Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In Trouble In The San Juans

There was a time when an average private citizen could get in trouble with the law, or receive widespread "community" condemnation, only for doing really unspeakable things. Those were the days.

Here in the San Juans, we citizens can get in frightening confrontations with the police for going on Christmas hayrides ... or for going 28 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Here in the San Juans, we citizens can be criminally prosecuted for land use violations.

Here in the San Juans, we citizens are subject to community outrage if we rent to the wrong tenant.

Here in the San Juans, we citizens are subject to County and State investigations ... and community outrage ... for cutting too much brush along the shoreline.

Here in the San Juans, we have proposed laws that may make it illegal for anyone to cut grass or trim bushes near anything critical ... and nearly everything will be critical.

And despite all that ... here in the San Juans, we can buy and sell drugs with impunity ... reportedly right on Jackson Beach. 

We worry about this place and fear that our ecosystem is endangered ... but it also seems to me as if all our efforts to protect the San Juans ... have already ruined it.

This county needs to take a real hard look at itself in 2014.

Happy New Year! 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

FONSI Disconnect

Back in October, we mentioned that the National Monument had hard-armored part of a primo pocket-beach on Lopez ... Watmough Bay, and not even the insiders who had sat in Secretary Salazar's office to hatch the National Monument scheme knew about it ahead of time. No structures were at risk at Watmough Bay. Moreover, the shoreline consultant used by the Friends to oppose nearly every shoreline activity proposed by private homeowners in San Juan County -- Coastal Geologic Services -- performed some of the work and design. Before proceeding with the construction, the Bureau of Land Management conducted an Environmental Assessment of the shoreline stabilization and reached a "Finding of No Significant Impact" or FONSI. They also conducted an EA for trail-related site work that resulted in another FONSI.

This shoreline stabilization work is exactly the kind of project that would have been opposed by the Friends (and Coastal Geologic Services) if a private homeowner had tried to do it. There would have been howls about impacts. We have reached a state of affairs in our county where it is easier to do shoreline projects inside the National Monument than outside. On top of that, via the SMP, the county then imposes buffers on all National Monument shorelines whether they are armored or not.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Security State

I'd like to thank everyone who contributed their smart and heartfelt comments to the last post. Since security and harassment issues are on everyone's minds, we should talk briefly about two forums offered by the Common Sense Alliance (CSA) earlier this month. The purpose of the forums was to explain the status of the CAO debacle from CSA's perspective. One of the presentations concerned "What the Friends Really Want," given by Tim Blanchard. Based on everything Blanchard has observed in recent years, he put together a summary slide that bluntly summarizes his interpretation of the Friends' goals. It's not the kind of thing you will find in the Friends mission statement or website, but you will see it in action if you pay attention to the way they operate.

There is more to come on the CAOs and SMP, so pay attention to those who have made harassment one of their core competencies.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What's Good For The Goose Is Not Good For Gordy?

The Trojan Heron didn't say much about the National Monument designation, but we were highly skeptical of it, especially when one takes a look at situations such as the behavior of the federal government towards the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Generally, we also are against the growing federalization of the islands; however, we do not agree with the "Alliance" that has formed against Gordy Petersen because of his decision to rent to U.S. Customs. Many opponents of the agreement are planning to attend the meeting in the Mullis Center tomorrow from 11am to 1pm.

Recently, there have been a lot of comments about Petersen's decision, but we think one bears repeating in this post.
I have to say that most of the fuss about Gordy doing business with the Feds is just nuts, in my opinion.
Remember, there were 150 businesses that wrote to the President asking him to declare the San Juan Islands a National Monument. Now, some of those very same businesses are opposing the presence of the federal government in downtown Friday Harbor. As reported by the Island Guardian, the San Juans are already the #1 port in the nation for small boat traffic. What did you expect? Did you really think you could support the NM and then NOT have other federal agencies here too? Did you really think you could attract business for your B&B, put ads in magazines, promote it, and NOT have increased presence of Customs and Border?
Also, most of you whine and bitch and moan about being able to do what you want with your own private property. Not "liking" something has become the raison d'ĂȘtre for nearly every puking busy-body land-use law in this county, if not the whole country. So of course, what do you do? You start a movement to prevent a businessman from doing what he wants with his own private property. Not "liking" something isn't a good reason to stop anyone from doing anything. It's not your fault if I hate who you rent to, or hate the color of your house, or hate your garden, or hate you. It's not Gordy's fault if you don't like who he does business with. Are you going to make Gordy get approval from some self-appointed group of community-sponsors before he rents to anyone ever again? Feds are off the list apparently. Who else is off the list? Mexicans? Blacks? Republicans?
Not "liking" something isn't the same as trying to stop it, and it isn't the same as trying to make it illegal. If you don't like it, deal with it. If you try to stop it, then be prepared to have the same thing happen to you next time you offend "the community's" sensibilities.
Lastly, I'm as against the growing federalization of the islands as much as the next guy, but blaming Gordy for that is ludicrous. This county has been awash in grant money from the feds (and state) for two decades. This county and 150 business recently begged the feds for a growing federal presence, and then celebrated when it happened. You love the feds except when you hate the feds. You love the feds when you think it lines your pockets, but you hate them when it lines the pockets of someone like Gordy.
I hope everyone who lines up against Gordy will open up their own lives to the collective decisions of "the community" because I can't wait to pick apart how you conduct yourselves and your business.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In The Dark - Epilogue

The crisis is over, and by now, it's all been written ... it's all been said. There are many articles and commentary in the local news about how poorly this situation was handled. There is no doubt that many people worked very hard to rectify this situation as quickly as possible, BUT ... there is no escaping the fact that we have a vulnerable custom-built communications link with no way to reliably get word out when it goes haywire.

Some are calling for greater planning and coordination for next time, and that's hard to argue with. However, I am not sure greater planning, at least by government, is the answer. I am not sure greater reliance on government during a crisis is the answer either. Our government just isn't that reliable, and I doubt it ever will be. After all, our local government has trouble managing its own day-to-day affairs, so we shouldn't have unrealistic expectations about its capabilities when we actually need help.

We got what we can expect. To prepare for next time, we should encourage the things that worked for us in this situation ... personal initiative by local businesses and individuals. We should allow more flexibility in communications choices (i.e., competition) so we are not beholden to one provider. Most importantly, however, any further emergency planning should recognize that during our next crisis, government is likely to fail us too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

In The Dark - Day 8 (Almost)

This morning, the County issued a press release saying that no cable fault had been found yet, but various percentages of service were continuing to be restored.

About two hours ago, the Facebook page of the sanjuanislander.com announced that CenturyLink had found the location of the severed cable, suspended along a rock face south of where it was originally placed. The article speculated that the cable might have moved because of an earthquake that occurred a few minutes before the service disruption.

Upon reading this, the Trojan Heron once again checked the USGS website for all recent earthquakes in Washington. You can check for yourself at this link. The only earthquake in the vicinity was a 2.3 magnitude earthquake occurring at 9:40 PM on Monday, November 4th ... which was several hours before the disruption. The earthquake story still doesn't make sense to us.

The Facebook article also has a lot of self-congratulatory language by CenturyLink about CenturyLink.
"Typically a response effort of this magnitude takes over a month to develop; the fact that we were able to mobilize within the first 36 hours is amazing. Restoring service is a top priority for CenturyLink, and we have pulled resources in from across the country to get these facilities up and running," said Tim Grigar, vice president and general manager of CenturyLink’s western Washington market.
If we take them at their word, CenturyLink began mobilizing a massive effort almost immediately because they knew this was a catastrophic event with a long response timeframe ... and yet, we heard practically nothing. We heard bupkis for days.

Also, there is a letter printed by the sanjuanislander.com that expresses the sentiments of some TH commenters, so we think it bears an airing here as well.
I just read a quote from Brendan Cowan, Director of the County Department of Emergency Management, in the Seattle Times. He states about the communications outage: "It's not like Armageddon. We're just disconnected - which for some people could be a great thing." 
Great sense of humor for someone whose paycheck isn't affected by the outage. 
But what about those people whose paycheck is affected. Like the employees of Wells Fargo Bank which closed. Or the people who couldn't get prescriptions filled. Or those who live here, telecommute and couldn't work. Or those of us who work off island and couldn't check on our families. 
Maybe we need someone in that job who understands the seriousness of what happened and is working hard to make sure it is fixed quickly and never happens again. And doesn't have an ambition to be a comedian. 
Alan M. Davis San Juan Island
Councilman Hughes made similar statements last Friday to KING 5DEM issued an apology of sorts on their Facebook page today.

In The Dark - Day 7

Even if telecommunications are not flowing freely quite yet, information about our telecommunications situation is improving. A State of Emergency still exists. The situation is much improved but still far from normal.

The County issued a press release yesterday, which can be found online in several places. It says that landline service has been restored to normal. Let us know if that's true. Also, there are several reports about a barge being used to locate the failure point in the cable. There is no word that CenturyLink has precisely located the failure yet, so there is no official news on a possible cause either (or the exact fix needed). The fix is believed to require the laying of between 6,000 and 14,000 feet (worst case) of new cable. Final repairs are still several days away, which I suppose is obvious since we are a week into the disruption and they haven't even identified the failure location yet.

DEM has some Facebook posts about coverage by the Seattle Times and about cell phone service. Also, as color background to recent events, the Facebook page of the Lopez Island History Museum has an interesting post and photo of the early days of telephone service in the islands.

Early days of telephone service (switchboard on left) on Lopez, courtesy of Lopez History Museum, click to go to the Museum's Facebook page.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

In The Dark - Day 5

Things are far from normal, but here we are at the end of Day 5, and partial service has been restored ... thanks largely to OPALCO.  OPALCO issued a press release, which says in part:
OPALCO’s data communications system is now carrying the phone and data traffic for San Juan Island, and providing 911 and phone solutions for the rest of San Juan County until CenturyLink can repair or replace their failed submarine cable.
The sanjuanislander.com has re-posted articles from a decade ago regarding OPALCO's decision to install fiber optic cable in excess of their immediate needs. Interesting reading.

The Island Guardian is reporting that a barge with divers was scheduled to begin replacing the damaged CenturyLink cable today. No word on when that might be completed.

There has been no further press release from CenturyLink that we know of. The County DEM is announcing on Facebook:
Orcas Islanders - Sprint is sending their Emergency Response "COLT" to the Orcas Library Sunday morning. This is a communications vehicle which provides wifi coverage and they'll have 100 phones for people to make calls. It should be there about 10 AM. 
Just off the phone with Verizon, their towers in Friday Harbor and Roche are now operational. Voice, data, and 911 are all working for Verizon wireless.
AT&T has three mobile sites up in town on three main islands, and some of their regular network may be coming online during day today.
We still don't know what caused the failure, but there have been a couple of interesting (if implausible) rumors. One rumor says that an earthquake, centered on San Juan Island, struck at the same time as the cable failure. We have checked with the USGS, and about 6 hours before the cable failure there was a very small magnitude 2.3 earthquake with a focus 12 km deep and an epicenter 8 km northwest of Friday Harbor (see USGS screen shot below). It seems very unlikely that this would have contributed to the failure.

Another rumor says that the optical cable was already near the end of its projected operational life, and it just wore out, aggravated perhaps by a seafloor ridge acting like a knife to gradually cut through the cable as it swayed back and forth in the bottom currents. We are not experts in optical communications, but this also seems implausible.

But something happened ... we just don't yet know what.

Commenters have been providing some great information and viewpoints. Thanks to all of you for sharing what you know, and keep the comments (and even the rumors) coming.

Click to enlarge - Earthquake on November 4, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

In The Dark - Day 4.75

Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel. DEM is reporting the following:
CenturyLink is reporting a restoration of limited land line long distance service as of 7:45pm on 11/8. This restoration is result of a temporary fix, and bandwidth is limited. Many calls may still have a hard time going through. Be patient, and try again if you are unable to connect.
Now would probably be a good time to hold off on any non-essential calls until initial rush passes.
We would fully expect there to be occasional set backs and technical complications in days to come. Hopefully overall trend is towards improved capability.
Thanks to everyone who has worked so hard on repair efforts, and most of all: thanks to all for community's patience and cooperative spirit. As always, a pleasure to witness, despite the struggles.
We've tried it, and it works (for now). We'd appreciate hearing if it is working elsewhere.  Can you call the mainland? Do you have internet?

In The Dark - Day 4.5

The County finally declared a State of Emergency and put out a press release.
Meeting in special session today, the San Juan County Council unanimously voted to declare “A State of Emergency within San Juan County, Washington.”
The declaration came on the fourth day since the failure of an underwater communications cable disrupted cell and landline telephone connections with the mainland. It is hoped that the declaration will enable public agencies to recover extraordinary costs incurred due to the outage and qualify local businesses for assistance.
The outage initially knocked out telephone communications between islands and to the mainland, including 911 emergency response lines and, though 911 service was restored Thursday, communications with the mainland remains limited.
The outage has interrupted other vital services that depend on Internet, cell or telephone service, including the Lifeline service used primarily by seniors and disabled persons.
The Sheriff and other emergency responders have also expressed concern that even citizens who have cell phone service, cannot reach local phone numbers, including emergency agencies, because all cell phone calls are currently processed on the mainland. Arrangements are now being made for emergency dispatch calls to be routed through Island County, but in the meantime cell phone users are being urged to try to use a landline phone to report emergencies.
“People have been coping with the inconveniences, but it is affecting essential services,” said Council Member Rick Hughes, who chaired the emergency meeting.
Some banks have had to close or restrict transactions because their data lines cannot connect to the mainland. Local lodging places, in areas that have no internet services as well as phone outages, have no way to accept reservations. Medical personnel on the mainland can’t call or fax prescriptions to local pharmacies and there is a concern that residents with families on the mainland can’t check on their well-being.
Fire departments and volunteers have gone door to door in many sections of the County to check on older or disabled neighbors.
“The community has really pulled together and found ways to deal with this”, Hughes said. “But as time goes on, the cost of coping has increased for our business community as well as the government, and our concerns about our ability to ensure the well-being of our residents are growing.”
The Council noted that CenturyLink, the company responsible for the services which have been interrupted, is putting its full resources and personnel to work to restore the services, however there is currently no firm estimate of when full services will be restored.
The latest statement from CenturyLink indicates that limited service to the mainland may be available within the next 48 hours. Full restoration of service will likely take several more days.
And as reported on the sanjuanislander.com, a barge with divers and robotics is investigating the cable and will release information about 5:30 pm today.

In the Dark - Day 4

We will put up a daily post about the status of the optical line break, even if there is nothing to say, in an effort to keep readers informed. Information on the outage is spread over several websites and Facebook, but there is no central clearinghouse for information. We'll do our best to summarize and give links to the latest information.  If you do have connectivity, even for only a few minutes, you can check here for the latest without having to search hither and yon.

If you have anything to add, please do. Here is the latest --
  • DEM (the County Department of Emergency Management) is reporting on their Facebook page that 911 service is restored on all islands. DEM also reports that Verizon is working on a temporary link to get their Friday Harbor tower working. They also add that Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are all mobilizing to improve connectivity.
  • OPALCO also is reporting that 911 service is restored.
  • No new information on repairs. No information from CenturyLink. No other information from the County.
SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. -- Frustration was spreading on the San Juan Islands, where residents entered their third day of a major phone and data disruption. 
A main fiber optic line broke Tuesday morning and the problems go far beyond losing 911 services. 
Laura Flaum, owner of Spring Street Deli in Friday Harbor says the outage has severely impacted her business. She can't run any credit cards, so customers have to pay with cash. 
She went from making 50 to 60 sandwiches a day, to making three.
It's devastating to businesses when you can't do credit transactions," Flaum said.
CenturyLink still doesn't know how an underwater fiber optic line was broken or how long it will take to fix it. Technicians are still trying to find a solution.
Internet and data transmissions are spotty at best. Some banks are closed. ATMs are down.
Sheriff Rob Nou says when 911 service went down, emergency personnel had to scramble to alert the public. 
"Reaching out to the community, getting fliers out, getting sandwich boards out, knocking on doors," said Nou.
Century Link had to redirect 911 calls to other working numbers on most of the islands.  On Thursday, San Juan County Department of Emergency Management tweeted CenturyLink reported 911 and island-to-island calling was working on Orcas Island as of 4 p.m. Thursday, and 911 was working on San Juan, Orcas, Shaw and Lopez islands. 
At the Friday Harbor Pharmacy, they finally got their internet back on Thursday. But staff can only call and receive calls from doctors and clinics on the island. 
"We were unable to receive any transfers, or prescriptions from the mainland," said pharmacy technician Cheyenne Mauldin.
Residents say the situation has moved beyond frustrating. 
"I can only call on the island by phone," said Ann Jarrell. "My cell phone is non-functioning. I have no internet, no email."
"I can't tell the weather," said resident Barbara Wollman. "I can't make an airline reservation. There's so much I can't do."
The bookkeeper at a gas station says she had to install a satellite dish just to order fuel. Island residents are thick-skinned, but island fever is spreading quickly.
Although tourists can't call to confirm hotel reservations, county council member Rick Hughes hotels want you to come anyway.
"If you want a rustic getaway, when you can feel sealed off from the mainland, this is the weekend to do it."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

In The Dark

The entire County is suffering from the effects of a break in the optical cable running from Lopez Island to San Juan Island. San Juan Island is hardest hit, with widespread phone and internet outages. At least Orcas and Lopez have internet. Sources say that the cable fault lies 5,000 feet off of Fisherman Bay between Lopez and San Juan Island. Sources also say that repairs may take 3 weeks or more. CenturyLink is not committing to a timetable for repair. It may require the laying of a whole new cable rather than a simple repair of a damaged section of cable. Apparently, the break did not occur because of a dragged anchor or something similar. The cause is believed to be the result of wear and tear from currents ... tidal and otherwise.

Kudos to the San Juan County Library, the Bean, Rock Island, and others who are sharing their Wi-Fi capability ... kudos also to Ham radio operators, Fire & EMS ... and to islanders generally, who are helping one another with neighborliness and grace.

Thumbs down, however, to the County Office of Emergency Management, to CenturyLink, and to our elected officials who have provided precious little information ... and even less leadership. Why isn't CenturyLink on TV saying that they will be working 24-hours a day until this issue is resolved? Why aren't our elected leaders or the County Office of Emergency Management on radio and TV saying that they will do everything possible to get San Juan County open for business again? When a bridge collapsed in Skagit County, the Governor declared a state of emergency and it was a major topic of discussion at our Council.  But vital communications for business (and life) go down for an indefinite period of time ... and we hear practically nothing?

And there are a lot of unanswered questions, like why is Orcas affected if the break is between San Juan Island and Lopez Island. For that matter, why is Lopez affected at all?

We're in the dark in more ways than one.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Election Overview

While there are some controversial races around the county this election season, there is nothing like what we've been through over the last year. The Trojan Heron had hoped to do some election postings, but unfortunately, time and events have overtaken us. Nevertheless, we'll give a brief rundown of the main election choices, with greater detail for those topics we know more about ... but we hope commenters will pitch in with their views to fill in the many gaps. Since we are locally focused blog, we'll focus on the local issues (i.e. not the two State measures, 517 and 522).

Let us know what you think ...
  • Overview - Of the 36 elected positions to be filled, 24 (67%) are uncontested. We think having that many uncontested elections is an indicator of an unhealthy democracy. Is it really an election if there is no choice? Some of the uncontested elections involve very influential positions too, such as the "race" for the mayor of Friday Harbor. Also, it seems like politics is a family affair in San Juan County. Two spouses of current or former Council members are running ... Carrie Lacher for Friday Harbor Mayor and Lauren Stephens for Fisherman Bay Sewer District ... and Lacher's husband, former Councilman Howie Rosenfeld, is running for San Juan County Hospital District #1. In addition to the individual races, there is a ballot measure for Lopez to fund the Solid Waste District for the coming year. Also, there is a county-wide measure to amend the Charter. A "yes" vote on the Charter amendment would allow voters to petition for a change in our county's residency districts, rather than have that power rest solely with the Charter Review Commission. A "no" vote would leave things as is.
  • San Juan Island - Of the 17 races, only 4 are contested ... one for the Port, one for the Hospital District, one for Parks and Recreation, and the Friday Harbor Council race between Farhad Ghatan and Matt Shildneck. Of the 4, the race for Hospital District has probably attracted the most attention.  That race pits former Councilman Howie Rosenfeld versus newcomer Mark Schwinge. By this stage of his political career, Rosenfeld is a well-known commodity, and without having analyzed any of the specific issues in this race, the Trojan Heron thinks it is a welcome sign that new blood, like Schwinge, is willing to run. However, we would love to hear readers' comments about this race.
  • Orcas Island - Of the 11 races on Orcas, only 1 is contested. Unfortunately, this is an unwelcome Orcas pattern. Need I remind readers that Orcas also had the only uncontested Council race in recent memory when Patty Miller ran unopposed for Council a few years ago. Orcas voters are generally well informed and active, but when it comes to running for office ... many well-qualified Orcasites prefer to sit on the sidelines.
  • Lopez Island - As delightful as it is to make fun of Lopez, of the 8 Lopez races, 6 are contested. If only the rest of our county could have as many well-qualified candidates running as Lopez does, our democracy would be in much better shape.

    Most of the contested Lopez races are for the School Board. The slate of School Board incumbents supported a lavish multimillion-dollar school bond measure that got crushed at the polls during the last election (how many times does that happen?). They are being challenged by newcomers emphasizing fiscal responsibility and performance rather than profligate spending. The incumbents include a Friends director (Dixie Budke) and others with ties to the Lopez Community Land Trust (Clive Prout and John Helding). The challengers mostly have strong financial and business experience ... and one of the challengers, Teddy McCullough, has a unique perspective as a recent Lopez High graduate. Teddy is currently in college in Washington DC and, if elected, intends to juggle his college and School Board responsibilities by attending School Board meetings telephonically.

    There is much passion on Lopez about the future direction of the school, and speaking of passion, that brings us to the Lopez Port District race. Incumbent Dan Post is being challenged by former incumbent Bob Porter. There has been a lot of smoke blown about this race, unfairly aimed at Dan Post. Post is an effective voice for transparency at the Port, and Post has been the subject of special-interest scorn over the years because he believes the Port should serve the broader Lopez community rather than simply serve pilots. The other two Port Commissioners, Bruce Dunlop and (County Planning Commissioner) Steven Adams, simply want Post eliminated, and Bob Porter is their candidate. That's a problem because watching Dunlop and Adams manage the Lopez Port is akin to watching Lucy and Ethel wrap candy ... they're in over their heads and unable to keep up ... but some of Dunlop/Adams' antics have even warranted more serious scrutiny. Earlier this year, according to sources, the FAA Inspector General and the FBI opened an investigation looking into some of the Port's affairs.

    One of the best summaries of the Lopez Port race is a comment left by Nick and Sara Jones on Lopez/Salish Rocks, which is copied below.  Many of the points raised by Nick and Sara could just as easily apply to any of our county races.
We have been following with some interest the race between Dan Post and Bob Porter for Port. It seems that the complaint about Dan, the argument for replacing him, is that he is not a "team player." This is an interesting line of attack, to say the least. It implies that the best candidate for any given position is the one who is going to get along with the others best. Kind of like seeking out a beta personality puppy if you already have a couple of dogs in a family.

A port commissioner is a public official spending public money. It is a position requiring as high a level of probity and integrity as any other elected position. A get-along go-along attitude is the worst qualification we can think of for any position of public trust. Conversely, the willingness and fortitude to consistently ask hard questions and challenge received wisdom is the highest of recommendations for such a position. Over twenty plus years on the Port of Lopez Dan Post has demonstrated a heroic willingness to ask the hard questions, over and over again. He has done so in the face of scorn, mockery, and endless personal attacks.

Dan Post has also been the only Port Commissioner to consistently push to expand the mission of the port to serve the wider community. He spearheaded the effort to have the Port take over the dump, at a time when the received wisdom was that turning our facility over to San Juan Sanitation was the only viable outcome. The Port effort did not come to fruition, but it led directly to the takeover of the dump by the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District, on which board Dan tirelessly serves. Dan pushed to improve and lease port owned lands for agriculture--providing economic opportunity and local foods, and he continues to advocate for the Port to take on the much needed project of commercial water-front access on the island.

Dan Post is a small-town hero, a tireless doer and a man of deep integrity. Please join us in supporting him for another richly deserved term as Port of Lopez Commissioner.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Catching Up (Again) - Ethics and PSSA's

As usual, there has been a lot going on, and my thanks to commenters who keep abreast of information even when I am unable to post. Here are a few recent items of particular note:
  • David Dehlendorf and Friends Attorney Kyle Loring raised a stink about the fact that three Common Sense Alliance (CSA) Board members sit on the Planning Commission. Dehlenloring alleged that it was a conflict of interest since CSA is opposing the County's draft of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) in court. Loring even said that the conflict was so obvious that it was "Ethics 101." If it is Ethics 101, then Dehlendorf and Loring are late to class.

    Unlike the Friends, CSA has never received a penny from the County and never voted to give itself grant funding. Unlike the Friends, CSA is a relative newcomer to County advisory committees. In fact, when Mike Carlson of CSA was appointed to the Planning Commission, he replaced Mike Kaill, former President of the Friends Board. Kaill's tenure on the Planning Commission coincided with the Friends opposition (including lawsuits) of the County's guesthouse legislation. Where were Dehlenloring's concerns about ethics then? Or ... when Susan Dehlendorf took a "straw poll" of Planning Commissioners regarding the CAO last year, where were the concerns about ethics?

    Ethics 101? It seems more like Ethics-ish 101. When Dehlenloring are interested in ethics for everybody instead of simply using the name of ethics as a tool to advance their own interests, then we're more likely to pay attention. By the way, our Prosecuting Attorney reviewed the issue and twice produced a written opinion saying there is no conflict. The Planning Commission is only an advisory body to the Council, and as such, no conflict exists.
  • By now, most people have probably heard that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been armoring the beach at Watmough Bay, one of the most beloved pocket beaches in all the islands ... and certainly one of the most beloved beaches on Lopez Island. There are several incredible ironies about this story, which we will cover in greater detail in an upcoming post. First, the hard armoring isn't even protecting any structures. Second, despite all the meetings with BLM officials over the past few months about local outreach and involvement, apparently no locals knew the hard armoring project was in the works. Third, the BLM produced an Environmental Assessment of the proposed work which led to a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI). Think about that for a moment ... the federal government armored a beach in the National Monument and there are no significant impacts, and yet the Friends oppose nearly every dock and armoring project on the grounds that there are environmental impacts. Fourth, one of the contractors involved in the Watmough Bay project, Coastal Geologic Services, is the Friends "go to" consultant whenever the Friends oppose docks and armoring. It's hard to believe the Friends didn't know about the Watmough Bay project ahead of time ... and yet they said nothing, even as they opposed other armoring projects elsewhere and opposed the expansion of the Islander Resort on Fisherman Bay too. There are more ironies, but ... we'll cover them in the upcoming full post.
  • Speaking of the Friends, they're at it again. One of the key strategies of the Friends is to take local issues and link them to national and international affairs, so that we become subsumed into a global matrix of restrictions based on the pretense of "local protection." Case in point was Stephanie Buffum signing a treaty to protect the Salish Sea last March. As we've seen, the Friends' megalomania becomes especially virulent when it comes into contact with grant money. Below is an email from ex-CDPD employee Elizabeth Anderson talking to the usual suspects ... Barbara Rosenkotter and Stephanie Buffum ... about (wait for it) a grant to designate our waters a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). I know ... yet another acronym. It never ends. Some of you may remember Elizabeth Anderson, whose employment with CDPD was justified by (you guessed it) a grant, and who was put in charge of writing a County Solid Waste Management Plan during the collapse of the County's solid waste management system. Her time here could not have been more fruitless and pointless.

    Now she is touting another "brilliant program."

Date: Thu, 5 Sep 2013 11:53:00 -0700
Subject: Fwd: Oil Spill Prevention - Addition to today's discussion
Attachment(s): 1

OOPS! I forgot to copy you on this.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Anderson <ebanderson12@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Subject: Re: Oil Spill Prevention - Addition to today's discussion
To: Stephanie Buffum <stephanie@sanjuans.org>

Stephanie - this is a brilliant program with a high degree of probability of success in preventing oil spills. However, it does not fit the NTA where I had notes that you would provide some further milestones. I attach the revised table thus far.  The only red letters are under SD 1B, where I thought you had more to add.  It may be fine as-is.
Do I need to add anything from yesterday's IC discussion?

On Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 5:22 PM, Stephanie Buffum <stephanie@sanjuans.org> wrote:

The purpose of the Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) for the Salish Sea Feasibility Study is to investigate the possible benefits and costs of enhancing the management regime  of the areas surrounding the shipping lanes surrounding the San Juan Island National Monument, through the creation of an internationally mandated Particularly Sensitive Sea Area for the Salish Sea. This potential designation can only be achieved if the area is particularly sensitive (in ecological and cultural terms) and the existing regulatory regime does not adequately protect it. Whilst such PSSA designations have been recognized in other parts of the United States and the international community, they have not been considered in the context of the highly vulnerable Salish Sea.


To communicate to the Salish Sea populace, including organizations, business, Tribes and First Nations and government, what important ecological and cultural values are present in the Salish Sea, their fragility, and how they will be negatively impacted upon if the risk of vessel traffic in this area is not adequately managed, as it is in other part of the United States, and similarly, within the international community. Simply, we wish to show the gaps in our regulatory protection of the Salish Sea, and an existing tool can be applied to fix this problem, to the benefit of both the ecology and the surrounding communities.


1.     To provide a principle campaign tool for protecting marine waters.

2.     To educate the public about what is at stake if large scale shipping traffic of potentially hazardous cargo, is not adequately regulated.

3.     To show how adequate management has been achieved in comparable areas with similar risks to the Salish Sea.

4.     To empower local groups, including Tribes and First Nations, eco-tourism operators with information for their own campaigns to protect the Salish Sea, and to learn from the experience of other communities facing similar difficulties

5.     To develop “new evidence” to bring to any review process.

6.     To provide an Alternative, which has been successfully adopted elsewhere,  to reduce the risk of an oil spill in the Salish Sea.

Audience and campaign

The audience is the general population of the Salish Sea. The request for designation will require Washington State Tribes and Canadian First Nations, federal, provincial, state and local leaders and public officials to support this designation. Key business leaders and ngo organizations in British Columbia and the US, principally within Washington State, will be essential for cultivating support for these two proposals separately in the US and in Canada. 

Cost: $35,000 for Feasibility Report. Gap: $25,000

$90,000 for full nomination in the US and Canada, conference, materials. Gap: $90,000

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our Fourth Councilman?

According to State law, our elected Prosecuting Attorney serves as a legal advisor to our Council while also representing the County in all criminal and civil proceedings where the County is a party. Under our Charter, the Council must use resolutions to declare policy or exercise its executive power.

When the County's CAO was appealed to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) in June 2013, our Prosecuting Attorney's (PA's) Office defended the ordinance in front of the GMHB. I want readers to take particular note of the date. The GMHB hearings occurred during June 2013 ... after our new three-person Council took office. Our PA's defense of the CAO ostensibly took place under the direction of a different Council from the one that rammed the CAOs down our throats in its waning days last December. Our current Council has not passed any resolutions declaring its policy stance towards the new CAO nor directed the PA to defend any particular position regarding the previous Council's CAO work product.

Then, when the GMHB ruling came down in September 2013, it was the PA who issued a press release declaring the GMHB outcome to be largely a victory for the County. Again, there was no comment or resolution from the County Council.

Even though the GMHB ruling struck down parts of the County's CAO, the County did not file to defend the new CAOs in Superior Court (CSA and the Friends have filed suit with Superior Court). Again, there has been no comment or resolution from the County Council.

Last week, the PA's office opposed a Motion to Stay brought by CSA regarding enactment of the new CAO. CSA seeks to stay the implementation of the new CAO until the legal issues can be fully resolved by the courts. Along with the Friends, our PA's office, on behalf of our County, is opposing the motion. Again, there has been no comment or resolution from the County Council.

Let's review ...
  • New Council takes over in May 2013.  What do we hear from our Council about the CAO? ... crickets.
  • The GMHB hearings occur in June 2013. What do we hear from our Council in terms of coordinating with the PA on a position regarding the CAO? ... crickets.
  • The GMHB ruling is issued in September 2013. What do we hear from our Council? ... crickets.
  • CSA and the Friends file to take the GMHB ruling to Superior Court in October 2013. What do we hear from our Council? ... crickets.
  • Our PA files an opposition to CSA's Motion to Stay in October 2013 ... and so do the Friends.  What do we hear from our Council? ... crickets.
No one knows how the new CAOs will affect wildlife in the San Juans, but the crickets are flourishing at the County Council chambers.

With last week's opposition to stay, this Council cannot hide from the CAOs anymore. We already knew of Stephens' advocacy for the CAOs, since he voted for them. Now, we have to put Hughes' and Jarman's names alongside those of Pratt, Miller, Fralick, and Rosenfeld as those who are forcing a dysfunctional CAO upon us. Not even Pratt, Miller, Fralick, and Rosenfeld took court action to have the CAOs enacted, but last week, this Council allowed our PA to do just that. While our Council does nothing, Gaylord is making up County policy out of thin air ... and our Council sits on its hands doing nothing to stop it.

The CAOs have acquired several nicknames over the past few years ... Crazy Asinine Ordinance, Critical Agenda (21) Ordinance, Can't Avoid Obedience ... but under this Council, it might as well stand for "Currently Absent Officials." Despite the fact that the CAOs were a major election issue, this Council has done nothing about them, and in the resulting policy vacuum, our PA has been happy to act in their place.

Who is directing our PA regarding the CAOs?  Answer: Not our Council.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ich Bin Ein Kay Kohler

One of the common threads in the environmental-ish world is that rules apply only to the non-environmental-ish segment of society. We've seen this at work with the Friends, who have long criticized guesthouses for everyone else, but seem to like them personally. Former Friends Board member, Vivian Burnet, had an illegal guesthouse. Former Friends President, Lynn Bahrych, who started off the whole guesthouse fiasco by filing a guesthouse lawsuit in 1999, had a guesthouse. Friends attorney, Kyle Loring, has a guesthouse. Former Friends President, George Lawson, has a guesthouse ... and there are probably others.

Another common thread in the environmental-ish world is to distort the meaning of "grassroots" and "local." Nowhere is this more apparent than in the oxymoronic title of the organization "ICLEI" ... which stands for the "International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives" with their motto of "Local Action Moves the World."  Think about that for a moment ... how can there be an "international" council about "local" initiatives? In the case of ICLEI, the global organization provides a blueprint for local communities to follow ... so that each community fits into ICLEI's overall design in jigsaw-puzzle like fashion. ICLEI isn't a local movement any more than McDonalds is a local diner. However, when we see the golden arches in Lubbock, Texas, or Paris, France, we understand we're seeing corporate McDonalds, not our hometown diner. But, we have not yet trained our eye to recognize that when we see the same environmental-ish battles cropping up in Plumas County, Marin County, Bainbridge Island, or San Juan County, we are seeing the corporate environmental-ish agenda at work, not a local one.

One of our local San Juan County citizens, Kay Kohler, has run into a spot of trouble on her family homestead that she inherited in Snohomish County ... and her situation has lessons for us in San Juan County because, incredibly, it is not an isolated case. In fact, Kay's situation is remarkably similar to the way Rachel Dietzman and our Prosecuting Attorney treated Lopezian Nicholas Padvorac during the Fisherman Bay Road Improvement Project.  We will explain that situation in a later post, but the message we want to convey is that you should pay close attention to the way the County interacts with its citizens on Public Works projects ... because this could happen to you. It's part of a developing pattern involving critical areas (in this case, wetlands, but it could just as easily be shorelines or something else), Public Works, stormwater (think Eastsound mosquito hatchery), contractual fine-print, and the legal power of bureaucratic whim.

The five acres that Kay Kohler owns in Snohomish County was bought by Kay's grandfather in 1936. Kay has old photos of the place dating back to that time, showing what it looked like then. When Snohomish County started developing rapidly, the Kohler clan did not sell the farm, which is located just north of Lynwood.  They held onto it, and houses sprang up on all sides. In 2007, the County wanted to purchase a portion of Kay's property for a road improvement (stormwater) project, and in 2009, after three separate appraisals, Kay agreed to sell one acre of her property to the County for $404,000. At the time, it seemed like a pretty straightforward deal, and neither Kay nor her (now former) attorney noticed that the fine print of the contract said that the County could change the valuation of her property after the fact through "condemnation" or "some other" method. 

In November 2011 ... two years after the sale ... the County hired an "expert" to re-value Kay's land.  The new expert valued the 2009 land transaction at just $48,750 because, the expert claimed, Kay's land was covered by wetlands and was hardly worth anything because it was un-developable. Snohomish County then condemned Kay's land for $48,750 and demanded that Kay hand back $355,250. Then, the County began court proceedings to get its money back.

Notwithstanding that Kay has photos stretching back over 70 years showing her land as not being wetlands ... notwithstanding that the County, as development proceeded apace in the 80's and 90's, configured their stormwater system to dump millions of gallons of stormwater on Kay's property without  her consent ... notwithstanding that Snohomish County has an NPDES permit that prohibits stormwater discharges that bypass their system ... all that notwithstanding, Kay's legal case was bungled and she lost both her court case and her appeal.  Snohomish County is now threatening to freeze Kay's bank accounts in order to get back its $355,250.

Ironically, after declaring Kay's stormwater-flooded property to be "waters of the United States" (i.e., a wetland), Snohomish County then failed to get the required permits from the Corps of Engineers (Section 404 Permit) and the Department of Ecology/EPA (Section 401 Permit) that are necessary for construction projects occurring in wetlands. Is it a wetland only when the County wants to get it for a cheap price, but not a wetland when the County wants to avoid getting the federal and state permits needed to build on it?

And so it goes ... rules only work one way in Snohomish County ... just like they do in San Juan County ... (ethics too, and an upcoming post will examine the controversy currently being manufactured by David Dehlendorf and Kyle Loring about our Planning Commission).

Note: ICLEI has recently changed its name to Local Governments for Sustainability even though it continues to use its original acronym of "ICLEI."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pure Imagination: Snowflakes Or Jigsaw Puzzles

In this series, we've talked about the overall environmental-ish illusion ... the illusion of perpetually bad environmental news, the illusion of the purity of tribal motivations, and the illusion of the Friends as a benevolent public-interest organization. Now, we want to talk about the illusion of freedom and individuality.

Are you a snowflake or a jigsaw puzzle piece? It's a strange question, but there is a point. Both snowflakes and jigsaw puzzle pieces are unique. But the individuality of a snowflake is derived from its unplanned development whereas the individuality of a jigsaw puzzle piece is imposed upon it by a larger order.

In actuality, this is a very fundamental question about your views of liberty. Should we allow ourselves to be transformed by our leaders ... shaped into more ordered, rational beings for the benefit of society ... and let our institutional bureaucracies create an authoritarian system that we fit into? Believing that people should "fit" into a free society designed by higher-ups leads to a terrible logic -- that we The People do not realize what true freedom is, and we have to be coerced into doing what is good for us.

Read the article below from the Plumas County News in California. It's a familiar story. Everywhere, municipal planners are coercing us into being jigsaw puzzle pieces for some bigger plan. I find one quotation particularly striking,
Senior Planner Becky Herrin, who represented the planning department at the meeting, thanked everyone for attending, but added that she wished they had been “here for the last seven years.”
In other words, the default position of the Plumas County Planning Department is that, unless the public is watching like a hawk, planners will work to impose a restrictive outside order on the community ... in the name of the community.
  Fearing that Plumas County’s new general plan could lead to a loss of private property rights, a group of concerned citizens wants to trash the document and begin again.
  With the Plumas County supervisors just weeks away from approving the updated general plan, the Indian Valley Citizens for Private Property Rights appeared before the Planning Commission on Jan. 17 and laid out their arguments.
  About 60 people packed the small conference room at the planning department with most standing, and some spilling into the hallway.
  Their spokeswoman, Carol Viscarra, gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining the group’s concerns and highlighting why the new general plan is Agenda 21 in disguise.
  Agenda 21 is a 300-page document adopted in 1992 at United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The document is designed to be a blueprint of how jurisdictions worldwide should move toward sustainable economic growth that simultaneously protects and renews environmental resources.
  Explaining that she was not a political activist, but rather an emergency room nurse and third-generation rancher, Viscarra was nervous. But “I believe it’s my civic duty” to come forward, she said.
  After several months of page-by-page review, she said it’s her conclusion that the general plan “seems to mirror almost verbatim Agenda 21.”
  There has been a growing theory that Agenda 21 is a conspiracy to take away individual property rights and move people off the land to urban centers.
  During her presentation, Viscarra presented a map that showed vast expanses of California as off-limits to the public, wide swaths that were treated as buffer zones to be heavily regulated, with only zones around San Francisco, Los Angeles and Fresno that remained unrestricted. “Eighty-six percent of the land will be set aside as wildlife corridors,” Viscarra said.
  Because 71 percent of Plumas County’s land mass is already in the public domain, Viscarra said Plumas County is an ideal locale for Agenda 21 to take root. “Be informed. Be courageous. Read about Agenda 21 and study it for yourselves,” Viscarra told those gathered. “The stealth of this organization is upon us in Plumas County.”
  She said that the local planning commission members and supervisors “emphatically deny” any relationship with Agenda 21, and she believes them. She attributes the inclusion of Agenda 21 language in the general plan to the consultants that help jurisdictions write planning documents and organizations that provide grants.
  She said the words “Agenda 21” never appear in such documents, but words such as “sustainability,” “open space,” “mixed-use housing” and “sustainable development,” which she describes as the “most egregious,” are all indicators of its influence.
  “They will never, ever call it Agenda 21,” she said.
  Viscarra said that the process began in Plumas County back in 2002 as local leaders embarked upon Vision 2020, with the aid of outside grants. There were meetings and scoping sessions and language terms such as sustained growth and development became more common.
  She said that in the county’s general plan update, the words “open space” are used 121 times, “sustainable” 77 times and “the county shall” is used 430 times. She said that the general plan also has “a lot of references to climate change” another popular theme in Agenda 21.
  Viscarra said that timber regulations, which restrict forestry practices in the county, are a good example of how Agenda 21 is already being implemented without people being aware.
  Addressing the ranchers in the room, she said, “If you’re not worried, it’s because you’re not paying attention.”
  She added, “I looked at the general plan through the prism of a rancher, but this should be a concern to all businesses.”
  Applause greeted the conclusion of her presentation.
  B.J. Pearson, a former county supervisor and developer in the eastern portion of the county, said, “This is one of the best presentations I have ever seen,” and suggested that she should make the presentation in each district.
  Sheriff Greg Hagwood agreed and described the presentation as “one of the most succinct and accurate” that he had seen.
  “I thought I would spend the bulk of my time protecting people against burglars,” Hagwood said. Instead, he said he found himself protecting people “from their own government. I encourage the Board of Supervisors to put strong language in the general plan regarding private property rights.”
  Many in the audience echoed Viscarra’s concerns about private property rights and the new general plan.
  “My understanding is that this plan doesn’t need to be approved until 2015,” Sheila Groethe said. “I ask you to trash this and write a new general plan appropriate to Plumas County.”
  As some of the comments began to degenerate and one man said implementing Agenda 21 to was tantamount to treason, County Counsel Craig Settlemire, who had attended the meeting, stepped in.
  “Everyone here is working to uphold our oaths and the Constitution,” he said.
  Senior Planner Becky Herrin, who represented the planning department at the meeting, thanked everyone for attending, but added that she wished they had been “here for the last seven years.”
  The planning department had held multiple meetings throughout the process including meetings in each community. She said that when the meeting was held in Indian Valley no members of the public attended.
  Her department is now in the process of writing responses to all of the comments that have been submitted for the environmental document associated with the general plan. She said many accuse the general plan of going too far, while others believe that it isn’t restrictive enough. When the document is complete, a hearing will be scheduled before the Board of Supervisors.
  How this latest protest impacts the process is unclear. The deadline for filing comments has passed, but during the Jan. 17 meeting, Planning Commission Chairwoman Betsy Schramel invited those present to put their concerns in writing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pure Imagination: Earth First to Me First

The Friends of the San Juans claim that they were formed in 1979 to defend the "county’s
first comprehensive land use plan." By the mid-1990s, one islander described them as "a curious bunch to watch in action, running from one meeting to the next, or sitting all day in hearings, or threatening lawsuits." Beth Helstein, the Friends President in those days, was quoted as saying, "One place where the taxpayers could stop growth would be by refusing to pay for new schools." In other words, we had warning signs long ago, and some islanders muttered even then that the Friends' motto should be "Sue thy neighbor," but most of us did not heed the warning signs.

Then, in 1999, Friends President Lynn Bahrych filed a petition to limit guesthouses, a cherished island tradition. That battle continued for the next 9 years, resulting in severe restrictions on guesthouses, and in the eyes of many, the loss of an important aspect of our rural character.

In 2001, the Friends hired Stephanie Buffum away from the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). Along with her dog Kiva and her then-husband Kieran Suckling, Buffum moved to Shaw, Bahrych's home island. Buffum's husband was a co-founder of CBD, and coincidentally, a doppelganger for outgoing Friends Director Kevin Ranker. Buffum and Suckling's short marriage and 9-year relationship would soon end in divorce, with Suckling returning to the Southwest. But CBD's hardcore tactics would live on in the San Juans in the persona of Buffum ... an expansion of the CBD franchise.

When the CBD began in the late 80s, they were political outsiders complaining about subsidies to ranchers and other "abusers" of public lands who harmed the environment. In a 1998 interview, Suckling said:
Our government and its corporate sponsors have created a system of subsidies that has to be abolished. They turned the lands into a commodity. We have to get public land users off this welfare system. It is not a simple thing to break those chains.
One of the other co-founders of CBD, Todd Schulke, had been an Earth First activist and many CBD'ers drew inspiration from the unconstrained environmental advocacy of Earth First. While Earth First in the 1980s defined itself through direct action like monkey wrenching, CBD began to explore legal monkey wrenching ... relying on legal tactics, particularly litigation, and direct confrontation of bureaucracy. Fundamentally, the CBD strategy was an outsider strategy that did not depend on appealing to politicians or avoiding controversy. They were not interested in influence or being liked. They were interested in winning.

Somewhere along the way, however, the outsiders became the ultimate insiders, especially here in the San Juans. Nearly every Friends annual report since Buffum's arrival heralds the winning of more and more grants. Grant funding for the Friends soared from less than $200K per year before Buffum arrived to an annual high of nearly $450K in 2010. Friends members sit on multiple County committees and as advisors to the Conservation District. Ex-Friends Director Ranker is a suit-wearing State Senator and an ex-Councilman. The Friends have even attempted to silence opponents using accusations of being "uncivil" ... an odd turn of decorum for a CBD franchise. Suckling said as late as 2011 that “Psychological warfare is a very under-appreciated aspect of environmental campaigns.” Showmanship is too, and like the CBD, no Friends program was ever hindered by a lack of science.
With that appetite for litigation, how good are these radicals in their environmental assaults? Suckling claims his “unparalleled record of legal successes” is a cool 93 percent. With that success he doesn’t need solid science, and his own words reflect that. The Arizonan columnist Hugh Holub once asked Suckling if CBD activities suffer from the absence of a science-based approach in its litigious demands for endangered-species listings. “No,” Suckling responded. “Kids with science degrees are hindered by [taught] resource management values.” He added that he preferred philosophers, linguists, and poets who tended to be in front of the curve and were not handicapped by unproductive, traditional thinking.
-- Range Magazine, Fall 2013
With the arrival of Buffum to the San Juans 12 years ago, the CBD franchise expanded to the Pacific Northwest. It was a natural fit for a Friends organization that had been a kind of prototype of the CBD anyway. The Friends, in turn, helped infect other locales. For example, the Friends' first staff attorney, Amy Trainer, has moved on to northern California and is using CBD tactics to shut down the Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

The Friends heritage and personnel are inextricably linked with that of the CBD, but the Friends' end game has changed from saving the environment to saving the environmental bureaucracies that hand out the big environmental-ish grant bucks to insiders ... and directing the insider game to their own economic self-interests at the expense of the rest of society.  How might the Suckling of 1998 put it?
Our government has created a system of environmental-ish grant subsidies that has to be abolished. They have turned environmental causes into a commodity. We have to get environmental-ish groups off this welfare system. It is not simple to break those chains.
My ... how environmental-ish times have changed! Earth First has become Me First.
Two Friends in a pod? -- Ranker and Suckling, Suckling and Ranker ... both are named Kevin ("Kieran" is the Irish word for "Kevin")

Stephanie Buffum and mentor Lynn Bahrych at a Friends "All Species" Ball (circa 2009)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pure Imagination: Tulalip Burial Grounds

Dana Kinsey of Orcas Island, and formerly of the Conservation District, recently wrote an open letter to Councilmen Jarman and Hughes about her concerns regarding our Local Integrating Organization (LIO). In her letter, Kinsey alleges that Linda Lyshall has been shifting LIO funding to the Conservation Distict for her own benefit. Kinsey wrote:
It appears that [Lyshall] is determining projects, grantees and funding now. I thought she was originally hired by San Juan County to coordinate the LIO part time as a county employee. Now suddenly, in this new proposal all the work and money go to the Conservation District. Is it because [Lyshall] took a job there in May?
We agree with Kinsey that the Council should start asking the LIO a lot more questions ... everyone should. Even in a world where miscreant government is the norm, the LIO sticks out for being a freakish Franken-bureaucracy beyond compare.

The Trojan Heron will do an entire series of posts about the LIO in the near future, but for the moment, we want to provide some background about one of its governing members ... the Tulalip Tribes. 

First, we need to explain how the Tulalips fit into the LIO. The LIO is "governed" by an Accountability Oversight Committee (AOC) comprised of our County government together with three local tribes ... the Tulalip Tribes, the Lummi Nation, and the Swinomish Tribe. The LIO manages our local ecosystem, using the Puget Sound Partnership's Action Agenda for San Juan County as a plan.  That's right ... our local ecosystem is not managed by our elected County Council. Instead it is managed according to a blueprint (the Action Agenda) formulated by a State bureaucracy (the PSP) and then implemented by an intergovernmental panel consisting of 1 collective vote for 3 local tribes and 1 vote for our elected County government.

So what are our LIO tribal partners like? Here are some facts about the Tulalips.

As anyone who has driven down I-5 knows, the Tulalip Tribes have a reservation in Snohomish County. The 22,000-acre reservation is home to about 2,500 tribal members (another 1,500 live off the reservation) and about 8,000 non-tribal members. That gives the reservation a population density exceeding 3 times that of San Juan County. 

According to DSHS, tribal members are entitled to a $2,000 quarterly stipend, with a December bonus of $3,500. In 2012, tribal members received $11,500. The elderly and disabled receive payments of $1,000 per month. Tuition assistance is available for Tulalip tribal members attending college. Tribal members also receive an employment preference for jobs on the reservation.

Who gets to be a Tulalip tribal member? That is a very interesting question. These days, to become a Tulalip tribal member, a child has to be born to a tribal member who has lived on the reservation for at least 12 months prior to the child's birth. That means that a full-blood Tulalip born in Boston, New York City, or Portland is not a member of the tribe and can never be a member of the tribe. On the other hand, even a mostly non-Tulalip child born on the reservation to a tribal member is automatically a tribal member. These strange tribal membership rules are described by a Tulalip tribal member and blogger in the following way:
As a 20 year old Tulalip female, it disturbs me to know that there is no blood quantum to become a Tulalip tribal member. “The applicant must be a child born to any Member of the tribe, which Member is a Resident as defined herein.” [Sec.3.0] Since this is all you have to do to become a tribal member, the tribe ends up having a lot of non-native members. 
The rules provide a loop hole that permits whites and other non-natives to enroll. My cousin is a perfect example. He is less than one-eighth and is still an enrolled tribal member. His child is less than one-sixteenth because he is having a baby with a white woman. His child will surely be enrolled because he lives on the Tulalip Reservation and is a tribal member of the Tulalip tribes. The resident rule excludes some Native Americans from enrollment. 
For example, my younger sister didn’t have acceptable mail with her name and address on it. She needed it to prove residency which caused problems in enrolling her children. My sister is currently living on the Tulalip reservation with her children where they have been living since they were born. The rules also cause problems for Tulalip tribal members who move off of the reservation.
Other tribes tease the Tulalip tribes because many of our members are white. They call us white Tulalip because the large amount of white tribal members. A Native American tribe is supposed to be made up of Native American people not white or black people. If non-natives are allowed to be enrolled, they take money from the Native Americans.
In other words, Tulalip tribal membership isn't the same as Tulalip heritage anymore, and the Tulalips are not the only tribe to view tribal membership in this way. In fact, a congressional study predicts that nationwide only 3% of "Indians" will be full blooded by 2080.

The Tulalips have been very successful economically. The reservation operates Quil Ceda Village (a 100-store mall), Quil Ceda Creek Casino, Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip Liquor Store and Smoke Shop, Tulalip Broadband, a fish hatchery, and a closed hazardous waste landfill that used to be a Superfund site ... more on that in a moment.

Tulalip operations earn hundreds of millions in revenue each year (estimated to be more than $200 million back in 2005). Only a very small proportion of tribal revenue is generated from fishing these days. Reportedly, 30 tribal members are licensed to fish, which is down from about 130 tribal members in the mid-1980s.

Getting back to the Tulalip Superfund Site, the EPA says the following:
Tulalip Landfill is a 147-acre site located on North Ebey Island, within the boundaries of the Tulalip Indian Reservation near Marysville, Washington. The landfill is surrounded by Ebey Slough to the north and Steamboat Slough to the south. Surface water from these sloughs flows into northern Puget Sound, a federally designated national estuary that is a recognized habitat for shellfish and some endangered species, including salmon. The Tulalip Tribe leased land to the Seattle Disposal Company from 1964 to 1979. During that time, an estimated four million tons of commercial, industrial, and hospital waste were deposited in the landfill. In 1979, the landfill was closed. An estimated 7,800 people obtain their drinking water from private and municipal wells that are within four miles of the site. The nearest drinking water source is within one mile of the site.
The site underwent cleanup about 15 years ago, and in April 2013, the EPA completed it's third 5-Year Review of the remedy. The remedy consists of an engineered 7-layer containment system to better isolate the waste and contamination, groundwater monitoring for at least 30 years, and institutional controls (e.g., land use restrictions and administrative controls such as warning signs).

Prior to landfilling activities, the land on which the landfill is located consisted of relatively undisturbed intertidal wetlands. After landfilling operations ceased, contaminated leachate was seeping out into the nearby wetlands causing concerns for human health and the environment, so the site was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) in April 1995. In an editorial from that year, Greg Wingard, President Waste Action Project Seattle, wrote the following:
EPA investigation of the site showed hazardous and bio-hazard waste was disposed of there. Leachate from the landfill was determined to be toxic and a danger to salmon in the nearby Quilceda Creek.  When EPA sent a team of divers in to investigate the landfill's impact on Puget Sound, they found body parts, bloody bandages and other medical waste.
Most of the divers contracted armpit and groin infections as a result of their exposure. Tests run on bacteria samples by EPA showed most of the samples were highly resistant to the 13 antibiotics tested. Some of the samples were 100 percent resistant to everything used against them. This information is contained in the EPA Region X file on the landfill.
From looking at the documentation and the data, I have to say that I truly believe the Tulalip landfill has an effective remedy in place now. In its current remediated state, I believe that the risks to human health and the environment have been mitigated. But if the remediated Tulalip landfill of horrors can safety exist directly adjacent to the shore of Puget Sound, so can an average home in the San Juans.

The Tulalips have a role in managing our ecosystem via the LIO. Tribal employees (e.g., Kit Rawson) have been long-term tribal representatives to our Marine Resources Committee. Tulalips have "usual and accustomed" fishing rights in our waters. When you encounter Tulalip environmental-ish policies and statements regarding salmon ... or regarding climate change and sea level rise ... or even their heritage ... take note that fishing is just one more line of business for the tribe and its tribal members ... take note that the Tulalip reservation has a delisted Superfund site sitting in wetlands barely above high tide on Puget Sound ... take note of who gets to be a Tulalip tribal member and who doesn't ... take note that the tribe is an economic and development powerhouse.

I believe Tulalip tribal government officials have been very effective advocates for the economic and cultural interests of their tribal members ... and we should expect our County Council to be no less effective at advocating for us.

An oblique aerial photo of the remediated Tulalip Superfund Landfill on North Ebey Island on the Tulalip Reservation.  Where is the buffer?