Below is Rawson's response.
Thanks for the opportunity to correct/amplify on a few statements made in the January 10 posting regarding the MRC. My interest right here is to correct the facts, not debate the issues. There certainly are issues to debate, but I think that debate is most constructively carried out on a factual basis. By way of background, I have been a member of the San Juan MRC since 2001 and have been employed by the Tulalip Tribes since 1986. I am stepping down from the MRC when my current term ends at the end of February of this year, and I am retiring from my job at Tulalip in early March. My wife and I have owned property on San Juan Island since 1982, and we built a cabin there between 1987 and 1990, which we use throughout the year. Our principal residence is in Mount Vernon.
I was chair of the MRC from 2005-2010, but I am only a member now. I offer these comments on my own behalf and am not speaking for the MRC or anyone else on the MRC.
The original posting stated “.. the MRC has been corresponding with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) about closures on the west side …”. This was corrected to state the correct topic of the correspondence after I let the Trojan Heron know of the error, and the posting has been edited. Thank you. I provide a little more information on this below:
The recent communication with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was regarding new information on the timing of juvenile salmon presence in the San Juan Islands. Currently they base decisions on regulating the timing of in-water work to protect salmon on information from mainland areas near river mouths that does not apply to the San Juan Islands. So we sent the new information from the San Juan Islands to WDFW. This was a follow up to discussions with WDFW over the past several years. The original salmon recovery chapter for the San Juan Islands pointed out that protection of juvenile salmon in this area could be greatly improved by the application of local data to the problem. The letter we sent was merely communicating the latest local data to them and asking them to meet with the MRC in a public meeting to discuss the information. Our data also includes detailed information on the location of juvenile salmon as well as their timing. Work windows do not have to be “one size fits all” but rather could be based on location, timing, and even year-to-year variability in fish presence. They are also based on a consideration of the safety of workers and the protection of materials and other factors. Our goal was to convene a discussion of local data and local concerns with this state agency.
A San Juan County council member who graciously volunteered to serve as pro tem liaison to the MRC was present during the MRC’s discussions of this letter. This member did not express agreement or disagreement with the letter, nor of our sending it, but the member was aware of the letter and of the discussion we had on it. The MRC was following up on a longer term discussion with WDFW and acting in good faith. The MRC’s intent was not to presume to speak for San Juan County or anyone else in a matter of policy but rather to be sure that WDFW had the most recent local data on this topic, which they had asked for previously and been expecting. In fact, I and others asked for the letter to be edited so that it was clear that is wasn’t asking for a specific policy but rather only for a discussion. It was the edited version that was adopted by the MRC.
An email quoted in the posting states “…is it true that one of the tribes paid for the MRC coordinator’s salary for 6 months … .” No, it is not true. The Tulalip Tribes provided $15,000 in 2011 or 2012 (I can’t remember which) to help seed the fund for projects to implement the San Juan Islands action agenda, which is part of the Puget Sound Partnership’s action agenda. The local agenda was developed locally and represents local needs and concerns. The $15,000 went into a fund that was divvyed up into three or four small projects, carried out by locally-based project proponents, to implement the local action agenda. All of this information is publically available, and I and others can help find more information if requested to do so. The funds came from funds that the tribal casino designates for community projects and was awarded based on a request to the committee that awards these funds to community groups following normal procedures for such requests. This was a one-time donation to help get the local program going under the Puget Sound Partnership.
It is important for people to have correct information about the background of issues they are concerned with. It is a matter of common courtesy to first ask the subject of the discussion about a factual matter. So it would have been appropriate here to ask someone in the MRC office, or the MRC chair, or an MRC member, or the council member who is attending MRC meetings about recent correspondence of the MRC. Or MRC minutes could be consulted, either online or as requested from the MRC office. In this case, the TH did correct the posting after getting a correction from me, after checking up on it, I would guess. That is great, but it would have been better if the facts were correct from the beginning, which I don’t think would have been very hard to do. Similarly, it would be courteous and respectful to ask the someone in the county, or the local integrating organization coordinator, or someone from one of the tribes, about a supposed source of funds for work that is being coordinated through the county. Of course it is always appropriate, and sometimes wise, to check these facts. But good relationships are fostered by observation of the rules of common courtesy in my opinion and in my experience.
In my opinion, the points I read in the TH about whether or not it is wise for San Juan County to accept grants, what the rules of operation for the MRC and other advisory bodies should be, whether or not the county should participate in the Puget Sound Partnership, and others are all worthy of discussion. But, if the discussion starts with distortions and attacks, the response will most likely be to defend against the distortions and attacks rather than to debate the issues.