, which is risk so low that it is below regulatory concern. Quite literally, it is a pointless waste to insist on measures to reduce de minimis risk even further.  However, if you don't believe in de minimis, then you think that all human activity must be regulated.

This would appear to be the approach of most in the planning profession, and accordingly, it appears to be the prevailing view among the planning-dominated mentality of our state and local government as well as the Friends. Without the notion of de minimis, you don't need any proof that human activity causes harm, you just believe it anyway.

That's virtually the mantra of CDPD and cohorts. It's also the view of many on the Planning Commission, who voted to restrict ALL activities in buffers except for a select few activities they vouchsafe us. "They" believe everything is harmful, unless "they" sanctify it.

This blog has addressed risk and de minimis in earlier postings. It is a central tenet of environmental protection, and if you don't believe in de minimis, you aren't really engaging in rational environmental protection.


April 30, 2012

San Juan County Council
San Juan County Planning Commission
San Juan County Community Development and Planning Department


My concerns are centered on the possibility that our home and the existing property features may be designated non-conforming going forward within the proposed CAO Shoreline Management Plan.  As ordinary law abiding owners / tax paying citizens of the county we are not equipped nor should we rationally be expected to have a complete understanding and working knowledge of the 300+ page Inventory and Characterization Report (plus maps and appendices), or the potential impact imposed upon our specific property by the proposals being considered.  In our opinion, the county has done a woeful job of communicating the specifics, basis, true motivation, and full ramifications of the changes being considered.  The property tax bill enclosure provided only direction to some documents available for viewing online, none of which included a draft of changes to development standards, parcel specific information for each owner to relate to, nor an indication that owners may be required to take action to protect their rights or inform the county of the as is condition of their property.

Granted, communication with property owners is difficult and costly.  An added challenge in San Juan County is the high number of absentee / part time resident owners.  However, these parties are equally impacted by changes in standards, if not more so in the case of vacant land owners hoping to build retirement homes in the coming years.  This being the case, it seems unfair and highly unwise for county officials to proceed with adoption of any code document calling for sweeping changes in development standards, requirements, and classification of land and existing structures prior to making an exhaustive effort to advise each property owner as to the specific information on file for their parcel and the impact to their property by the proposed code changes. 

In addition, as far as we have seen, there has been no truly objective local study of best available science in the San Juan Islands.  In truth, any such study is highly subject to bias by the personal beliefs and motivations of the scientists and/or the funding source driving said reports.  We also question purported scientific proof that doubling or tripling future development setbacks will significantly alter the effects of development on the environment.  These issues combined with the unavoidable bias of planners drafting the proposals, and counsel members directing and adopting the development standards, dramatically speaking, the county and public is presented with a cauldron of venomous snakes poised to strike.

For ourselves, what we do know is that we have followed the current development guidelines and standards completely.  We have endeavored to do no harm to the physical condition of the environment in which we are privileged to live.  Having done so, we are greatly concerned about and object to the county imposing any regulation that will classify our property at any point in the future as non-conforming by subsequent changes in regulations.  In spite of what anyone may say to convince you otherwise, from my professional experience, I can advise with near absolute certainty that among the future consequences of your actions will be an exponential increase in the hostility of your constituents, a decrease in future property tax revenue potential spanning for much more than a decade, and a long term legacy of increase in cost of litigation for the county over development issues.  Clearly, your decisions on this issue will have direct and indirect long term effects upon all property owners within the county and services it is able to provide, proponents and detractors alike.  The course of action being pursed on this matter appears drastic.  In the interest of mitigating the potential negative outcomes from the development code review in process, I encourage you to endorse the absolute minimum and necessary revisions of the existing code.  

Respectfully submitted,

Harlow Cameron

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Word ... "Fungi"

Most people of a certain age remember the movie, "The Graduate" starring a young Dustin Hoffman. As a famous line from that movie suggests, it was back in the day when plastics were all the rage.

Now there's a fascinating report that students from Yale University have found fungi that can exist entirely by "eating" polyurethane, as long as conditions are anaerobic. I suppose it's even better news that most landfills (like true wetlands) are anaerobic, so the newly discovered fungi could be used to degrade polyurethane in landfills.

Some people, in fact, think fungi can save the world. I think that sort of message points to a sharp divide within the community of environmentalism.  Some seek innovation and the application of authentic science as answers to real world ecological problems. By contrast, other "environmentalists" relentlessly pursue contraction and restrictions as the only solutions for imagined problems, while continually asking for more grants and donations to fund self-promotional "scientific studies." One type of environmentalist applies science as a solution. The other uses "science" to beat up people and put a halt to everyday activities. One finds answers. The other finds problems ... everywhere ... all the time.

There is the old joke that a Puritan is someone with the desperate fear that somebody, somewhere is having fun. The same could be said for certain types of environmentalists (and planners) who have the desperate fear that somebody, somewhere might actually be enjoying their property, or interacting with nature.

Judging by the way our CAO and SMP process is going, I think we can tell what brand of environmentalism holds sway over our County.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In The Long Run, We're All Dead

Those words were uttered almost a century ago by John Maynard Keynes, but don't be surprised if you get a fresh feeling of doom over the summer.

The reason might just be because the Rio+20 summit is coming up in about a month. It's been 20 years since the Earth Summit, which first placed major international emphasis on global warming and announced one of the best-known formulations of the precautionary principle.

The Rio+20 summit is billed as a hopeful, ambitious event that will set us on the path to a sustainable world ... to the "future we want" as the conference website says. Bear in mind, however, that you can't have a hopeful message without a backdrop of depressing hopelessness. It stands to reason that the run up to the conference will be peppered with increasingly dire news about our environment.

It seems like the Living Planet Report is getting the ball rolling. Coverage in the BBC says that wildlife has declined 30% since 1970. How do they know that?

It's hard to tell who is speaking the truth anymore because there are so many vested interests associated with these news releases. Remember when we wouldn't believe tobacco company reports about cigarettes? Then why do we believe environmental reports from environmental organizations? Their funding and mission are just as much on the line.

Maybe We Can Call It The Upland CAO?

The last few days have been hectic in more ways than one.  For one, the new wetland indicator plant list is out. This list was first issued in 1988, with revisions in 1993 and 1996. This latest revision comes after years of work, and the release of the new final list was announced in a recent Federal Register notice.

In case you don't know, this list is really important. This is the list that identifies wetland plants. It's one of the main tools used by wetland delineators to assess the presence of a wetland. You can find the latest list for Washington here.

In our Wetland CAO draft, aspen/cottonwood wetlands are singled out for special protection because they are considered the "best of the best" in the words of the CAO draft. However, in the new wetland indicator plant list for Washington, aspens are given a rating of FACU, which means aspens are not a wetland plant. Cottonwoods, by the way, are identified as FAC, which means they are found between 33% and 67% of the time in wetlands. Despite being found outside of wetlands as much as two-thirds of the time, that's good enough for cottonwoods to be classified as a wetland indicator.

The bottom line is that one of our most important CAO wetland categories protects "wetlands" that are typified by a federally-listed non-wetland plant (aspen). I wonder if we'll be protecting prickly pear wetlands next?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Glimmer Of Hope?

The County sponsored a wetland tour this week for the Council and the public to see properties potentially affected by the CAOs. While I personally think that the level of technical information being provided to the Council has much to be desired, it was nonetheless gratifying to have Council members asking good questions. Questions were asked about fate and transport, soils, and other relevant aspects of wetlands.

If you can get light from a pencil, maybe there is still a glimmer of hope to get something good from the CAOs too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh No, Not You Again

Below is more staff reaction to public comment during the Planning Commission meetings on the wetlands CAO. Several times, this blog has mentioned how public input during those meetings was deep, broad, and intelligent. Given the importance of the topic being discussed, the crowd was well behaved. They were passionate, but with near unanimity, they didn't rant; they didn't call people names; they were not disorderly. They were very honest and heartfelt, and while staff may disagree with the public's heartfelt sentiments, the mere fact that people express dissent does not make them disorderly.

At least some County staff think otherwise.  Unfortunately, they characterize the meetings as having gone poorly, and they suggest that the Common Sense Alliance (CSA) was behind it. I would venture to guess that many people who showed up at the Planning Commission meetings have probably never even heard of the Common Sense Alliance, or if they've heard of CSA, they think of it as meaning Community Supported Agriculture.

Why do planners find it so hard to comprehend that we don't want our innocuous country way of life to be planned into oblivion? Most people here don't want our community to be run like Enfield, England. It's that simple. No group is behind it.

The public who showed up at the Planning Commission meetings were not a CSA mob. They were real people, talking about issues that matter to them ... to us.

From: "Shireene Hale" <>
Date: April 19, 2012 5:24:17 PM PDT
To: "Mike Carlson" <>
Subject: RE: field trips
It sounds like we will be visiting the Power's property. Thanks for the suggestion.
As soon as Lynda completes the minutes, I can complete the review draft of the PC version. Should be done tomorrow - but it won't be finalized until Barbara and Brian approve it.
Those hearings were awful for Lynda and I, and probably for those that don't agree with the CSA perspective. I don't have any problem with civil discussion about the issues, and actually enjoy looking at things from different perspectives, and working constructively to identify solutions.  
Having people show up just to rant, call us names, and be disruptive is however getting very tiring - and I am getting tired of being blamed for the collective decisions that get incorporated into the drafts that are being considered (including the decisions of the Planning Commission, County Council, County attorneys and our consultants). I can't tell you how many discussions I have had regarding things that I didn't think made sense, didn't think would work, or just didn't support, where I was overruled. And then when the shit hits the fan, those that were involved in making the decision are pretty good at running for cover and letting me take the flack. 
O.K. enough of the rant. What I would really like is for people to understand the requirements we must meet, review and think about the proposals, and provide constructive comments in a civil manner. I would like everyone that wants to be involved to feel comfortable attending the meetings and providing input. That works better for everyone, and I think that approach significantly increases the chance that an individual's suggestions will get incorporated in some manner.  
Kind regards,

From: Mike Carlson []
Sent: Wed 4/18/2012 9:23 PM
To: Shireene Hale
Subject: RE: field trips

Thanks for considering my property for the May 7th wetland tour. The lower part of our lawn which contains our drain field, our driveway and well could actually be in a water quality buffer because it does slope toward the edge of the wetland……but maybe not.
I have asked Nick Power to use his land if you think it would be easier. His phone number is 370 5708.  I will shoot him an email too.

In the hypothetical sense the Beaverton Valley Business Park is also a very good possibility because there is a wetland and a stream draining into Beaverton Valley. They abide by buffers now and have cleared to those as allowed in the binding site plan approval.  It could be helpful to apply the new proposal to the same property as a comparison with the existing rules.

On a side note I watched some of the April 17 county council meeting as you and the council discus how to fit everything into sensible schedules that can accomplish good public participation and accurate information to the public.

While I applaud both you and the council’s desire to get information out I am disappointed that you start the discussion by saying “that by May the PC will have recuperated from the 4 awful planning commission meetings” ….Unless I misunderstood, this type of statement does not help but could be construed as disrespectful about the robust public testimony we observed. Further, I want to remind everyone that the public is extremely engaged in the CAO discussion now. Many are concerned, asking why and where specifically the existing rules are not working. There are lots of well educated folks who are reading the BAS, and the proposals and many remain perplexed.

More information from the county is good but solid basis for the implementation will be asked by the public at each turn. While this may seem annoying at times, our elected, appointed (me) and employed participants are accountable to those who live and work in this community.

I truly hope that we all remain acutely aware of this fact of life.  

Most importantly, I would like to be able to review the “post Planning Commission” version of the Wetland section before the May 7th field trips



Mike Carlson.  President/Owner
Mike Carlson Enterprises, Inc.
2165 West Valley Road.  
Friday Harbor, Washington. 98250
360-378-4579 office.      360-378-5149 fax.

Speaking For The Voiceless?


Kyle Loring
Friends of the San Juans
Kyle Loring, Sandy Wyllie-Echeverria
Compensatory mitigation is often economically, socially, and politically more attractive than
protecting shoreline resources upfront and can, therefore, receive a disproportionate amount of
the effort focused on the health of important marine resources. The immediately visible economic
benefits of compensation outweigh those for protection, which are often more attenuated. For
example, approval of shoreline development likely to cause impacts will create jobs for both the
initial construction of the project and its subsequent mitigation. Socially, there is the pressure to
allow newcomers the opportunity to develop just as earlier landowners had. Applicants state that
it would be inequitable to prevent them the same opportunity as that enjoyed by similarly situated
precursors, and the use of mitigation to compensate for new impacts offers the appearance of
responding to those concerns while at the same time permitting impacts. Lastly, the political
climate strongly encourages selection of compensation over protection. Regulators may find it difficult to deny an application submitted by a “client,” when the natural resource clients themselves (i.e., the resource impacted) have no voice. In addition, decades of permitting inertia and a permissive system may lead regulators to believe that they do not have the authority to deny an application, regardless of its potential impact on public resources. Thus, compensatory mitigation offers the ostensible misconception that we can have our cake and eat it too. Given the seductive call of compensation, how do we implement real resource protection in Washington, and throughout the Salish Sea?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Almost Renascence

In the last few days, our community received news that a 20-year old man was found dead of a drug overdose in the storage unit where he had been living on San Juan Island. Chris Laws, our County's Enforcement Officer (the man who would enforce the CAOs), criticizes our community's focus on the CAOs while we have fellow citizens dying in storage lockers. Chris Laws asks about our community priorities and wonders if any community group will express any outrage over the circumstances that could have lead to Ryan Ochoa's death.

Chris Laws goes on to say:
Priorities are a window into the soul of a person and announces to the world a core set of beliefs that will take precedence over anything else that may arise in that person’s life.
Yes, that may be, but I suppose you have to be listening in order to hear the announcements of core beliefs. For example, one "community group" has been outraged by the worrying economic and social conditions of our county for quite a while. In fact, Richard Civille, a prominent member of that group and former director of the County Economic Development Council, has given more than one presentation showing the growth of natural resource spending at the expense of the rest of society, particularly social spending. Yes, it's an outrage. Yes, many have been expressing outrage. Why is that not being heard? Maybe because it, and other information like it, is regularly dismissed and construed as being just "misinformation" or "property rights."

It's more than that. Despite the oft-heard phrase that we are the wealthiest county in the state, the fact is that our county economic and social dynamics stink, and they're getting worse. We have the lowest percentage of earned income from wages (35%) of any county in the state, and our wages are half the state average. Most wage earners have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. A generation ago in 1969, 54% of our income was from wages.

I can't really tell what Chris Laws fully intended with his article. He's obviously making a heartfelt statement, but it also seems like he's laying blame everywhere in the community. If he's painting all community groups with the same brush, then he's mistaken. If that's the case, then despite the heartfelt nature of his article, he needs to start listening to the substance of what's being said instead of participating in the rhetoric.

Some of us have been very much upset by the outlandish spending on non-problems while our authentic problems of today grow and multiply, fostered by our neglect. Some of us have been trying to convey that message for quite some time now. Some of us have been saying (or at least asking) how the CAOs will affect our ability to be a community, to grow our own food, to pay our bills, and to take care of one another. Some of us are tired of having our County agenda set by a relatively small number of eco-know-it-alls, who like most know-it-alls, don't really seem to know a damn thing.

If the drug or homeless problem is bad now, then what will it be like after Chris Laws starts enforcing the CAOs, hastening what many believe to be further economic and social deterioration here?  If Chris Laws wants to change the priorities of the community, he can start with those of his employer, which have seismically shifted over the years.

As the closing words of Renascence suggest, our world is only as big as our own heart and soul make it. I hope our community's heart and soul grow to embody the legitimate social needs of our fellow citizens once again (the 99%), instead of obsessing over the eco-disguised self-interests of pretend Dr. Dolittles professing to speak for the imagined priorities of voiceless sand lances.
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, --
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
- Millay, Renascence

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Living Between Their Lines

Fortunately, something that did NOT make it's way into the draft version of the wetlands CAO (just barely) was a requirement for permanently demarcating buffers with signs. Excerpts from some of the emails discussing signs are shown below, and I've included a photo of a CAO sign from Whatcom County.

While we were able to avoid signs in our draft wetlands CAO for now, we nevertheless know where some community members want to take this County.

Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign? We might as well be a lifelike display at Disneyland or a Potemkin village.

--- On Mon, 1/23/12, Scott Rozenbaum <> wrote:

From: Scott Rozenbaum <>
Subject: Re: permanent markers for buffer boundaries
To: "Paul Adamus" <>
Cc: "Janice Biletnikoff" <>, "Ed Kilduff" <>, "Janet Alderton" <>, "Shireene Hale" <>, "Dan Nickel" <>, "Rachel Dietzman" <>, "Erik (ECY)Stockdale" <ESTO461@ECY.WA.GOV>, "Anderson Paul (ECY NWRO SEA)" <paan461@ECY.WA.GOV>, "Belluomini Steve" <>, "TomHruby" <thru461@ECY.WA.GOV>
Date: Monday, January 23, 2012, 3:29 PM
I was off on the prices of the signage.

See excerpt below from King County Wetland regs:

Wetland Not in Tract
Wetland signs and fences may be required by the department.
Sign and fence Requirements
The signs must be placed at the edge of the required buffer, between the buffer and
the 15-foot BSBL. The spacing of the signs will be determined during the review of
the development proposal. Generally signs are spaced every 50 feet to 150 feet and
stationed in a prominent location (i.e. at the closest point to the proposed
development). Signs may be attached to a post or fence. Wetland Areas Boundary
signs are available from the King County Department of Development and
Environmental Services for $2.50. A Stream Sign Installation Detail is available from


On Jan 23, 2012, at 12:36 PM, Paul Adamus wrote:

How about "permanent and obvious..." ?   More than just having a legal record of where the buffer is supposed to be, the purpose of markers is to visually dissuade people and ATVs from overusing the buffer area and thus compacting the soil or unintentionally disturbing wildlife in the wetland.  A survey pin would not accomplish that.

Paul Adamus

From: Janet Alderton [] 
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2012 10:01 AM
To: Shireene Hale; Scott Rozenbaum; Dan Nickel; Janice Biletnikoff; Rachel Dietzman; Erik (ECY)Stockdale; Anderson Paul (ECY NWRO SEA); Belluomini Steve; Ed Kilduff; Paul Adamus
Cc: TomHruby
Subject: Re: permanent markers for buffer boundaries

Hi everyone,

I know that we are outside of the commenting window, but I have found reference to the marking of buffer boundaries for Kitsap County in WA State. I favor some permanent marking of buffer boundaries.


#07 49708               Brown Reasonable Use Exception Staff Report              6
2. Buffer enhancement shall occur pursuant to the February 10, 2007 buffer enhancement plan prepared by B & A, Inc. Enhancement shall include plantings as specified in the plant list (Table 1), and removal of blackberry plants and fill within the designated buffer area.
3. The final planting schedule and monitoring plan shall be conditions of future building permit approval. Written confirmation of fill removal shall be submitted to Kitsap County DCD, by the applicant’s wetland consultant prior to building permit issuance.
4. A split rail fence shall be installed along the perimeter of the replanted buffer area prior to final occupancy, as indicated on the site plan. Wetland buffer signs (available from the Department) shall be installed at 50 foot intervals along the fence.
cc:           Hearing Examiner Clerk of the Hearing Examiner Kitsap County DCD, Development Engineering Kitsap County DCD Staff Planner: David Greetham DCD File

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Siege Mentality

Pete Rose had a regular habit of sending out a Friday email to the Council. It functioned as part status update and part homily. One of his April emails encouraged the Council to change the tone of discourse (see excerpt below).

From my perspective, there are many ways the Council and staff can change the tone of discourse, but it isn't via any of the methods they keep choosing. There is a trust gap between many of the citizens and the County government, and when the County government appears to act in ways contrary to trustworthy behavior (e.g., secrecy, apparent bias), that doesn't help to narrow the gap. In Wile E. Coyote fashion, everything the County government seems to do, just makes things worse. They keep making the same mistakes in different ways.

Plan, plan, plan. Control, control, control. Scold, scold, scold. The County wants us to behave, but whether it be solid waste, land use, or something else, much of the citizenry simply does not perceive the County as having the demonstrated requisite professionalism, competence, good faith, fairness, or skill to do a yeoman's job. This isn't because the public is bad, deranged, or the agent of some political agenda. The many diverse people who feel this way have come to this view from our personal experiences with local government. If the County were to improve the experience, the tone would improve. If our local government did things "for" us instead of "to" us, or at least just got out of our way to let us get on with our endeavors, the tone would be better.

I don't see that happening given the siege mentality that has developed at the County. Instead, we should probably brace ourselves for more lectures on civility, with all the sanctimonious overtones that come with it. Genius.

Below is Pete Rose's April 5, 2012 missive to the Council about civility.

Changing the Tone of Discourse:  One of your former colleagues used to say he liked the feistiness of the San Juan County citizens.  The question we have to ask ourselves is “How much is too much?”.  As public figures, we have to take a certain amount of this, but the CAO and other things are bringing a raw tone to the surface. Like the national discourse these days, it is much more “in your face” and much more personal.   We have seen things in publications like,   “staff with an agenda”, innuendos about councilmembers gone to the dark side, inadvertent “You Tube” stars, calling out staff members by name, chiding “pseudo-planners”, separating staff from our governing body.  The sentiment has gone negative – too negative.  Also, staff below the normal definition of public figure are being called out by name for doing their job.  Tactics appear to be organized and are being rolled out like a political campaign.  We are all taking our turn in the barrel.  As regards the CAO, a staff perspective is this:  It is your legislation that we are working on – the toughest job you will have while in office.  It is being done in concert with the guidance document by Dept. of Commerce and your resolution from 2010 (periodically updated).  For two years, we have been moving down the path of site-specific variable buffers as directed.  Now that it has been delivered and people have realized it is more complicated to be fair and sometimes being fair is a wider buffer, the move is afoot to summarily kill and the mood on the blogs and in lousy cartoons is indeed feisty.  At the same time, you have taken a measured and moderate course when given the opportunity on such things as rebuilding and other hot buttons, and the criticism has only increased.  This is hard and people have to recognize that.  I am calling on the Council to pull together and call for a tone of civility and to accept that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.  If you do not feel it is appropriate for you to do so, I will do it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Most Important Question Is "Why?"

In the emails below, Shireene has a lot of questions for the authors of the Zhang paper, and she relays to Dr. Adamus the results of a conversation she had with Richard Fralick, Patty Miller, and Pete Rose.

Of all the questions being asked about the CAOs and SMP, I think the most important question has to be, "Why?"  Why is the County conducting itself in this manner? Why can't the citizens of this County hear conversations in the open? Why the secret "science" conversations? Why does Shireene take such a lead on "science", to the point of seeming to influence the answers and implementation? Why the secret CAO Implementation Team meetings? Why the claims of public threats and incivility from the County when there appear to be none. According to sources who have checked on the matter of "threats", not even the sheriff's office knows what "threats" they may be talking about.

Why does our County government act this way?
From: Paul Adamus [] 
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2012 7:08 PM
To: Shireene Hale
Subject: Re: Zhang et al. 2010 questions

Thanks, Shireene.  I'm unavailable this week (working in Alberta again) but am willing to communicate with those authors if they, too, are willing.


From: "Shireene Hale" <>
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2012 4:05:32 PM
Subject: Zhang et al. 2010 questions


I met with Patty, Richard and Pete this morning. They were not crazy about a conference call with the scientists to discuss the Mayer and Zhang papers (which the Planning Commission recommended). They are however discussing the CAO schedule with the full Council tomorrow. 

They are hoping that you, Dr. Mayer, and Dr. Zhang can perhaps have a conversation about the two papers and provide them an explanation of the merits and draw backs of each approach.

I contacted one of the authors and received this response. The primary author is Xuyang Zhang, and her e-mail address is See my e-mail below.

If something changes as a result of the Council meeting tomorrow I will let you know.


P.S. It is taking a while for Lynda to complete the minutes from the four Planning Commission meetings. It will probably be later this week before we have a draft with their changes integrated, and probably next week before we have the approval of the Planning Commission officers. 

From: Minghua Zhang [] 
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2012 1:26 PM
To: Xuyang Zhang; Shireene Hale
Subject: Fwd: Zhang et al. 2010 questions


I forward this email to the senior author of our paper who reviewed hundreds of papers and put the paper together.  She will know by heart on the work and can better answer your questions without having to re-think about the paper.  So your questions can be better handled.

Xuyang, go ahead and answer these questions.  Thanks.

If you have more questions, feel free to contact me.  Thank you for your interest in our work.  It is pleasing to hear that you may take some of the approaches for management.


-------- Original Message -------- 

Zhang et al. 2010 questions
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2012 13:14:08 -0700
From: Shireene Hale  <> <>
To: <> <>

Good morning,

I work for San Juan County and we are in the process of reviewing and updating our wetland, stream and shoreline protection regulations to meet Washington State requirements (including the requirement that we consider the best available science and ensure no net loss of the functions and values of these areas). 

As part of this effort we are attempting to develop a site specific approach to sizing wetland and riparian buffers, and of course protection of water quality is an important consideration. At this point our proposed approach for the water quality component of the buffer uses rational method runoff coefficients to predict whether the runoff will be above or below ground, and Figure 1 of Mayer et al. (attached) to determine appropriate buffer sizes for a given percentage of pollutant removal (using nitrogen removal as a proxy for all potential contaminants flowing into the buffer). 

As an alternative, there is now interest in using the paper you co-authored as a guide to appropriate buffer sizes (again, just for the water quality aspects of the buffer), and I have a few questions.

First, it appears your focus was on buffers for agricultural land uses. Did you review any studies of buffers for residential and commercial land uses, where lawns and hardscape (e.g. roads/ driveways, parking areas, roofs, tennis courts etc. ) cause more of the runoff to flow above ground?  Do you think we can apply your results to the runoff and buffers for residential and commercial land uses?

Dr. Mayer's paper presented results based on whether the runoff is above or below ground. That seems important for runoff from residential and commercial areas. If we were to use your paper as a guide, should we assume that figure 3 depicts the situation for runoff that is below ground, and increase the buffers as sites become more impervious and more of the runoff is above ground? 

In comparing the two papers, it looks like the pollutant  removal estimates for nitrogen, with a 10 meter buffer, and runoff mostly below ground, both show a removal efficacy of about 70%. For a 20 meter buffer, your paper shows about 90% removal, while Mayer et al. shows about 75%. Do you have any thoughts on why they are different? 

Finally, would you or another member of the team that worked on your study, perhaps be willing to talk with me, Dr. Mayer, and our consultant, Dr. Paul Adamus, about your results and the use of your paper? I spoke with a portion of our County Council this morning, and they are hoping we can facilitate a dialogue on the use of either or both papers as a guide to the water quality component of our buffer requirements.

Thank you for your time.


Shireene Hale
Planning Coordinator/ Deputy Director
San Juan County