Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Tuesday, July 31st
(The following is a response by the SJ County Administrator to a recent guest editorial. -Editor)
By Pete Rose
In my first year as San Juan County Administrator, I have been impressed with the quality and quantity of public input the County government receives from the people it serves. From participation on our many advisory boards and committees to public testimony to print and on-line newspapers, the people of San Juan County are engaged in lively discussions of the issues that affect these beautiful islands and our quality of life.
As someone whose duty it is to direct the day-to-day operation of much of the County Government I pay attention to public comments because they are – in a very real sense – feedback from our customers. I have received several comments from people who read Mike Macdonald’s guest editorial about our efforts to deal with the trash transfer station dilemma, posted on The Island Guardian on July 26, and I am concerned that it contained some factual errors and misperceptions that I need to be corrected before the debate continues.
SJC May Be Nominated As An “Aquatic Reserve”
The County Council will meet today (Tuesday, 7-31-07) to discuss nominating San Juan County to the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) as a Aquatic Reserve Project.
The SJC Marine Resource Committee (MRC), along with Amy Windrope of the SJ Initiative, and others, impressed upon the County Council the benefits of establishing an Aquatic Reserve for “ecological, scientific, and educational” areas that would “help manage” designated areas, while providing resources for research and monitoring.
The DNR has asked for nominations of areas of state-owned aquatic lands. According to DNR, only nominations of land that are of “special educational or scientific interest, or lands of special environmental importance” will be adopted into the program, and to the end, the status of aquatic reserve will only be “applied when it is the most appropriate management tool.”
The process for proposing a site for protection may include public or private groups, or individuals, One a letter of intent has be received nominating a site for aquatic reserve protection, the letter will be reviewed by DNR to determine if the nominated site meets criteria found in the Aquatic Reserves Program Implementation and Designation Guidance
Lichter: Veterans Wanted For Advisory Board
As the single veteran on the County Council, Alan Lichter is helping to organize a Veterans’ Advisory Board for San Juan County. Section 73.08 of the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) requires “The legislative authority for each county must establish a veterans' advisory board”.
This was news to the Council, and it may have been a surprise to newly elected SJC Auditor Milene Henley to find that the Council had not appointed an advisory board as required by RCW. The purpose of the Board is to make recommendations to the Council on the expenditure of money collected by a one and one-eighth cents per thousand dollars in property tax revenues. The money may only be used for Veterans’ relief needs.
Henley informed the Council that the state code had recently been amended to allow both treatment programs and housing for Veterans in need.
According to Councilman Lichter, It is estimated that San Juan County has between 2200 and 2700 veterans, approximately 15% of the total population.
Since Washington State statute (RCW 73.08.035) created a fund through taxation for the relief of honorably discharged indigent veterans and their dependents, it is necessary to create an advisory board.
Members of this Veteran’s Advisory Board must be veterans, and Councilman Lichter, who is helping to organize this new group, would appreciate hearing from any veterans who might be interested in serving on the Board. Interested veterans may contact Councilman Lichter at the County Courthouse, 378-2898, or email to email@example.com.
The authorizing RCW follows:
Monday, July 30th
You’re In Violation! Oh…Never Mind
(Friends of San Juans photo)
The removal of trees on waterfront property is tightly controlled and regulated by the San Juan County land use codes, so the bare patch of land shown in the photo above might appear to be an example of a shoreline violation.
That was certainly the conclusion the FOSJ (Friends of the San Juans) arrived at, and Amy Trainer, staff attorney for the Friends, researched the project and fired off a two letter to Ron Henrickson, Directory of the SJC Community Development & Planning Department, asking the County to “issue a stop work order immediately, and re-establish the setback of the house to 100 feet as required in our SMP (i.e. Shoreline Master Program -ed)”; and then went on to quote code references and advise as to what the County must do, and labeling the Counties actions as unacceptable.
Only problem was, the landowner had cleared the land as required by a county requirement for a “drainage plan” to meet county stormwater demands. The land clearing was necessary to install the approved plan. The plan called for a standard drainage ditch in front of the house. The house was allowed to be closer than the 100 foot setback called for by Trainer, because the setbacks allowed by the restrictions on the original plat were approved by the County prior to the passage of the shoreline regulations, and therefore were “grand-fathered” conditions. As for the stormwater plan, it was filed with, and approved by SJC Public Works, and a copy was part of the overall approval of a building permit for the property.
A Concept Whose Time Has Arrived
by Charlie Bodenstab
In a prior essay I presented what I believe
to be a compelling case for never committing our ground forces to an enemy who “values neither his own life nor the lives of his own people”. The adversary’s ability to commingle with the civilian population negates our technical and general military superiority. This argument leads directly to the conclusion that we should withdraw from Iraq and be careful not to commit our ground forces in a similar situation in the future.
The dilemma we face is even more perverse however than simply battling terrorist forces in a few specific countries such as Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan. We could “win the war” in Iraq with virtually zero impact on the radical mentality distributed throughout the world.
Saturday, July 28th
Judge Rules Against CC On Land Division Appeal
San Juan County has lost a court case on how to define parcel size in land use decisions involving applications for subdivision. The ruling against SJC by Whatcom County Judge Steven Mura means that the County can no longer have it both ways when determining the size of property, by using one way for tax purposes, and another way for land use decisions.
The Island Guardian reported that in May of 2006 Assessor Paul Dossett informed the then three member County Council that "Property owners need the confidence that SJC is consistent in determine Simple Land Division acreage..". Dossett asked the Council to "Please change the UDC (Ed: the code that controls land use) to allow "equity, uniformity, and consistency" in acreage determinations.
The County Council took up the issue in September of the same year, and with Councilman Ranker abstaining from the vote, Myhr and Lichter voted to not be consistent as had been requested by Dossett, and continue to use two systems to determine property size.
The law suit resulted when the three member County Council upheld a planning department decision by finding that Hearing Examiner William H. Nielsen was correct when he had turned down an appeal by Richard Durhack, Virginia Norgaard and Neva Durhack of their rejected application by the planning department to divide a 20 acre parcel into two 10 acre parcels
Thursday, July 26th
Hubris, Waste, And Public Trust
By Mike Macdonald
The obscure we see eventually, the completely apparent takes longer. -Edward R. Murrow
San Juan County is currently investigating placing a trash and garbage-handling facility on three sites that the 2003 county board of commissioners found presented “unavoidable adverse impacts to air traffic safety.”
On Monday, July 16, 2007, Councilman Alan Lichter and the Solid Waste Advisory Committee toured sites
explicitly rejected in 2003.
Development continues on another property implicitly disqualified as a transfer station site four years ago.
Time and money continue to be wasted. The county has purchased two pieces of property for use prohibited by the county’s own findings and regulations.
The unavoidable question is, don’t county officials, past and present, read their own documents before spending our money?
New Westside Property Added To Preserve
The recent purchase of property on the Westside of San Juan Island has allowed the SJC Land Bank to increase it’s Westside Preserve. The Westside Preserve offers short trails, sheltered nooks for picnicking, whale watching, and arguable the best location for gazing at sunsets on San Juan Island.
The Preserve covers most of the open waterfront land near the Limestone light house, but prior to the purchase of the new parcel, there were two privately owned properties separating the south end of the preserve from the north end. (Photo: Blue lines indicates Land Bank land, the yellow is the new property)
One of the properties is developed, and one has remained in an undeveloped state. When the undeveloped property came on the market the Land Bank took notice, and so did the public. Within a very short time there was an offer from a private party to purchase the land, and a feasibility study was underway by the buyer.
According to a press release from the Land Bank, there was “an unusually large response from the public when it appeared on the real estate market. The Land Bank received phone calls, letters, emails, personal comments, and a petition in support of the acquisition.”
A local Realtor said the owners were supportive of selling the land to the Land Bank. A deal was made, and the property was purchased for $875,000.00. In addition to the purchase price, there were some closing costs involved, and $75,000.00 of Land Bank money was allocated to a Stewardship Fund to cover future ownership costs, The interest generated by the stewardship money will provide management costs in perpetuity.
Through conservation easement and fee purchase, the Land Bank has protected over 38 acres and 5500 feet of shoreline between Limekiln State Park and Edward’s Point. Efforts to acquire this stretch of land began in 1993 to help preserve the unobstructed views, create public access to the property, protect and conserve rare remnant prairie, and protect the near shore environment from some of the impacts of residential development.
There are approximately 650 acres of fee owned Land Bank properties on San Juan Island and 35% of them are open to public access for low impact recreational use. The Westside Preserve offers short trails, sheltered nooks for picnicking, whale watching, and arguable the best location for gazing at sunsets on San Juan Island.
San Juan Builders Association…#1 in the Nation
(Left to right: Board members Jeff Morris; SJ Builder’s Association President Gulliver Rankin; Board Secretary, Sandra Green, and Terry Gillespie with national award)
The San Juan Builders Association has been awarded the National Homebuilders Associations highest award for membership retention. The award recognizes that the San Juan Builders Association is #1 in the nation among builder’s organizations of similar size for membership retention.
The award was presented by Board Secretary, Sandra Green, to San Juan Builder’s Association President, Gulliver Rankin, and Board members Jeff Morris and Terry Gillespie who accepted the award on behalf of the San Juan Builders Association membership.
It was also announced to the Board that $188,852 had been refunded to San Juan Builders Association members this year that participated in the Washington State Builders Association Labor and Industries ROII program. These funds come back to member’s businesses that have achieved outstanding on-the-job safety results.
San Juan Builders Association members participate in the ROII program and medical insurance plans for employees of member firms, the scholarship program for local high school graduates, financial and work party donations to local community organizations as well as efforts to improve construction practices and addressing the County’s ongoing housing affordability issue.
Wednesday, July 25th
Dumptruck Rollover, Driver Trapped But Okay
The driver of a loaded Dump Truck lost control at the corner of Boyce and Beaverton Valley and flipped, then rolled on to property owned by Juan & Beatriz Tobon.
The driver of the truck, Camilla Woodbury, works for Black Family Enterprises. She was unable to execrate herself from the truck, and first responders had to free her from the cab. She was placed into an ambulance, but fortunately she had suffered no serious injuries as a result of the accident.
The corner of Boyce and Beaverton has been the location of a number of accidents over the years, and according to the property owner, many of them go unreported. Mr. Tobon said they have owned the property for over ten years, and he ventured there is at least one accident a year. Many of them are simply drivers that come down the hill too fast and then fail to make the right hand turn, taking instead a shortcut through the Tobon fence, and some cases driving across the yard and out the gate, leaving the damage behind for the Tobons’ to deal with.
Mr. Tobon said he has asked Public Works to do something to improve the safety of the intersection, but he said the only thing that has happened is OPALCO removed a power pole and installed the lines underground in an attempt to protect the lines from damage if a vehicle should strike a power pole. The property is currently for sale.
County Passes New Rules On Septic Inspections
(Environmental Health Manager Mark Tomkins at Board of Health hearing)
New regulations on inspecting and maintaining septic systems has been approved by the San Juan county Board of Health. The regulations will result in a gradual phase in of mandatory inspections of all on-site septic systems. For most home owners, the new regulations will mean new costs associated with hiring someone approved by the County to perform the inspections and maintenance.
Based on past experience, and current costs in other counties, it is anticipated the fees will range from $150.00 to $400.00, depending on who does the work, and what tasks are performed.
The inspection regulations will be phased in over the next four years. Aerobic and proprietary treatment systems, and all systems in areas declared sensitive would be covered immediately (there are maps attached to the The Draft Operation and Maintenance Program Plan ) draft). Pressure distribution, sand filter and mound systems would require annual inspections beginning in 2009, and all “standard” gravity systems -of which there are several thousand- will have to be inspected every three years, starting in 2011.
There is some good news in all of this: The plan requires an additional $50 county inspection report filing fee to cover the cost of educational programs, data maintenance and enforcement, and the advisory committee draft recommends the County use a portion of those fees to run a training class for those home homeowners that wish to perform their own inspections and maintenance.
Mark Tompkins said that the county may be eligible for state grants to reduce that cost by as much as $30 for each of the first two years. Alan Lichter is a member of the Board of Health, (he and Howard Rosenfeld represent the County Council) and he suggested that additional language be added to the draft to make if clear the class will be offered.
From here the draft will be sent to the the State Department of Health for their review and approval. San Juan County is one of twelve Puget Sound counties required by the State of Washington to adopt a plan that will ensure septic systems are inspected and maintained to prevent system failures which could cause raw or inadequately treated sewage to contaminate sensitive coastal areas, or surface or ground water.
The current requirement that all onsite wastewater systems be inspected when a property is sold will continue to be enforced. After state acceptance, the Board of Health will need to amend the local sewage code to reflect the new inspection program. The advisory committee’s report noted that the total cost for even those with the highest inspection requirements would be less than the amount paid in wastewater utility fees by clients of Friday Harbor, East Sound and Lopez sewer districts. But then of course those fees also include the installation of a septic treatment system, but the home owners outside of those jurisdictions still are responsible for the costs of installing their systems.
New Residents "06-"07": FH Adds 10, SJC 190
At a recent County Council meeting Councilman Kevin Ranker noted that for all the number of people who are reported to be moving here, there is an almost equal number that leave each year.
Stan Matthews is the new -among other things- Communications Program Manager for San Juan County, and he has sent out a tid-bit from his office that indicate Ranker’s comment is not far from the truth.
Matthers points out that according to the latest estimate from The Washington Office of Financial Management (OFM), the population of San Juan County stood at 15,900. That’s an estimated increase of 1,823, or nearly 13% since the 2,000 census. The agency said that countywide, the population grew by 1.26% or 200 people during the previous twelve months
The OFM also estimated that Friday Harbor grew 11.6%, from 1,989 to 2,220 residents during the seven years since the census, but added just 10 residents in the last year.
The population estimates were made public as the state begins its budget process. They are used for a variety of calculations in the budget process, including computing local shares of state grants and revenue.
Tuesday, July 24th
Entire SJI Grange Leadership Resigns
(file photo of Jim Sesby, Former Master, San Juan Island Grange)
The elected leadership of the San Juan Island Grange has resigned. Citing internal conflicts, and a lack of support from the State Grange as being “extremely unsupportive of our efforts to conduct local Grange business and carry out our mission in support of local agriculture”, they decided to call it quits.
An email letter was sent out Monday (7-23-07) to the membership, stating a “vocal minority of members has made it impossible for officers and committee members to conduct Grange business”.
The resignation letter accuses unnamed members of repeating “half-truths, innuendo, character assassination and outright deception both in the Grange Hall and behind the scenes", which "has made business meetings extremely frustrating and uncomfortable for the membership”. But a letter from the State Grange made it clear that it was not just some local members that had concerns about how the local Grange was conducting business.
While the underlying reasons for the existence of strong opposing forces in the Grange may have a number of sources, it seems clear that the one of the main reasons for the lack of support for the now departed board members is based on their desire to move in a direction that lacked the full support of the broad membership, and the State Grange.
The actions of the Board to pursue the possibility of setting up a farmers market on commercial property the Grange owns in Friday Harbor, and a recent attempt by the Grange leadership to reject some applicants for membership by use of a secret ballot, resulted in a strong condemnation by the State Grange; and it appears to have manifested in the mass resignation of the leadership
Conservation Partnership Looking For $1.225 Million
(Steve Horn photo
The San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank today announced that they have formed a partnership to purchase and conserve a 7-acre property that is susceptible to development inside the largely protected Watmough Bight on Lopez Island’s southeast coast.
Local planning and development officials were prepared to approve an application to develop the 7-acre parcel adjacent to the beach at the head of the bay. That plan called for the removal of 60 percent of the trees on the property – about 20 thousand board feet, including trees that are at least 400 years old. It also called for the construction of a house on the slope overlooking the public beach, rocky cliffs, and sensitive wildlife habitat that have already been protected by the Land Bank and the federal Bureau of Land Management
Sunday, July 22nd
Septic Maintenance Plan Public Hearing
On Monday, July 23, (12:15 p.m. in the court house), the San Juan County Board of Health will hold the first public hearing on a draft Operation and Maintenance plan that will require mandatory inspections and maintenance of all septic systems in San Juan County.
San Juan County is one of twelve Puget Sound counties that are required by the State to complete and adopt a plan that will insure septic systems are inspected and maintained.
Since most property owners will not be interested in inspecting and performing maintenance on their own systems -and only licensed personnel may performed the required inspections and work on some types of systems- one may assume there will be some new expenses in owning a house served by an on-site septic system.
SJ Islands "Paint-Out" Supports Land Conservation
The San Juan Preservation Trust, the Plein Air Washington Association (PAWa), and Insights Gallery of Anacortes today announced this summer’s “Art of the Islands” paint-out, a gathering of artists from around the state that will benefit land conservation in the San Juan Islands.
From July 13-27, artists from PAWa, the state’s largest outdoor painting group, will converge on the San Juan Islands to interpret the archipelago’s rugged shorelines and diverse landscapes on canvas and paper. In addition to setting up easels near roadways and other public open spaces, artists will be granted access to several private nature preserves protected by the San Juan Preservation Trust, Washington’s oldest land trust. The end result will be a multi-faceted portrait of these spectacularly beautiful islands.
Friday, July 20th
Nancy Jo Cavenaugh - July 28, 1934 - July 7, 2007
Nancy Jo Cavenaugh, a lover of the arts, supporter of holistic health and alternative philosophies, and a dedicated San Juan Island volunteer, died July 7, 2007.
Nancy Jo, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 28, 1934, to Leroy J. and Lily (Galbraith) Tynan. She attended Catholic schools, including Derham Hall and the prestigious College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Nancy Jo married, and had her first son Jeff in St. Paul. The family later moved to San Antonio, Texas, where her second son Jess, was born.
In 1979, Nancy Jo, now a single mother, was living in Hayward, Calif. She worked at 3M Technologies and was the first woman Representative of the company's Western Division. In 1979, as fate would have it, Nancy Jo met her son Jess's shop teacher, Willie Cavenaugh. Soon, Nancy Jo was frequently visiting Friday Harbor, where Willie had property. Before long she was a full-time resident here.
Thursday, July 19th
CC Endorses Marine Stewardship Plan
( Kit Rawson, Chair of the Marine Resources Committee, address the County Council)
At their regular Tuesday meeting, the County Council voted to endorse a Marine Stewardship Plan designed to protect and restore marine resources in the San Juan Islands.
The Marine Stewardship Plan identifies a list of strategies for tackling threats to the marine resources in the San Juans. Among these strategies, the Committee identified a few it will begin working on right away, including to foster a marine stewardship ethic, better manage upland and nearshore activities, reduce the risk of large oil spills, and preserve and manage public access to natural shorelines and marine views.
Recognizing a decline in healthy marine life, including resident killer whales, rockfish, and migrating wild salmon, San Juan County declared itself a Marine Stewardship Area ; this was done in January of 2004 by county commissioners John Evans, Rhea Miller, and Darcy Nielsen.
In response to a resolution, the Marine Resources Committee partnered with the Nature Conservancy and the Northwest Straits Commission and embarked on a conservation planning process to establish why the resources were in decline, and what the community could do about it.
SJVB Retains Tourism Funding
The San Juan Visitors Bureau will continue as the contract holder to receive the proceeds from the County’s lodging tax money.
Other proposals seeking portions of the tax revenue for specific projects included the Whale Museum, the Westcott Bay Institute, and the NW Workforce Development Council. The council has held a number of discussions over the lasts year as to who, for what reason, and under what conditions should be awarded the money, but in the end the Council decided to accept the recommendation of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, and continue to contract with a single entity for overall promotion, rather than fund individual projects.
The money collected this year may exceed $350,000.00, and as a requirement of the contract, 15% of the contract total will be divided equally in subcontracts to the Chambers of Commerce in Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands.
The goal of the contract with the San Juan Visitors Bureau is to attract visitors to the San Juan Islands, with an emphasis on the “off-peak season”
Something new this year is a requirement that 5 percent of the money should be -it was not clear if it is “should” or “required”- to be spent on “innovative promotions.” Councilman Alan Lichter has been critical in the past of how the money has been awarded, but did join in with his fellow councilmen in voting for the contract, but not without raising the question of what might an “innovative promotion” look like.
Wednesday, July 18th
Ballot Tracking System Derailed
County Auditor Milene Henley announced today that San Juan County will discontinue use of the feature of its ballot tracking system which allows individual voters to verify that their ballots have been counted.
CC Upholds PW On Stormwater Appeal
(Left to right: Gordon & Lori Petersen, & Karen Vedder Listen As CC Discusses Appeal)
The County Council (Council) has denied a “request for relief from storm water utility fees” that had been filed by Gordon & Lori Petersen. (Past story)
The Council held what was billed as a “Public Hearing” on Tuesday to hear arguments that a stormwater “fee” imposed on all developed property in San Juan County should not be collected from property owners unless there is a “service” provided to the property owner.
The “Public Hearing” label turned out to incorrect, since it was an appeal of a decision, and not a public hearing, so members of the public who had hoped to testify were barred from dong so; and were not informed of such until the meeting was closed by Chairman Bob Myhr
But if that came as a surprise at the end of the meeting, the big surprise was at the beginning, when Deputy Prosecutor Karen Vedder informed the Council that because the Petersen’s had submitted a brief (i.e. their arguments) to the Council on July 9, but failed to send a copy of the brief to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, the information and arguments in the brief should not be allowed to appear in the record. This was the first time the Council had knowledge of this objection, and it was also news to the Petersens’.
Vedder said she had been on vacation, and when she returned on July 16th no brief had been received by her office, and that the Jon Cain -acting attorney for he County Council- told her the Council had not received a brief. Vedder said she only learned that morning that one had been submitted to the Council on the 9th, and therefore had not had time to read it.
Councilman Gene Knapp, a former County Prosecutor (and Vedder’s boss at the time), suggested to the Council that the information be allowed, since the Petersen’s were not attorneys, and did not know that all parties were required to be served, and anyway “there was nothing new in the information”. The Council voted to allow the information into the record.
SWAC & Lichter Tour Some Dump Sites
(SWAC on site tour of one possible site for a transfer station)
The SWAC (Solid Waste Advisory Committee) was led on a tour by Public Works on Monday of three possible sites for the construction of a new solid waste facility. The committee members were joined by Councilman Alan Lichter, two members of the press, members of the public, some interested neighbors, and representatives for the owners of two of the potential sites.
The meeting was unusual from the normal SWAC meetings in several respects. While all SWAC meetings are open to the public, the public is limited to giving input at a prescribed time in the agenda, but in the field visits, there was active lobbying of the SWAC by members by the public as to why one site was better -or worse- than another.
And then there was Councilman Alan Lichter, who is still official listed as the Council liaison between the Council and SWAC, but under the Charter, the Council has questioned why there should be liaison appointments after the Charter took effect, since there is now a County Administrator who fills that role.
When asked by The Island Guardian about his actions, Lichter said that until there is action by the Council to remove the liaison appointments, he felt he still had that role to play. Lichter had left the Monday Council meeting to make the tour, and did not return at the end of the tour to re-join the afternoon session of the Council.
After Lichter had left to make the site tour, the subject came up during a discussion on council sub-committees, and the question was raised if they needed one for solid waste. Councilman Gene Knapp - a former Freeholder- asked “Is solid waste even in our bailiwick?“ and added that “I don’t think we should be out in the field picking out a site”. In the past Knapp said “I thought we got rid of the liaison assignments?”
Tuesday, July 17th
Mr. Ranker Goes To Washington
Councilman Kevin Ranker is off to the Washington D.C to join a panel dealing with the national Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), and also to do a bit of lobbying for San Juan County. Ranker was invited by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to join in a policy planning “Experts Meeting”.
The U.S. Congress approved the CZMA in 1972 to work with states to conserve coastal resources, protect the environment and set standards for development. According to a SJC press release, Ranker and twenty-seven others will participate in “the final phase of a project aimed at developing priorities and strategies for a reauthorized CZMA.
While there, Ranker told the County Council that he plans to meet with Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Representatives Rick Larson, and Norm Dicks, to discuss a select few of the County priorities that the Council agreed Kevin could bring up on his trip. Ranker has stated that he hopes to “help make our local issues, such as the preservation of Mitchell Hill and protecting our local orca whale population, federal priorities.”
During a discussion of his trip with the Council prior to his departure, Ranker said that if he introduces issues other than those agreed upon by the Council, he will be clear that he is speaking as “an elected official of San Juan County”, but not as a spokesman for the Council.
Ranker also informed the Council that a portion of his travel expenses will be picked up by NOAA, but not all.
Whale Museum Land Based Wildlife Tours
Thursday through Monday (through September 3, 2007) The Whale Museum is offering a new three hour Land Based Wildlife Tour of San Juan Island with a trained naturalist. Their tour begins with a drive out to the west side of San Juan Island stopping at historic American Camp, inter-tidal exploration at Cattle Point, and a hike to the lighthouse for beautiful views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait.
The tour also stops at Lime Kiln Point State Park, the nations’ only “Whale Watch Park.” Explore the old lime kiln and take a chance on viewing the killer whales if they happen to be in the area. The naturalist guide will also talk about the research that takes place at the park by visiting biologists. If time permits, a stop at historic English Camp for a short hike will be included.
Participants should bring cameras and binoculars, as only a limited number of binoculars are available on the tour. Wear sturdy shoes for hiking and bring a light jacket. Water, and snacks are included, just in case.
The fee for the tour is $45.00 per person, kids under 5 are free, and admission to the Museum is included.
Tours take place from Thursday through Monday, 1:00PM – 4:00PM. Participants are to meet at The Whale Museum, 62 First St. N. in Friday Harbor.
For more information please contact the Museum at 360-378-4710 ext. 41.
Monday, July 16th
Bad News/Good News
( Firefighters participating in wildland firefighting course)
The bad news is that all burn permits have expired for the season. Currently recreational fires up to two feet in diameter in approved burn rings are allowed.
With the warming temperatures and lower humidity, the Department reminds you to be careful when working around dry grass or other fuels. Many local fires have been started in the pasts by lawn mowers or weed eater striking a rock and causing sparks that ignite dry grass.
The good news -while were on the subject of wildfires- is that nineteen new wildland firefighters have joined the volunteer ranks in San Juan County. Four firefighters from Lopez Island, and 15 from San Juan have completed San Juan Island Fire Department’s Wildland Firefighter 2 course.
Orcas Island Recreation Program
Orcas Island Recreation has several programs starting on the 16th, and running through the 26th.
Day Camp For Children Ages 3 - 6
July 16-20 (9:30 am - 12:30 pm) (elementary school room 410)
Boys and girls ages 3-6 will love getting together at this annual Recreation Program camp! Outside and inside activities such as games, stories, puzzles, music, art projects, building, and playing with new friends are sure to be enjoyed by your little ones. Snack will be provided. Please bring a lunch. You may register for the week or by the day. Drop-ins are okay though pre-registration is appreciated (376-5339). Parents are welcome to stick around during the camp.
$60/session or $15/day. Sponsored by the Orcas Island Recreation Program
Wags To Riches
Tickets are now on sale for the The Animal Protection Society of Friday Harbor’s third annual Wags to Riches event.
There will be a gourmet picnic & spirits put on by the staff & volunteers of the shelter, live music performed by the Kubatana Marimba Band and a silent and live auction with some great auction items. This year's event will feature a high-energy exhibition by 6 teams of WOOF D2 (Washington Owners of Flying Disc Dogs.
The will again be held at the home of Bob & Lissa McDowell on San Juan Island on Sunday, July 29 from 4pm to 8pm).
Tickets are $75 per person and are available now. Call the shelter for reservations, as ticket sales go fast. 378-2158
Saturday, July 14th
Inter-island Traffic Alert
With Sunday's arrival of the Hiyu, vehicle capacity on inter-island sailings will drop from the roughly 60 spaces available on the Illahee to about 30 spaces. Passenger capacity drops from more than 600 to 200. Both could be problems during the week Washington State Ferries says the Hiyu will be on the inter-island run.
The message from the county Ferry Advisory Committee is simply this: If you don't have to make an inter-island trip while the Hiyu is up here -- especially between Friday Harbor and Orcas -- don't.
Data gathered by the Ferry Advisory Committee from terminal agents show the Hiyu will be overloaded on every sailing except the first one out of Friday Harbor each weekday. The wait between boats, as you all know, runs about three hours.
WSF has dropped the restrictions on inter-island vehicle traffic on boats out of Anacortes to try to soften the impact of the Hiyu, but that will provide little or no relief for travel between Orcas and Friday Harbor because only the afternoon international boat makes that connection in the summer.
The best response to this significant cut in capacity is to avoid inter-island travel if you possibly can until a boat that can handle the summer capacity returns to the route.
Friday, July 13th
What Were They Thinking?
(Private contractor at work on street improvement in Friday Harbor)
The Town is removing the right-hand turn lane from one of the busiest intersections in town. The public has noticed that the turn lane is being removed, and are asking why is the Town restricting the flow of traffic on an intersection that is already a bottle neck, with cars backed up for over a block on weekday mornings and late afternoons?
The work is in response to a petition to install an additional cross walk on the uphill side of the intersection of Spring street and Blair, so that students do not have to use the three existing cross walks to cross on the uphill side of the street.
The petition was signed by 40 people, including staff, parents, and students of the San Juan School District and the Spring Street international School. The petition states that it is “inevitable that a collision between a vehicle and a child will occur along that side of he intersection” unless the forth cross walk is installed. All the petition asked for was for the town to “construct” a cross walk on the street.
One of those watching the construction wondered “why the little ----- cannot use the existing cross walks.” The problem, according to the petition, is that apparently children being children, they will not use the existing crosswalks if it means making a “circuitous route offered by using the three other cross walks”.
Thursday, July 12th
Rescue Tug Coverage To Remain
Crowley Maritime Corp has agreed to continue a contract with the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to station a company rescue tug at Neah Bay for winter 2007-08.
Winter storms present a higher risk of oil spills from the more than 7,000 tankers and cargo ships traveling through the Strait each year. Cargo ships can carry more than 2 million gallons of fuel oil, and oil barges or tankers can carry up to 40 million gallons of oil.
A rescue tug has been stationed at Neah Bay since spring 1999. The tug has stood by or assisted 34 ships that were disabled or had reduced maneuvering or propulsion capability while transporting oil and other cargo along the coast and through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The actions helped ensure the ships didn't drift onto rocks and spill oil.
"The Neah Bay area is sacred to the Makah Tribe and Washington's coast is a world-class treasure," said Gov. Chris Gregoire. "Having a rescue tug stationed in the area, especially during the stormy winter months, means we can work to prevent catastrophic oil spills, keeping our beaches beautiful and our industries, such as shellfish, fishing and tourism, healthy as well.
Knapp, Myhr, Ranker & Lichter
Vote to File Suit Against Citizen
By Ray Bigler
Tuesday, July 10 2007, a very sad day for the citizens and voters of San Juan County.
On this day the County Council voted to file a law suit against Alex Gavora who is the petitioner of the first Referendum in San Juan County.
The motion was made by Gene Knapp and seconded by Kevin Ranker with Mhyr and Lichter voting yes and Peterson and Rosenfeld voting no. The motion carried and now Ms. Gavora must defend herself (and all the voters that signed the petition to put the referendum on the ballot) in a court of law.
This Council is going to use your money, my money and Ms. Gavora’s money to drag her through court and force here to spend additional money to defend herself and the rest of the voters of San Juan County. Welcome to the American Way, San Juan County style, “Sue Thy Neighbor”.
It really does not matter how you spin this or what legal mumbo jumbo one uses to justify this action. The bottom line is if you decide to use the Referendum or Initiative process allowed in our Home Rule Charter you better have a war chest of money set aside because you can be open for legal action by our County Council and Prosecutor.
Oh, did I mention that the language for the Referendum was drawn up by the Prosecutors office, and also that it was the Prosecutors office that recommended the County file this law suit after the fact.
Oh, and did you know that Gene Knapp was one on the Freeholders that drafted the Home Rule Charter, which he just cut the leg off of? Our County Council could have avoided all of this by simply revoking the ordinance that created this new storm water tax and reopened the discussion on how to fund storm water.
Instead they opted to file suit against the first citizen/voter that filed a Referendum. The issue here is not the Storm Water Ordinance, but the method of funding, and whether the voters should have a say in the process.
I am sure that the new Spin Doctor (communications coordinator) will be able to twist this into something that resembles a good thing for the voters of San Juan County. Imagine what he could have done with the 73% vote on guest houses that the then three commissioners ignored (on this issue they ignored the advice of the Prosecutor).
Spin it any way you like, it is a classic case of the County Council (except two) ignoring the will of the voters. Oh, the campaign promises that have been forgotten! What happened to a more open and transparent government, and listening to the will of the voters? I don’t recall anything about suing the citizens/voters in any of these promises.
State Wide Recognition For Local Firefighter
Robin Dyer, firefighter and rescue team member at San Juan Island Fire Department was awarded the Chief Justice Hugh Rosellini perpetual trophy for scholastic excellence at the 2007 Washington State Firefighters Association Fire School. Firefighter Dyer achieved the highest test score of any of the women that have won the trophy since it was first awarded in 1931. The test scores of all firefighters participating in the scholastic track of the week long conference are compared in selecting the annual winner.
Robin completed classes in compressed air foam pumping operations, vehicle extraction using air bags, rapid intervention (saving trapped firefighters), air supply management (while in a burning structure), situational awareness, crew management and personal accountability. Robin has been serving the community as a member of the San Juan Island Fire Department since 2001, and was featured in the San Juan Journal as Firefighter of the Month in January 2007.
The Town Deserves A Round Of Applause
By Lori Stokes
Did you happen to look around – REALLY look around—at the Town’s streets and sidewalks when you came to see the parade on July 4th? I hope you did, because you would have noticed a big difference in how clean the Town is these days. This year’s budget included the addition of a new employee who, along with other Town employees, is spending a part of his time picking up litter as well as washing down streets and sidewalks.
I used to do nothing but complain about how dirty the Town was. I was embarrassed to live in a place where residents and tourists alike simply had to put up with cigarette butts, dirty napkins, empty soda cans and water bottles, Styrofoam food containers, etc. that had been carelessly (or deliberately) dropped and then simply left where they had fallen.
I guess I’m going to have to find something else to complain about. Now when I’m out walking my pooch early in the morning, I almost always encounter a Town employee sweeping a sidewalk or a gutter, emptying a trash can, driving a truck that is washing the street, or using that wonderful leaf blower that sucks up litter when you put it in its “reverse” gear. In the olden days, I would pass by a candy wrapper in the alley by the movie theater, and that same candy wrapper would linger there for weeks and weeks. Now if I pass by a candy wrapper in the alley, it’s gone by the very next day.
Three cheers for the incredible effort the Town is putting in to help make Friday Harbor look its very best. And three cheers for all the islanders who have gotten Captain Pick-It Up’s message that litter simply doesn’t belong in this beautiful place.
(Lori Stokes is a member of the San Juan Island Anit-Litter Initiative)
Wednesday, July 11th
4 To 2 CC Vote To Sue On Referendum
The County Council will be going to court to see if the first referendum filed in San Juan County may proceed. As a result of the vote, the court will now decide if citizens also have the right to vote on a storm water fee, or can only the Council -as it has done- impose the fee by voting. (Background story)
After the vote, Alex Gavora, who will now be sued by the County said "Today's action by the majority of the County Council in voting to take the referendum to court is completely hostile to the voters of San Juan County and the Home Rule form of government."
The question for the court to decide is, if the the fee is a land use action, or was it simply a funding action that is outside of GMA land use review. The Prosecutor’s office thinks it may be under the GMA umbrella, while others believe it is too far removed to be considered a land use issue.
In a four to two vote on Tuesday, the CC passed a two part motion made by Gene Knapp that instructed Prosecutor Randy Gaylord to file a lawsuit against Alex Gavora, one of the citizens who collected the necessary signatures required to place the referendum on the ballot, and in addition to the legal action, the Council will also solicit public input on the current ordinance that imposes the fee on all developed property.
The object of the second part of the motion was to review the existing ordinance for possible changes, as a way to address the concerns of the over two thousand voters who signed the petition to allow a popular vote on the fee.
$95K For Salmon Recovery
Two San Juan County organizations have been awarded $95,000 in grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and state Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB). The money will be used for community-based salmon restoration projects along waterways in San Juan County, including developing a nearshore and wetland protection and restoration blueprint for Waldron island, and restoring fish passage within Shoal Bay by removing a derelict tide gate.
The Waldron project award goes to KWIAHT (Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea). They are providing scientific and engineering support to a grassroots initiative by Waldron Island landowners to devise a beach and wetland protection and restoration blueprint focused on identifying measures to protect and enhance habitats that contribute to the prey base for out-migrating juvenile salmon.
The second group receiving a grant are the Friends of the San Juans (FSJ), for a project that is restoring fish passage, improving water quality and reconnecting a five-acre coastal lagoon with the critical nearshore marine ecosystem of Shoal Bay by removing a derelict tide gate and restoring the tidal channel.
SJ Islands Ranked #4 By Travel + Leisure
San Juan County is getting more attention as a tourist destinations. Travel + Leisure Magazine’s 2007 World's Best Awards has the San Juan Islands ranked #4, on a list of the top 5 Islands in the Continental U.S. and Canada.
Travel + Leisure is one of the world’s leading travel magazines, with a circulation of nearly one million. This is the highest ranking to be achieved by the San Juans in this annual awards program, with only a five percentage point spread between the first and the fourth ranked destinations. The top five are: Vancouver Island; Cape Breton Island; Mount Desert Island; the San Juan Islands, and Cumberland Island.
The rankings are based on Travel + Leisure’s 12th annual survey of readers' favorites. These results are featured in the August issue of the magazine; and the annual survey cab be found online at http://www.travelandleisure.com/worldsbest/2007/results.cfm?cat=islandsusca
Criteria for judging islands included natural attractions, activities/sights, restaurants/food, people and value. The San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau website (www.VisitSanJuans.com) lists what specifically the SJ Islands offer in these categories,
Tuesday, July 10th
Storm Water Referendum: CC To Court?
The County Council (CC) will conduct a “Reconsideration of Declaration Judgment on Storm Water Referendum” today, Tuesday, July 10, 2007, at 9:00 am (at Islanders Bank, downstairs). As previously reported , the CC has been advised by the County Prosecutor that if they decide to go to Court and challenge the validity of the public to vote on the collection of a new fee -now included on their property tax bill- the Court may side with the CC. If so, this would allow the CC to stop the public from voting on the fee.
Alex Gavora -who filed the petitions that will place the referendum on the ballot- told the CC that just the act of starting a law suit to stop the public from voting will have a negative impact on the ballot measure, even if the County loses the case. Gavora is concerned that there is very little time left to have a full discussion of the pros and cons of the referendum that are necessary to educate the voter.
When the CC voted at their last meeting to go to court to stop the referendum, Councilman Gene Knapp was absent, and the motion failed to pass. With the return of Knapp, it is expected a new vote will be successful, since Knapp has expressed concern about storm water issues in Eastsound; and since the money collected county wide will be used initially to install a storm water system in Eastsound, and given that Knapp represents Eastsound, it is expected he will cast the deciding vote to go to court.
If the vote is successful, the property owners in Eastsound will not be forced to purchase bonds, or tax themselves, to install a storm water system, such as was done by the town of Friday Harbor.
Later in the day, At 11:15 a.m., the CC will hold a Public Hearing to consider an Ordinance Adopting Rules of Procedure for Council , and then at 1:30 there will be a briefing on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee Ordinance
Island Style Ride Sharing
On a local level, what can residents of San Juan County do about climate change? Liza Michaelson suggests sjRIDESHARE as a way to “revisit an old established tradition, hitch-hiking, for beneficial alternative transportation. In years past it was not an uncommon mode of transportation in the islands, but in more recent years the patterns have changed, and fewer people are seen thumbing rides.”
Members of sjRIDESHARE are working to bring hitch-hiking back in a safe and conscious way with a system of signs posted designating safe hitching sites. In the photo at the right, San Juan Island resident Liza Michaelson, and her mother Prue Kaye visiting from Corvallis Oregon, recently hitched a ride from the sjRIDESHARE sign on Mullis to American Camp National Park
The sjRIDESHARE committee would like to encourage all county residents to consider the possibility of planning a day or two each week when they could live without driving their car, and also consider stopping to pick up fellow islanders seeking rides. Sharing our rides will incrementally reduce fuel consumption and resulting greenhouse gases, ease traffic and parking in town, and help build community connections and goodwill.
Monday, July 9th
Fair Warning: Calling All Writers!
The San Juan County Fair wants YOUR creative output! and the submission deadline is July 16th) All local writers, young and old, are encouraged to submit their original, unpublished pieces to this year’s Written Word Event at the Fair. Categories include creative non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and short fiction for children. All youth authors (ages 10 and under) will receive a ribbon and a special prize. Prize money will be awarded to adult authors (aged 18 and older) and young adult authors (aged 11 to 17).
Judges for this year’s Written Word include local authors Susan Wingate and Janet Thomas, local poets John Sangster and Terri Clark, songwriter & graphic designer Ian Byington, youth services librarian Shannan Sword, and teacher & mentor Barbara Bevens.
Submission deadline is July 16th (postmarked no later than July 16, 2007). For all the nitty gritty about submission guidelines, visit www.thewrittenwordsjcf.blogspot.com/ or www.sanjuancountyfair.org Mail your hard copies to San Juan County Fair, The Written Word, P.O. Box 1094, Friday Harbor, WA 98250 (sorry, no electronic submissions). For a copy of the guidelines, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Written Word Super Carrie at 378-2785. The Written Word is sponsored by the Friends of the SJI Library.
Sunday, July 8th
A Canadian View Of Transborder Agreement
We were recently contacted by Orcas islander Bea vonTobel, who suggested that a recent reading on CBC by Salt Spring author Arthur Black may be of interest to our readers. The content was aimed at a Canadian audience, but since the subject was the Transborder Island Agreement that was recently signed by the San Juan County Council and the Canadian Island Trust, we agreed it was timely. With permission from Mr. Black, here is his take on the agreement between SJC and the Trust:
By Arthur Black
The line that divides our country from the folks down south does a wonky little step dance once it reaches my neck of the woods – or water. For a little over 2,000 kilometres – from the Manitoba-Ontario boundary ‘til it hits the Pacific, the Canada/US border runs straighter than the part in Preston Manning’s hair. But after it passes Point Roberts the border dipsy doodles and zigs and zags, threading its way between the American San Juans and the Canadian Gulf Islands, ducking around the nether end of Vancouver Island until if finally scoots up and out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As a result, I and a hundred and some-odd thousand other British Columbians actually live below the fabled 49th parallel.
Well, big deal. So does everybody in southern Ontario, lower Quebec, all of the Maritimes and most of Newfoundland. And anyway, the idea of a stable, fixed border between the San Juans and the Gulf Islands is kind of silly, given that it’s tidal water that we’re talking about.
Friday, July 6th
9 More Affordable Homes In FH
Homes for Islanders (HFI) announces nine new homes will be constructed in Friday Harbor On June 14th the Rural Community Assistance Corp. (RCAC) announced a $640,000 loan to purchase and develop the site at the corner of Park and Guard St. in Friday Harbor. On June 20th a loan of $135,000 of Self Help Opportunity Program (SHOP) funds was approved by Community Frameworks. Community Frameworks is a regional distributor of federal SHOP funds.
On June 27th, the Washington Dept. of Community Trade and Economic Development announced the conditional award of $420,000 in Housing Trust funds to Home for Islanders for homeowner’s down payment assistance for the Park Street development.
Shortly, HFI anticipates that USDA-Rural Development assisted mortgage loans will be approved to complete the financing.
Superpod Of Orca In Strait Of Georgia
(Center for Whale Research photo: by Dave Ellifrit
the Center for Whale Research has announded that they “can confirm K-pod and most of the remaining L's returned to the San Juan Islands July 4, 2007.
The arriving whales were first reported in Johnstone Strait heading south into Blackfish Sound on July 2, 2007 by Mary Borrowman of Stubbs Island Whale Watching. The whales then engaged in a "superpod" gathering in the Strait of Georgia during the afternoon of July 4, 2007.”
A superpod occurs when two or more pod families are in the same area. and appear to be moving together. or near each other.
Thursday, July 5th
The 4th In Friday Harbor
(Friday Harbor fireworks -Marc Forlenza photo)
Breaking News: Boater Missing
(<8:00 a.m.>)The San Juan Co. Sheriff's Office and the Orcas Fire Dept are conducting a concentrated ground search today on Jones Island for a boater from Des Moines, WA. William Larry Hickman, age 60, (photo left) was first reported missing by his wife to the US Coast Guard on Tuesday, July 3 at approx 10 AM.
The Coast Guard dispatched a nearby patrol boat to Jones Island and found the 38' Bayliner belonging to Mr. Hickman at anchor in the cove on the north side of the island. The 17' Boston Whale serving as a tender to the Bayliner was also located on the public dock with the boat canvas attached and covering the electronics.
The Bayliner was also left open and unlocked. On Tuesday the Sheriff and Undersheriff searched the vessel and found the cabin area to be normal and without any indication of foul play. They also contacted campers and park personnel on the island regarding the missing boater.
A search of the island was also conducted without success. On Wednesday afternoon Sheriff's Office divers conducted an underwater search of the public dock area and below the Bayliner without any success. Orcas Fire Department has 5 teams, 2 man each, on Jones Island today, along with Sheriff Cumming and Undersheriff Zerby and Washington State Park personnel and are conducting an intensive ground search of the entire island.
4th Of July
(Councilman Rich Peterson with a good viewing spot to watch the parade)
Were not sure if this was the longest 4th of July parade held in Friday Harbor, but we are sure it was well attended, with folks crowding the sidewalks all the way up Spring Street for several blocks, and some of the parade entries reflected a good deal of cleverness and hard work. Wonderful weather with a slight breeze, service clubs serving, veterans marching, tractors and marching bands, and little kids all over the place. It was a great 4th.
Tuesday, July 3rd
Suffering “The Worst of Both Worlds”
by Charlie Bodenstab
Back in the days of the Viet Nam conflict I began to develop a belief that has become stronger with time and has solidified with the current war in Iraq. Specifically: “A modern nation, no matter how technologically advanced or superior in weaponry cannot force its will on a nation, or other population, who do not value their own lives or the lives of their own people.”
When the enemy co-mingles with the civilian population with total disregard for consequences, they totally negate the technological advantage of the other party. In the current case, our troops are fighting in a nightmarish environment where the odds are stacked against them despite our facade of superiority.
Monday, July 2nd
And Another Multi-Vehicle Accident On SJI
The holiday week is not getting off to a very good start accident wise. First there was the accident on Madden Lane (story below), and then Monday, another multi-vehicle accident occurred on San Juan Island.
In the latest accident, a car stops in the road at the entrance to Lake Dale Resort, and a tractor-trailer rig coming north bound on Roche Harbor road locks up the brakes in an attempt to stop, but the truck begins a braking jackknife into the south bound lane. Heading southbound, the driver of a SUV sees the truck, hits their brakes, but the sliding truck hits side the side of the SUV, causing it to hit head-on into the end of the guard rail.
A second southbound SUV is following behind the first one veers to the right to avoid the occurring accident, and in the process picks-off a bicyclist; the SUV and the bicycle heads down the hill, stopping just short of going into the lake.
Aid attends to the driver of the SUV and the bicyclist. The truck driver and his passenger, and the driver of the second SUV and his passenger were uninjured.
Four Car Accident Sends Two To Hospital
Two cars on San Juan Island avoided a head-on collision by side-swiping each other, then both went into a ditch on Madden lane. In an attempt to avoid the accident of the first two, two others also went into a ditch, and while in the ditch ran into each other head-on, but by that time the impact was minimal.
If there is any good news in any of this, it is that only two people were injured to the extent that they needed to be airlifted off of the island to Harbor View for treatment of what may be internal injuries, but not believed to be life threatening..
Sheriff Bill Cumming, told The Island Guardian that alcohol is suspected as having played a role in the accident, and a full investigation of the accident is in progress.
“Timebenders” Return To SJ On 4th
The popular show band Timebenders of Victoria B.C. will be the featured band again this year for Rock the Dock, the annual Fourth of July family street dance held on the Friday Harbor waterfront. The Gurus of Retro Rock, this 8-piece ensemble delivers fast-paced, zany antics fueled by straight up rock n' roll energy.
“We bring the band back every year because they are such a huge hit with families who want to celebrate the fourth together,” commented Rotary President Jack McKenna. “It’s not uncommon to see three generations rocking out in front of the stage.”
Two 75 minute power show sets take you through the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's respectively, highlighting the decade's big stars and memorable dance classics.
Sunday, July 1st
F H Fire Department Rescues Flag
While it does not rise to the level of the Iwo Jima photo, or the Twin Towers flag raising, the photo above shows that Fire Fighters are always on hand to solve a problem. In this case thanks are also due to the National Park Staff to have had the good sense to ask for assistance from the Friday Harbor Fire Department in solving a problem with the flag pole, in what would could have been a Independence Day embarrassment for the staff at American Camp..
According to Assistant Town Fire Chief Tom Eades, the crew at American Camp were raising their American flag up the 90-foot wooden flag pole, when the halyard slipped off the pulley at the top; leaving the flag flying a little above half staff.
A quick call was made to Fire District 3, to advise them of the need for a response in their area, and a decision was made to request Friday Harbor's Engine 7, with it's 65-foot aerial ladder, to attempt to remove the flag from the pole.
Six Town personnel responded, with a four man crew driving the heavy engine the wrong way through the visitor center parking lot; then 600-feet down a gravel trail, before backing another 70-feet through tall grass, through a hole in the fence to get to the base of the flag pole. A firefighter was assigned to follow the engine with a water extinguisher, in case the hot exhaust were to start a fire.
Eades says with the aerial fully extended, at near-vertical elevation, the flag was still out of reach. A two person crew was finally able to cut the halyard and lower the flag after approximately 30 minutes, using a Park Service gas-powered pole saw. The flag was slowly lowered into it's carrying bin, having never touched the ground.