01/26/2010: "Council Must Adopt Best Available Science"
The County Council will discuss a Staff Report at 3:00 pm Tuesday on how best to move forward to adopt BAS (Best Available Science).
They will do this in part by holding a teleconference with Professor Paul R. Adamus, who helped Island County adopt their BAS
County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord had informed the County Council they are required by state law to adopt the BAS that is to be used when reviewing the current CAO (Critical Area Ordinances) that governs what uses can be made of critical area lands in San Juan County.
Problem is, the County Council never quitre got around to doing that, for either the uplands or the shoreline. As a result the CAO citizens advisory committee struggled month after month to review and make recommendations on wholesale changes to the CAO without knowing for sure what BAS they should be using.
Or did they? When Gaylord informed the Council last month that it was their job to adopt the BAS, it did not take too long before they asked him if he had informed the citizens committee in the beginning that they needed to have adopted BAS to guide them.
Gaylord responded that he had not, but wished he had. When interviewed later he explained that he should have explained to the Council that while he personally had not informed the PC, they had been told by his office that the BAS would have to be adopted.
Anyone sitting in on the citizens advisory committee would not have received the impression the group were waiting for the Council to present them with the adopted BAS. One would have received the opinion that the group was hopelessly split on the whole question of what science to use.
At one point a large pile of papers were waved in the air as one side stated “The state has already decided what the BAS is. We have it right here, we don’t need to re-invent the wheel.”
The other side was not comfortable with accepting an assembled pile of studies from the state, some of which were already be challenged as not having been properly peer reviewed.
What now appears to have been missed in the heated discussions is not what is the BAS, but rather where is the County adopted BAS.
At this point, there is none. What there is, is two sections in the law that clearly state what needs to be done to adopt BAS, and potential adding to the confusion is the distinction that has been made by the Supreme Court that the uplands and shoreline are not to be dealt with as one.
The laws on BAS support that argument with respect to stating when and how BAS is to be adopted by the Council.
WAC 365-195-905 states the criteria for determining which information is the “best available science.” It states in part that “the Responsibility for including the best available science…rests with the legislative authority of the county.”
The law is even more specific on BAS and the shoreline. WAC 173-26-201 (2) (a) states: ”First, identify and assemble” the BAS that is “most applicable to the issues of concern.”