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


  1. This is another setup for manipulation with Shirene at the center. I thought she was too busy to take on more. This needs to be a direct, live, open conversation with the Council, in session, on the record. Anything less is suspect, a way to give Council "plausible deniability" a way to launder the questions and frame the answers behind the scenes. If it takes six weeks to set up the call, fit the schedules, to find the time, set the agenda, set out the questions in advance in a public setting, fine. But the implications raise by this matter are sufficiently profound that the Council need to handle this proactively. But, that would be up to Patty Miller wouldn't it ...

  2. I thought that Council had stopped its "subcommittee" meetings. Why are these Pratt-Fralick-Miller confabs still occurring? Is the public being given notice? And can the public attend? Because this seems to be where all the action is.