04/10/2008: "LETTERS ON A SAN JUAN AQUATIC RESERVE"
(Editor's note: The following letters are in response to stories on Aquatic Reserve )
I was personally offended by the proceedings of the San Juan County Council on April 15, 2008.
A lynch mob appeared before the scheduled meeting with the Marine Resource Council. This pre-emptive group came prepared to hang the issue of the proposed Aquatic Reserve before it was placed in front of a wider audience for discussion.
The gentleman that spoke against a Marine Sanctuary typified the tone of the gathering. Councilman Rosenfeld corrected his mistake by letting him know that we were discussing an Aquatic Reserve proposal, not a Marine Sanctuary. He hollered that he did not care what it was called, inferring that it looked green so let’s kill it.
My comments were considered to be too lengthy and I was asked to submit my arguments to the Clerk. My voice should have been heard before Rich Peterson made a motion to dismiss the entire dialogue. My letter was ignored and never read.
The right to vote is basic. I would like to protest the procedure of this meeting and appeal for the issue on an Aquatic Reserve to be re-opened to a wider audience. It was disappointing to have my voice so readily dismissed.
If arguments from proponents of the Aquatic Reserve were heard before Mr. Peterson’s ad hoc motion was made, then perhaps the decision would have been different.
San Juan Island
Usually when I write something I proofread it to make sure it clearly says what I mean it to say.
After reading Kit Rawson’s response (see letter below) to my recent letter to the editor I had to go back to my letter and reread it to find any references to “outsiders” and exclusion of “outsiders’ from participation in local affairs.”
Nope… nothing about “outsiders”.
I sure get a kick out of the Clintonesque way he put words in my mouth.
I was pretty clear. I was talking about Kit Rawson. When it comes to “outsiders” I take ‘em one at a time.
I am sorry if I hurt his feelings.
Nevertheless I have to differ with Kit on his claim “it is my neighborhood, too.” He needs to truly live here to make that claim. But until he does I suggest he get one of those license plate frames that says “FRIDAY HARBOR -- SAN JUAN ISLAND”.
Nothing screams “I’M A LOCAL” like one of those.
“Good hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even when you wish they were!” Alfred E. Newman
Scott Bell (not bitter yet).
To the Editor:
Scott Bell asks if I could ". . . keep to [my] own neighborhood instead of coming to [his] . . . " (letter 4/10/2008). Well, I am planning to come to the courthouse in Friday Harbor on April 15 to pay my semi-annual property tax, the fifty-second such payment my wife and I have made since 1982. Perhaps Scott could arrange it so that the County would allow me to keep my money since he would like to exclude ‘outsiders’ from participation in local affairs.
Scott, you can't change the facts that I care deeply about the San Juan Islands, have spent significant time here since 1976, built my own house here, have good friends here, and for the past seven years have worked hard with a group of dedicated MRC members and partners on community-based solutions to marine resource protection. I hope that we can still talk when we meet at parties and that you will still say “Hi” when you see me on the street. It is my neighborhood, too, Scott. I'm glad you are part of it.
San Juan Island
When you hosted the Open House Meeting on Friday 4 April 2008 in Friday Harbor for the Proposed San Juan Islands Aquatic Reserve, you failed to disclose that you are employed by the Tulalip Tribes as a Fisheries Expert. You simply introduced yourself as Chairman of the Marine Resources Committee for San Juan County.
The San Juan County Council will meet at 1000 Tuesday 15 April 2008 to discuss the MRC Proposed San Juan Islands Aquatic Reserve. I and my fellow Islanders fully expect you to be present to answer our questions in front of the San Juan County Council.
Chairman Rawson..........we expect you to explain your position on the County Council appointed Marine Resources Committee and the appearance of a clear conflict of interest.
As you found at 4 April's MRC Open House Meeting, the Citizens of San Juan County do not wish to relinquish local control of County waters to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for the next 90 years.
The published accounts of our first public meetings on the Marine Resource Committee’s draft application to establish an Aquatic Reserve in San Juan County’s waters have been colorful and generally accurate. Quite frankly, we were not prepared for the level of concern and passion expressed by the public in those meetings. (related story)
Citizens expressed serious concerns about whether establishing an Aquatic Reserve could ultimately restrict their ability to use and enjoy the waters that comprise most of our county. Some were suspicious because we were late in completing and distributing the draft of our application. County Council members were rightly upset because they heard these concerns from citizens before we had briefed the Council.
It is important to emphasize that regulation of fishing is not within the purview of an aquatic reserve and we want to say very plainly that an Aquatic Reserve would not create new regulatory authorities. But we believe it would set up a more coherent way of protecting the county’s marine resources. Currently, the County regulates development to the county boundaries, including the area underwater. DNR, however, is the steward of most tidelands and bedlands and has its own authority over public use of aquatic lands. That can cause confusion, duplication of effort and – at times – the two entities end up working at cross purposes.
The Marine Resources Committee did rush this portion of the process to meet an application deadline and in doing so made a serious mistake. We viewed the application as simply the beginning of a two-year process of public discussion and debate. But at the public meetings, we heard in no uncertain terms that many people do not want to begin this process without a clear picture of where it may lead.
We still feel that establishing the Aquatic Reserve would be a great benefit to San Juan County, but in keeping with the role of the MRC, we can only proceed with the trust and cooperation of the fishermen, boaters, whale watchers, shoreline property owners and others whose living and quality of life depend on our marine environment.
Next week, we will ask the County Council if they agree that we should slow down but not totally abandon the process, and let the public and the Council examine what is really at stake – what advantages and potential drawbacks an Aquatic Reserve designation could offer. We would complete the application process only if we gain the active support of the public and its elected officials and only if so authorized by the County Council.
Because of the nature of the state’s Aquatic Reserve program, we can’t be certain that this opportunity will be available later, but clearly we have much more to lose than gain if this debate creates long-term divisions and distrust concerning the very resource that defines and unifies our community.
Kit Rawson, Chair, and Jim Slocomb, Vice Chair
San Juan County Marine Resources Committee
I wish I was able to write such insightful, intelligent, and succinct pieces as Gordy (Jelly Jar) and Lori Petersen (Letter to DNR) and now Janice Peterson (Guest Editorial) but my skills are direct evidence of a balanced diet of Mad Magazine, The Daily Show, and the Colbert Report.
Nevertheless, I do have some questions…
Couldn’t we just toss the GMA back to the State and trade the loss of funds for autonomy and independence? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a private conversation?
We got rid of jet skis. It was pretty much agreed that they were a noisy nuisance. How about the Friends of the San Juans?
It takes 90 days for a divorce or a passport…let’s put the DNR and the MRC on a 90 year waiting period. Or is that not enough time for them using “best available science” to discover simple manners and simple English?
And finally…maybe Kit Rawson could keep to his own neighborhood instead of coming to ours. HE DOESN’T LIVE HERE! Aren’t we trying to slow down growth?
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.” Alfred E. Newman
All right then…keep your heads down and watch out for sniper fire.
(the loud one)
Friday HarborSan Juan County Marine Resources Committee
Dear Mr. Sutherland,
We are very concerned about the proposal for an Aquatic Reserve for the San Juan Islands. We oppose this designation for the following reasons.
The Marine Resource Council claims that they are the “lead agents for this proposal”. They do not represent us. They have no legal standing to negotiate directly with a State agency on behalf of the citizens of San Juan County. The MRC is not made up of a balanced group of citizens as is required by its founding charter. Some members are paid lobbyists from outside special interest groups and do not represent the interests of local residents at all. We believe that our local elected County Council is our only legal representative in this process. We urge them to involve the public through the legal public hearing process.
The shift in focus of priorities from commercial and recreational bottomland leases in favor of strict conservation uses will have a negative impact upon island transportation, our local economy, and recreation. Boats are not a luxury to islanders. They are an integral part of our history and heritage. While some environmental groups wish to see human activity reduced or eliminated in marine preserves a majority of the citizens need to live and make a living here. We don’t want our home turned into a pseudo-research lab for the next 90-years.
Because we are islands, boats are essential to our way of life. I was a commuter between my two grocery store businesses for many years. I depend upon docks and a boat that are in good repair. Our island economy depends on maintaining boat repair facilities and dock construction activities. It has been our sad experience that these activities are already too restricted. We don’t need a new DNR focus that will add another layer of intense scrutiny to the already onerous permit process that restricts our ability to boat safely and freely in our home waters.
Our fragile local economy and the economies in the surrounding north-sound region may be directly and negatively affected by a shift in DNR legislative priorities. Tourism and recreational uses will be the lowest priority when viewed through the lens of preservation. Laws that apply to Aquatic Reserves will limit new and existing recreational and commercial uses. During the 90-year period of this priority shift, the growth of our local economy will be artificially stifled. Counties competing with the San Juans for dollars from tourism and recreational industries will have an advantage if they have no aquatic reserve status while our ability to provide marine related services is restricted.
The San Juan archipelago has the most shoreline of any county in the State. DNR has a great opportunity lease bottomlands to generate funds for the public good. Locking up this opportunity for 90-years may not be in the best interest of the people of Washington State.
There will be many challenges for our islands in the future. With increased population fresh water supplies may become critical. Technology will likely make Desalinization an affordable option. We are concerned that saltwater intakes and outfalls that serve the needs of people may not be a priority over preservation in an aquatic reserve. We feel human needs should be balanced with the environment in our community not restricted in favor of it.
We are also concerned about the impacts of reserve status on upland property. Property rights may be impacted in unanticipated ways. The example of storm water runoff has the potential to impact every property in the County. So far this plan has not provided specific details about impacts of upland and shoreline property. The time for citizen review has been inadequate.
On the other hand local regulation has been more than adequate. We have the most pristine waters in the State and we have our own laws in place that will keep it that way. If your department wants to create more aquatic reserves please look elsewhere.
Thank you, respectfully,
Gordon and Lori Petersen
San Juan Island
San Juan County Council
The Island Guardian
(Doug Sutherland is the Commissioner of Public lands, and as such is the head of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) -Editor)