This 2013 document updates Ecology's 2005 guidance on wetland buffers in some substantial ways. Over the next few postings, we will delve into the new document, but for now, suffice to say that while the new document still has some significant problems, it makes some surprising admissions too. In answer to the question of how large buffers should be, the new 47-page document essentially says, "It depends."
Yes ... it depends on a myriad of site-specific factors ... so it is impossible to prescribe fixed buffer widths ahead of time. Wow!
County staff have known about this report since it was issued. This fact came to light during CAO public comment last week. CD&P knew about it. County Manager Mike Thomas knew about it. Nevertheless, all during the effort to "fix" the latest version of the CAOs after the GMHB ruling, those who have been "in the know" did not inform the Planning Commission about the new document. Those "in the know" did not inform the Council about it either. Interestingly, even Ecology's official correspondence with the County doesn't mention their own new science document.
Among other things, the 2013 Final Report talks about the Meyer paper, and it talks about the Zhang paper. When deliberating about potential revisions to the CAOs back in November, Planning Commissioner Brian Erhmantraut tried to get the Planning Commission to consider buffers based on the Zhang paper, but the other Commissioners shot down the idea because (they thought) the Zhang paper wasn't supported by Ecology BAS. So, the Planning Commission and CD&P pressed forward in making revisions to the CAO based on 2005 BAS, not 2013 BAS. That's where we are at the moment. We have CAO revisions based on outdated BAS.
The 2013 BAS document is very inconvenient to anyone who just wants to get 'er done because it raises serious questions about the basic validity of Ecology's historical approach to buffers ... and our County's approach as well. The new BAS document is not perfect by any means, but at least it is nudging closer to the truth. Considering it was issued by the Kremlin of buffer science, it makes some astonishing admissions.
But "they" buried it so no one would be the wiser.
|New BAS report issued after the San Juan County GMHB ruling and at about the same time as the SCOTUS Koontz decision.|