10/06/2010: "Letters On CAO Process"
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to a number of letters regarding our Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) published in the Island Guardian and other papers.
Mr. Kaill ("Open Letter to County Council") complained that those asking questions during a recent CAO workshop were just property owners concerned about their "economic interests" and natural resources "need to be protected from property owners and their by-products." Ms. Alderton ("Bellies or Buffers") elsewhere argues that big buffers are needed to protect us from non-ionic surfactants.
I do not understand how the questions that are being asked about the CAO will somehow result in a "loosening of protections." Although property owners are rightly concerned about the value of their homes, because for most families the home is their principal investment, most islanders are also vitally interested in protecting the environment. Why should property owners be expected to roll over and accept-without any question-any environmental protection regulation proposed by those whose jobs depend on finding more problems and imposing more regulation.
We have been asking "What is the connection between a house built to County standards, and pollution in Puget Sound or the Salish Sea?" Instead of a direct answer, however, we are told that 500,000 pounds of non-ionic surfactants are produced each year in the United States, or that 150,000 pounds of toxins spill into Puget Sound daily. Neither of those data relate to San Juan County.
Mr. Kaill dismisses good stewardship in San Juan County claiming the rest of Puget Sound was also "seemingly developed in a responsible way." Equating the decades of mismanagement and neglect down Sound with our situation is ridiculous. Finally, while he urges putting the burden of establishing whether additional regulation is needed on property owners, under current law, the government must show that there is a problem that can be solved by proposed restriction that is roughly proportional to the harm that would otherwise be caused.
I encourage all islanders to participate in this complex policy-making process seeking reasonable, just, and defensible decisions protecting our environment and our people.
To the Editor:
I read with interest the article on human impacts in the latest Friends of the San Juan’s “FOSJ” publication. I was amazed at the amount of incorrect information that was presented in this article. The FOSJ have done an adequate job in identifying the shoreline modifications, and locations or potential locations of fish forage and eel grass sites. However, they never mentioned how these shoreline modifications affected or threatened that habitat. On what basis can they say shoreline structures are one of the greatest threats to coastal systems? It is just plain speculation without any valid Best Available Science “BAS” to back up these outlandish claims.
The Puget Sound Partners “PSP” funded a study of over 700 Kitsap County shoreline modifications. This report was analyzed by Dr. Flora, who found very minor negative impacts due to shoreline structures. As a Geotechnical Engineer who has lived and worked on the shoreline, I have yet to see any negative impacts due to shoreline modifications.
We keep hearing about all of these problems on our shorelines raised by Ecology, PSP, and the FOSJ. But yet, I have never seen any scientific reports that spell out real actual problems to our shorelines. They have not identified what they think the actual problems are, or what causes them.
There is concern about the affects of shoreline modifications on our salmon runs. The reality is that last year we had record runs of Pinks, and this year Sockeye appear to be even more abundant, the most in 100 years! Also, over the last decade our Orca pods have increased in population. It appears as if we are coming up with solutions without knowing if we have any problems. Purely political decisions are being made without considering the potential unforeseen consequences.
We have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to come up with these solutions. These solutions are almost always based on conjecture and pre-determined theory. No money has been spent to test the affect of modifications on our shoreline and upland habitat. Last year, at the panel discussion put on by the County Council, Dr. Fralick asked Ecology: “what affect does a shoreline house have on the shoreline?”. They could not answer that simple question.
The question and subsequent inadequate answer has since bothered me. Recently, the Common Sense Alliance authorized a study to try and answer that question. At several shoreline locations throughout San Juan Island, the soil was sampled between the house and shoreline. Each soil sample was tested for chemicals that would normally be expected from normal residential use. Also sampled were two vacant sites. The test results, which were within background level (acceptable), can be seen on the CSA web page. Also tested was Lawson Lake, the heaviest industrial site on the island. This area was found to be clean.
These test results are not conclusive, but stress the need for more studies to show that there are really no major problems on our island due to human habitation. The thousands of dollars spent to-date should have been used to see if we really have any environmental problems at all, rather than coming up with empty solutions.