Sunday, February 23, 2014

Uncertainty In the Department of Stone-Age Ecology

About a month ago, Hiroo Onoda died at the age of 91. He was a Japanese WW II holdout soldier who didn't surrender until long after the war was over. For 29 years, he lived on an island in the Philippines with other holdouts, dismissing all evidence (including messages sent to them) that the war was over. They lived by eating what they could find in the jungle or steal from local Filipino farmers. After losing all his fellow holdouts to various circumstances, Onoda was finally persuaded to give up in 1974.

Also, we occasionally still hear press reports about Stone-Age tribes that hold out against the modern world ... in the Amazon ... Papua New Guinea ... or some remote island. In these days of iPads, space stations, and genetic engineering, some of these Stone-Age tribes don't even know how to make fire ... and have never heard of the wheel.

Which brings us to the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program within the Department of Ecology. These are the regulators who advise local governments about shorelines and wetlands because of the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) and the Growth Management Act (GMA). In reality, the responsibilities of Ecology are very different under these two Acts, but they don't want you to know that. Under the SMA, Ecology is directly authorized to oversee, and take charge if necessary, of land use planning for shoreline zones. Under the GMA, they have no authority. No one says this better than Gordon White, the Head of the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program:
"We don’t have regulatory authority in local critical areas ordinance issues. We don’t make rulings or issue enforcement actions under local critical areas ordinances. Those tasks are on local government turf" (Gordon White, Eco-Connect Blog, February 14, 2012.)
Let's be clear about this. Under the SMA, Ecology is authorized to carry out the limited objectives of the SMA only, which is a planning law, not an environmental protection law per se. Under the GMA, Ecology is not authorized for anything, except to advise the Department of Commerce about Critical Areas. That bears repeating ... they are authorized to advise the Department of Commerce (not local Counties) about critical areas (not about the 14 goals or any other aspect of the GMA). Ecology would like you to believe that they are in charge of habitat and endangered species and wetland delineation and saving the planet and the whole GMA. They would like you to believe they are authorized to mainline their biased GMA advice directly into the veins of buffer-addicts in every County Planning Departments ... but they are not.

Altogether different from the SMA and GMA, Ecology is separately authorized under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to regulate discharges to waters of the State/US, but their authority under the CWA is about discharges. They regulate pollution, not non-pollution. They regulate effluent, not waters. Nowhere, outside of the specific planning purposes of the SMA, is Ecology given authority to identify or delineate streams, wetlands, shorelines, or any other waters of the State/US. They have proclaimed themselves as the expert authorities in this area, but they are not.

This brings us back to our Stone-Age lead-in. The Ecology folks who aren't authorized for much of anything produce Best Available Science (BAS) about everything. However, like the Stone-Age tribes who haven't heard of the wheel, the Cro-Magnons at the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program seem to be entirely ignorant of concepts accepted everywhere else in environmental science. As we repeatedly mention, they know nothing about risk assessment, but they also know nothing about environmental chemistry ... or geology ... or habitat ... or hydrology ... or physics ... or bio-statistics ... system dynamics ... or science generally. They say revealingly stupid things like (from the Hruby report), "The recent research has also increased our understanding of the many different factors that control the effectiveness of a buffer at trapping pollutants" such as type of pollutant, concentration of pollutant etc.

Increased "our" understanding? How could you not know this? This is in every elementary textbook (and there are thousands) dealing with risk assessment, fate and transport, and environmental chemistry. These principles are at work daily in Ecology's own Toxics Program. This is like a Stone-Age tribesman in the 21st century saying that "we" just discovered fire, and then bombastically posturing as if they are on the cutting edge of discovery. Somehow, and I don't know how, the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program has been able to survive like a lost Stone-Age tribe, surrounded by modern technology, but unaware of it. Along with them are fellow holdouts comprised of planners, consultants, attorneys, and non-profits who profit from believing the earth is flat.

We have to contend with their ignorance and bias in maddening ways, one of which was mentioned by some commenters to the previous post ... namely scientific uncertainty and the application of the precautionary principle. One of the ways Ecology projects their power and Stone-Age ignorance is by practicing data sophistry. For instance, we actually have quite a bit of data in these islands that show that we have no problem. Cleverly, though, that gets twisted by Ecology and the County into an opportunity to apply the precautionary principle. Let's discuss an example for the sake of illustration. If I were to sample a stream for pollutants, and if the results were to come back as non-detects, that is positive evidence of no problem. We have lots of data like that here in the islands ... after taking into account data quality, we have positive evidence of no problem. The evidence for "no problem" is in the form of zeros (non-detects) but that's not "no data" and it isn't "uncertainty." It's just that we found nothing because nothing is there.

Finding positive evidence of nothing, however, gets transmogrified into "we have no data" or "we don't know" or "it's pristine" or "the results are inconclusive" or "we're uncertain" ... and before you know it, the precautionary principle gets invoked, and we get 300-foot buffers in rural areas and 50-foot buffers in urban ones. That's how that happens. The absence of a problem and lots of "zero data" gets manufactured into uncertainty requiring the greatest amount of precaution and the toughest land use restrictions. The cleanest areas get "protected" in the most severe way when any rational analysis would have deployed greater "protection" for the riskier exposure scenario. We have to put a stop to that BAS ackwards outcome by pointing out what the data are really saying.


  1. We'll maybe San Juan county wants to sell some of its cleanest water credits to some over polluting corporate interest on the mainland. One of the dimmest things you have ever seen but another way to pay for the enormity of spending within the county. This with some pretty healthy enforcement fines once critical areas ordinance takes effect and there you have it endless fees fines and penalties. Keep those county expenditures rolling.

  2. TH is right. It is the Department of Fish & Wildlife that are the experts about habitat. It's always confused me how the Department of Ecology could barge in here and talk about amphibians when that's DFW's territory. DFW should smack the DOE and tell them to mind their own business because they are treading onto another department's territory. We saw this with Mar Vista where DOE got all hysterical about shoreline brush clearing but DFW wanted the land cleared to make better habitat for paintbrush.

  3. Hydraulic Project Approvals are WDFW too, not Ecology.

  4. What are the best questions and comments to make at Tuesday's last hearing for the CAO POS? I assume there will be a 3-0 vote to approve the final edits, and set the implementation date to March 31. Is there anything other than symbolic statements of defiance to read into the public record, so that future generations can see that there were a few dissenting voices where humans used to live in the National Monument to Eco-Facism.

  5. Recite the Comp Plan, simply as it does NOT reflect anything these idiots muster.
    and a call for County Wide Dissent and civil disobedience in allegiance with constitutional and ethical boundaries that have been crossed. I hate this County Government

  6. I hate them too. From the council to the prosecutor's office to the hallways of planning, there isn't a single one who will stand up for the taxpayers that pay their salary.

  7. Don't forget the planning commission. Those guys haven't done anything for us either.

  8. Council has elected to use the DOE Wetlands Rating Systems for CAO buffers (FWHCA). Using that rating system, shorelines will now be classified as Category I wetlands. In DOE's own words and paying attention to the last sentence quoted below from the preamble of the Rating Systems: "The rating systems are primarily intended for use with vegetated, freshwater, wetlands as identified using the using the federal wetland delineation manual (PDF) and applicable regional supplements (Chapter 173-22-035 WAC). It also categorizes estuarine wetlands but does not characterize their functions. The rating systems, however, do not characterize streambeds, riparian areas, and other valuable aquatic resources."

  9. What's all this talk about Rick Hughes putting up a pole barn in a wetland? See comments on the previous post

  10. Hughes is erecting a smal pole barn on his property - the assumption being that it is to replace the old painted barn that is suffering a sever list to starboard.

    It looks to be small enough to be under permit requirements (since it is a storage barn - we assume). The question is, is it far enough away to be out of the wetland buffer. Since it didn't go through a permit review, we can only assume that Rick hired a wetland biologist to help establish that he was outside of the wetland and buffer.

    Since Rick started construction ahead of the CAO's, he would be subject to the old rules. Good thing that stubborn old CAO got kicked back a month!

  11. What is it with you guys on Orcas and your county council picks? First it's ditch in the wetland setbacks Patti Miller and now Ag building Rick. I wonder if that's an Errol Speed type Ag building. Should we send Ron Zee over for some training on permitting?

  12. Oh my. Should Patti Miller and now Rick Hughes be subject to the regulations they vote for?

    Hell no! What a ridiculous assumption.

    We're in competition here for tourists dollars going to Mexico which has a lot better weather and wherein elected people are much more adept at being corrupt. Our guys are desperately trying to catch up, and it ain't the Olympics, but our crew is certainly in the running for placement.

    Rick Hughes goes to jail? Unfortunately no, but could we get him to go to Mexico where he would fit right in.

  13. Under Hughes' new CAO, it doesn't matter what the scale of his development is. Pole barn, lead smelter, Empire State Building -- they all kick in the same "site-specific protections." The "protections" aren't related to what you do, just that you do it. It's all "development" and any "development" kicks in the same "site specific" reign of terror.

    Hughes knows exactly what he's doing, that's why he's doing the pole barn now. He's no better than Lisa or Lovel. He's as bad as they come.

  14. Someone please ask each Council member whether they've read the new CAO, and whether they understand it. Then someone ask what different sections mean. That should be fun.

  15. They don't even pretend to know what it means, they don't freakin care

  16. Based on the following map, from the proposed CAO, it would appear that there is a designated wetland well within 200 feet of the new structure.

    Looks like a job for Chris Laws. At the very least, we should get a code compliance reading on this.

  17. If they are gonna do this, enact this bullshit. What are we gonna do? This is like an act of war

  18. What about the lawsuits? Isn't that something to bring up? How can they make decisions when their decisions from last time are being torn apart?

  19. What?? We are letting Rick off this easy? Noticed the streets around his business got plowed before anything else on Orcas.

  20. Just spent a while looking over TH posts from a year ago. Wow. We had hope. There was a feeling that a grassroots movement could coalesce, put new people in government, and have things change. Seemed like we had them on the ropes. Lovel and Hale in classic "I don't recall" depositions. Political novices beating well funded machine candidates.
    Then there was the elation, we did it.
    Now the reality has set in. Those feelings have faded.
    Bummer dude may not be the most appropriate phrase, but it's the first one that comes to mind.

  21. Do you fight? Or prepare a lot of open space applications?

  22. Brief Felix/Nou interlude:

    In defense of Nou's utterly feckless performance in the Hayride incident & aftermath, at least he isn't saying "Hey, on the other hand, it's not like Felix sexually assaulted anyone." On the other hand, maybe we should wonder why he hasn't offered that as an excuse - another shoe hasn't dropped?

  23. We are the bureaucrats, you shall be assimilated

  24. Snowed in? Check out County Council. Council almost fully awake finally, addressing the latest CAO changes. Amy Vira making horrible faces at Council's impertinence. Linda Kuller's droning on in that horrible monotone voice--is that a job requirement? Didn't think anyone could surpass the Shireene Hale in that way but they have outdone themselves in annoying personas.

  25. Here we go--the hiring criteria for our planners:

    While this apparently applies to young women elsewhere, here it applies to the older women as well. Uptalk--ending every sentence with a question, starting every sentence with so, and the drawn-out low-pitched Kardashian affectations. . . could this be one reason why so few citizens can sit through any of these meetings?


  26. This is Val Talk ...

    Valley Girl

    Job requirement for all new planners

  27. You gotta be from like some really bitchin' part of Encino, I am so sure. Totally.

  28. Soooooo.......
    Did anyone else get a little green postcard in the mail today?
    If you haven't had the privilege yet, it is from none other than village idiot Ed Hale.
    Basically, taking the TSA motto of "see something, say something" and applying it to storm water.
    Looks like there will be a few more "community conversations" oh wait "open houses".
    The public is invited to bring concerns and potential ideas to fix storm water issues.
    Wow! Don't we have someone that should have a handle on this already?
    Unbelievable. Next comes Hales pitch for more money and raising fees.

  29. We need more permanent storm water money or babies will die. It will all be your fault.

  30. Speaking of stormwater, villages, and idiots - could the county perhaps maintain the *existing* stormwater infrastructure in downtown Eastsound, so that next time we have a big storm we don't bankrupt half the businesses in town? The several flooding incidents this year were brutal to people there.

    I know it's not as sexy as building a new mosquito pond with grant money and new taxes. Maybe fire Ed and use his salary to fund the effort, after covering the losses of the businesses from last years' failure to maintain the system.

  31. The list of current council accomplishments looks remarkably similar to the that of Ed Hale.

    Accomplishment list.

  32. Yes, the mail stinks lately. Especially the missive from Jan Sears, County Treasurer, YES that one; your property taxes printed out in glorious green.
    John Evans says County Planner, Colin Maycock, states our island population is shrinking and we are well on the road to becoming a land of the very poor and the very/very rich.

    Looking at the statement from Ms. Sears, I'm seriously beginning to question if I can continue to live here, and I consider myself successful upper middle class.

    A couple of skirmishes with the County/FOSJ and I'd be broke. And that happenstance seems more and more likely.

    Still, as a self made person, (my wife and I started filling news racks at 2am with the baby in the back seat along with the dog) so I'm not giving up without a fight.

    And I hope those of you who hang in here will by-pass the cotton candy local attorneys who can't bring themselves to spend a minute or two taking on a simpleton like Kyle Loring and instead you should hire big town competence.

    We need some real nasty attorneys to jack our administrative County jerks back to reality.

    We can do it. Yes, we can.

  33. All you people do on this site is complain !

  34. I love the people who leave comments complaining about our complaining. It's hysterical.

  35. @ 7:51 PM. Normally you folks want to kill people, at east judging by what you say here, so loving them is a huge improvement. And, complaining about complaining about complaining is going a little far (I'm not complaining, though).

  36. @8:09

    Uh. Sure. Whatever.

  37. Got the green card. Many thanks Mr. Hale. I have no storm water problems on my my property or nearby.

    I will continue to pay the $26.27 tax for solution of these storm water problems you need help finding.

    No, can't stand the whine on the TH. BUT As the now famous quote goes:
    "Why is it that for every problem, the County sees the solution as a new tax."

    So now we have a tax looking for a problem? Not to complain, mind you.

  38. Ed Hale just used your tax dollars to send out a mailer that basically says "Help me justify my job".
    This unqualified dolt has been receiving our tax money to deal with the county storm water. All we have is failed projects and now a plea for guidance.
    Let me guess, Shireene will make sure new regulations involve keeping her dunce husband gainfully employed are passed. No conflict there.
    Just wondering what would happen if the Hales positions were eliminated? Aside from saving large amounts of money, reducing litigation against the county, and possibly halting projects that have a proven track record of failure?
    I wonder who ties this guys shoes.


  39. Hey Ed, water like other things roll down hill.
    Lets see some data on what the pollution problem is that we are spending on, getting grants for and making rules, regulations and fines for.
    The friends and others keep saying the islands are pristine.
    So what is the problem. Show us something based on here, not studies from elsewhere.

  40. Hell yes, it's those casual urinations. We all are guilty as usual. (Shit, you know you are.)

    Storm water; well maybe. Suck it up with a straw, Mr. Hale.

  41. Gotta love Eds new storm water issue reporting website.

    You can report anything you notice and it places a dot on the map showing the problem. This from the little dot at the County Council location:

    Issue ID: 12001

    Type: Nuisance
    Comment: Effluent from the county council chambers is flowing at an alarming rate causing serious damage to residents of the county
    Date Submitted: Feb 28, 2014
    Attachment: No attachment

  42. “But you can't make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can't last.”
    ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

  43. councilhearing surrounding CAO deliberations on " the definition of development" the most pitiful room filled with utter ignorance. If I didnt know better, I would think every person that spoke on that item,, councilers staff manager/ my god the stupidity reminded me of nsome really good highs we experienced many years ago Friday nights after the school game a room full of stoned kids listening to the same song over and over trying to find meaning but totally unable to grasp a relationship between any of the words// all night long
    simply idiots!

  44. @12:17am

    I didn't watch the video of the meeting. I'll take a wild guess and assume that Planning essentially wants "development" to be "any thing that FOSJ thinks might possible be used to stop a landowner from doing anything", and that Rick, and possibly Bob muttered something about "not comfortable with that" but moving ahead anyway because March 31st!

  45. You got it!, unless they were trying to support absurdity and ANY LAW SUIT THAT FOLLOWS!

  46. Really!? They are not that smart

  47. In fact every vote was all Yes whatever ya want they would've voted to eliminate enjoyment if asked

  48. Careful with the comments folks or Shireene Hale will make yet another request for armed guards at the next meetings. Using exclaimation points when you type can be viewed as hostile, threatening, and un-civil.

  49. Nothing says "open public comment time" like armed guards and metal detectors!!!

  50. Development means anything you do.

    As in early childhood development.

    Need a permit for that now.

  51. An important question asked on 2/23 7:03 was to ask Councilmen (sadly, they are all men) to read out loud CAO sections of what they were voting on, to drown the islands public with and 7:03 then proposed they be asked to explain their rational and thinking on such such new rules.

    Of course none of this happened, because lately no rational thinking like this ever does.

    My question: Is there any way to sue individuals in public office for incompetence. We already have have some really good candidates.

    I'll bet you an nickle and a dime none of our well paid current three could come up with a thoughtful response and a well read response to 7:03.

    Their idea of doing their job is to hire some person to do the trench work and then rubber stamp it.

    Is our only option as the voting, tax paying public to vote them out of office?

    I feel these people need to be personally liable for not doing their homework, and not being productive and active in the position they occupy. I wish there was a way to make them pay personally for their lack of responsibility.

    Now that's a lawsuit I would pay for!

  52. If the citizens could sue politicians for incompetence, civilization would collapse.

  53. Or it would improve!

  54. @7:23

    Council accomplishments:

    1. Jamie spends lots of time schmoozing with the big guys in Olympia. running for bigger office? We have our fingers crossed.

    2. Rick spends a lot of time on two-bit committees.

    3. Bob has spent a lot of time recovering from illness, which is too bad.

    4. The County Manager (the one who Charter Commission said was supposed to be paid $75,000, but gets $125,000 or so) is very active making all the decisions that Council should be making--using the Jedi mind trick that has them asking few relevant questions and voting yes for everything. What a good idea to hire a lifelong bureaucrat to shake up the County staff. Ha.

  55. The nuts these "blind squirrels" are picking up, are yours.