Saturday, August 11, 2012

Countdown to CAOmageddon: Flaw #9 - Gamesmanship

Will you please tie my shoes? That was the question posed to several people during a research experiment on the "art" of persuasion. Here's what they found:
You start by asking for something outrageous; when that's turned down, you then ask for something reasonable. A boss may ask an employee to work weekends for a whole year, for example, and when that request gets turned down, the manager might ask for a report to be turned in by Friday. The outrageous request reframes the real request to make it sound reasonable.
And so it goes with buffers in the San Juan County CAO. During various forums, there has been talk of buffers as large as 800 feet. Then, the Planning Commission draft of the CAOs had buffers up to 260 feet. These "outrageous" requests were tweaked to something more "reasonable"... 230 feet. Nevertheless, we still hear the Friends wanting more from buffers. Janet Alderton ended her most recent CAO paean with the un-paean-like punchline:
But the numerous activities permitted in buffers by the proposed Critical Area Ordinance update interfere with buffer function and fail to protect our valuable Critical Areas.
In other words, consider yourselves lucky, peasants, that you're getting any use of your land at all. You should feel grateful! Never mind that no one can seem to adequately quantity or explain what "buffer function" actually means anyway.

The difficulty with all this "reasonableness" is that the purpose of buffers has been completely lost amidst the bazaar haggling over their size. We don't even know what we're haggling over anymore. What are buffers for? To reduce pollution? What pollution? Paraphrasing Jerry Maguire, show me the pollution. Show me the pollution!

Without de manifestis levels of pollution, there is no need for a remedy. Without a need for a remedy, there is no need for pollution-removing buffers, assuming buffers work at all as a primary pollutant remedy, and it's not clear that they do. It turns out that our own County consultant, Dr. Adamus, wasn't even able to describe how buffers work exactly. He declined to explain, for example, the statistics in the Mayer paper on pollutant removal, which formed the basis for the buffer calculator he developed.

We can land a plutonium-powered rover on Mars using a crazy sky-crane contraption and nail the landing within a couple of miles of the target, but we can't get our highly-compensated wetland consultant to explain buffer statistics in the paper he used for our buffer design.

Does that sound reasonable?


  1. Sure it sounds reasonable. If you're a Venusian.

  2. Sorry to be mundane, but I'm still working on pressure treated wood as listed in the wetlands concern of a few posts ago.

    I don't like this stuff and I try to keep it off contact with any of my dirt. Further, I don't like working with it. There is no question this stuff is not good for anything except supporting an outside deck for twenty years.

    So this pressure treated wood is contributing to the stream of pollution coming from a single family home. OK, I get that. But wait!

    This stuff is forced into the wood under huge pressure, so it is not coming out in great globs. Very small amounts likely come out over many years and with rainfall are diluted to a something like your "de manifetis" level of "this shit does not matter."

    But, stay with me, where is pressure treated lumber used a bunch? Friday Harbor Docks! Ferry Terminal Docks!Public Docks!

    In the shoreline developed property the dripping from such lumber gets filtered by a vast amounts of soil. On docks it runs directly into the blessed Puget Sound.

    Don't hold your breath, but everyone knows who has a boat slip in Friday Harbor that the dock lights, light up thousands of fish fry which a bunch of top of the food chain birds take advantage of to eat. The birds seem healthy, they are still alive and keep coming back

    So, I'm sorry but "common sense" tells me that pressure treated lumber. as much as I hate the stuff, can't be all that bad. If it is maybe we should work on such docks in Friday Harbor instead of attacking every property owner in the County.

    As an aside, scientists, (I've got a family of these dogs) will tell you that good science is grounded in good observation, maybe 90% observation and 10% the meat grinder of argument on those observations.

    Our County Council can't even muster 10%?