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Monday, June 15th


Council Needs To Review Union Contract

The County Council, after six months of negotiations, has signed a four year contract with Local 49 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal employees. The contract gives the represented employees a 1.25 percent cost of living increase, retroactive to January 2009, and another 1.25 percent increase effective July 1st. The contract sets costs of living increases at 3 percent for the remaining three years of the contract.

Contrast this to the fact that the County is in deep debt, income is down, unemployment is at a record high, and the fact that the US Government has notified me that there will be NO cost of living increases for those receiving Social Security in 2009, or for 2010 or the year after that!

This is the first time in seventeen years that the Government has not given a cost of living increase to those on Social Security...yet our County Council, while cutting their budget elsewhere, has given in to the unions once again and increased their pay and the burden on the taxpayers here.

Helen Chapman King
San Juan Island
8 Points On Budget Cuts
June 12, 2009

Dear San Juan County Council Members,

The shortfalls in revenue and budget troubles are real. There is no denying that cuts must be made. We recognize that expense portions of most department budgets have been pared back to the necessities and that cuts in personnel are what remains. The decisions you face are difficult and the consequences of the cuts will be felt county wide for years to come. I don’t envy your position.

The concern that I bring to you today is the blatant unbalanced cuts in the workforce. Nearly all of the proposed cuts to personnel are represented (union members) individuals. They represent the backbone of the county workforce and are frequently some of the lowest paid as well.

The budget presentation last Friday to the council by our elected auditor, consisted of various “scenarios”, of which, scenario 4, included a “$31,750 wage reduction of management” and was summarily dismissed by the auditor as “almost having no noticeable effect.” This was an exercise in appeasement by the auditor, expressing that they have indeed looked at “management” reductions. Forgive me, but this is outrageous.

Back in October, when the first round of budget cuts came, there were murmurings from the representative workers about how unfair the cuts were. The county was going to balance the budget on the backs of the represented workers. Here we are again. The newly proposed cuts that we have been made aware of do the EXACT SAME THING. Cut the workers. This will leave our county structure even top heavier that before.

While it is true that life is not fair, you, as our elected representatives, have the ultimate hand in deciding what cuts will be made. What jobs will be lost? Who will be sent away with severance and directions to the unemployment line? We do not seek management cuts for punitive reasons, or for some ultimate goal of fairness. We seek them because it makes sense. If we have less money and fewer workers, we should have less management as well. It would stand to reason that if a department has fewer workers, there would be less for the management to do. Take a good hard look at the budget and department structures and you will see that we are indeed top heavy and with this next round of cuts that imbalance will tip even farther.

I do not presume to know the solutions or best approaches to take in these cuts and I can only imagine how difficult these times are for those making decisions. Here are some items that seem particularly out of line and really ought to be given a hard look. Forgive me if my information is incorrect or flawed, but it is based on the budget information published on the county website.

1. Assistant to the council. There are 6 council members and you have the luxury of 3 assistants. Recently one of them gave notice and is leaving. This is a perfect opportunity to lead by example and not fill the vacated position. Every other county department and employee is being asked to do more with less. One could argue that there are too many duties for just 2 people. I would respectfully submit to you that that argument can be made for all departments.

2. Administrator Pro-Tem. The CD&P director is given $6000 to fill in during the absence of the County Administrator. If this is somehow state mandated, I apologize. It seems like a cut that can be easily made.

3. Public Works. Over the years, public works has transitioned from having a centralized manager to 5 individual managers. While I understand that they have different funds from the county general fund, it is something that is perceived by the workers and the public as yet another bloated government bureaucracy.

4. Information Services. This is probably the most blatant example of unfairness to workers in the face of furthering the cronyism present at the management level. In the October budget cuts, a valuable member of I.S. was let go in order to transfer in and create the position of “webmaster”. The webmaster was originally a “communications director”. Let me remind you that the “communications director” was the one responsible for the October “budget message” meeting communications system. We were to receive a slide show power point presentation in the community theater, with nearly every county employee present. Low and behold, the system was not functioning and the county administrator had to wing it. This abject failure at a crucial and public moment was not punished but rather rewarded with a renaming of their job and bumping out a represented employee in order to retain this person.

Now we are in the business of having an online county newsletter. If a case could ever be made for cutting “non-essential” services, this is it.

5. Information Services. The IS department continues to liberally use the services of a “contract” employee. They are using this person for tasks that should fall to them. We did not have enough money to keep IS at full staff, letting go a valuable worker, yet, they continue to spend money on a contractor. Let me give an example that was brought to my recent attention. A fellow employee in another department recently put in a request to have a computer and telephone moved to another location (15 feet away, different outlets.) Following procedure, they filled out an IS work order. The IS department sent out a regular county worker to move the telephone and the contract worker to move the computer. This is absurd, inefficient, and expensive. I am sure this is not an isolated case

6. Health Department. Community Health provides services to the public that are deemed essential. Look at our organization and look at the cuts being proposed. Cuts are being proposed that eliminate nurses, department assistants, people that inspect septic systems, people that administer vaccines. These are the “essential services”.

7. Community Development and Planning. Here is a department that is unique because of their income source not being primarily from the general fund. Nonetheless, because of declining permit revenue and the county wide budget cuts, they have been hit particularly hard. At the start of 2008, they had 20 FTE’s. (grant funded positions have been excluded from this count.) After this next round of cuts, they will be left with a skeleton crew of 11. The director and deputy director still remain. No matter how you want to look at this, Manager to Worker ratio, management salary per employee supervised, the conclusion is the same. Recently, Island County advertised for a CD&P director, with a job description identical to the one of SJC. The starting salary was $72,000. Fully $20,000 less than ours (now include the $6000 pro tem pay and it’s over $25k.) In fact, reviewing the budget numbers in 2007, that was the level of pay of the CD&P director of SJC only 2 years ago. Times were good, permits were at record levels, and salaries were increased. Common sense, business sense, and logic all would dictate a serious look at reducing the top management pay.

8. Court system. We have courts, they are necessary. Is my reading of the budget correct that the prosecuting attorney receives $132,000 per year, and the coroner receives $96,000? This is the same person. If I am incorrect, I apologize, again, this based only on the budget information published by the county. Courts across the state are shutting the doors for a varied number of days every month or year to cut costs. This is a reality SJC must face as well. The revenue shortfall is so deep that no one will be unaffected.

I understand and realize that the county budget is a very complex issue and there are dedicated funds, special funds, grant funds, etc, all which have their own restrictions.

Let me provide some insight coming from the point of view of a common citizen. The perception in the county is how the public judges us. They don’t realize that road funds are different from general funds. When they see shiny new trucks and hear that the county is broke, they scratch their heads. When they hear the county spent $600,000 to study the solid waste situation and then votes against the recommendations, they scratch their heads.

When we citizens are told the county is broke or on the verge of going broke, then witness land purchases, land leases, buying of new docks, proposals to buy a toxic landfill, they must wonder what is going on. While most of these issues could be explained by the “different piles of money” explanation, it is hard to change public perception. As the county explores the idea of a “levy lid lift”, basically increasing the increase on property taxes, they will need to contend with public perception.

The budget cuts have been likened to “amputation not weight loss.” While this appears to be the case, job loss is inevitable.

I urge you, my respectful representatives, to take the reins, look at the county government organization as a whole, and make some fundamental changes to the management structure.

Lighten the top as well as the bottom. Not in the interest of fairness or appeasement, but for the sake of genuinely working towards the goal of better, leaner, more efficient government.

Thank you for your time,

Kirstin Wallin
Friday Harbor, WA 98250


LETTERS ON CRITICAL AREAS UPDATE (Note:Date is when first letter was posted below on the subject)

Sometimes a Dead Fish is Just a Dead Fish
To the Editor:

I wanted to offer a few thoughts about Mike Kaill’s letter (4th Letter down -Ed) regarding "Dead Canaries and the CAO":

1. He and I are in agreement in our mutual suspicion that whatever problems exist in the County are related to places like the Spring Street outfall. Generally, I believe that environmental problems are mostly associated with urbanization, and for San Juan County, that means the UGAs. That is a testable hypothesis.

2. Despite #1, his observations about deaths in the aquarium are not proper toxicological studies. There is a very well accepted way of quantifying the risks associated with chemicals and linking cause to effect. It is called an ecological risk assessment. I would strongly support a proper ecological risk assessment for the suspect problem areas.

3. He mentions “San Juan County’s uniquely thin soils” which is a direct contradiction to the claims in the CAO on Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARA), which said that we are permeable everywhere and an aquifer everywhere. If Dr. Kaill believes that we have thin impermeable soils, then I would like to see him support a major revision to the CARA (as I do).

4. Many of the other fears that he mentions such as “silt from homes … will be surfactant loaded” are testable too and the effects quantifiable via (without trying to be repetitive) an ecological risk assessment. He says he has seen contaminated places on the west side. That is a great place to start a scientific analysis.

On a related note, I have heard other citizens support enlarged buffers for other reasons. For instance, I have heard Mary Knackstedt raise the question, “How can you not come to the conclusion that if a community is on the same trajectory [to become urbanized like Seattle] that, given time and population increase, they won't arrive at the same place?”

That is a very different concern from Dr. Kaill’s. Mike Kaill is saying that the problem is now. Mary Knackstedt is saying that the problem is the future.

We need to be aware of that distinction. The “problem” has temporal components: now and the future. We need to be aware, when people speak, whether they are expressing a concern about current problems or anticipated future problems. They have different solutions, and importantly, unlike Dr. Kaill’s claims, the future is not a testable hypothesis.

If the problem is the future, then there is absolutely no need to place greater restrictions on current homes and development. There would be no non-conforming uses. One could argue that if the problem is the future, the burden of increased environmental protection might have to fall entirely on new homes/development and to an increasing degree as problems arose.

If the problem is now, then we should address those problems, but it is important to clearly identify them (via an ecological risk assessment) so the right solution can be developed. For instance, fifty years ago eagle populations crashed here and around the country because of DDT, and it was important to identify DDT as the culprit and not some other chemical. The right solution depends on identifying the right problem.

That brings me to my last point. I have heard buffers proposed as a solution to everything from toxicology to population control. Mentioning the word “buffer” is like giving someone an ink blot test. The response says a lot about the psychology of the participant.

And that is why we need to establish a genuinely supportable nexus between problem and solution. We need to take alarming claims out of the realm of psychology and fear, and establish a framework to rationally answer the questions that are posed.

Ed Kilduff
Lopez Island
Dead Canaries Only In FH?
To the Editor:

Re the debate between Frank Penwell and Mike Kaill, isn't Mike's study of surfectants limited to the waters of Friday Harbor?

if so, how does that analysis apply to the rest of the county? Isn't it likely that Friday Harbor is polluted, for the most part, by the town's storm drain (as is the case with Eastsound and Lopez Village - have there been similar studies there?)? The rest of the county's shoreline is polluted, for the most part, by sheet flow from the adjacent uplands, and should have significantly different water quality characteristics than the Town's runoff.

Have there been any tests for the presence of surfectants in front of large waterfront subdivisions such as Rosario or Cape San Juan? How about small point sources such as Deer Harbor or Roche Harbor?

I agree with Frank that an effort should be made by the County Council to ban toxins proven to be significant threats to near-shore water quality, rather than styrofoam or nuclear bombs. Those are easy targets.

Bob Querry
San Juan Island
To the Editor:

Recently Mike Kaill, President of the Friends of San Juan submitted a letter suggesting that the presence of surfactants in stormwater and other runoff is a justification for what he considers to be appropriate setbacks from the shoreline for development on shoreline properties.

Surfactants, or more properly, surface active agents, are substances that reduce the surface tension of liquids. This reduction in surface tension allows the liquid to spread out, rather than collecting in droplets. There are thousands of surfactants used for this purpose throughout the product lines of thousands of manufacturers. Some of these do have adverse impacts on marine life, and there is an argument to be made for controlling the release of those into marine environments. However, this does not translate into a valid argument for a one-size-fits-all system of buffers and setbacks for the use and enjoyment of private property.

Detergents contain surfactants, but are not surfactants in and of themselves. In some jurisdictions, certain surfactants have been banned for use in detergents. In order for those detergents to be useful for cleaning, though, the banned surfactants have to be replaced by others. Mike’s concern over surfactants in lawn chemicals, such as fertilizers, is noted, and he might wish to lead the Friends of the San Juans in actively supporting Senate Bill 6289, Protecting lake water quality by reducing phosphorous from lawn fertilizers, currently before the Washington State Legislature. It’s a bill most of us can get behind and support.

While some surfactants are long-lived in the environment, many others are not. While some can “lock” onto particles in sediment, many others do not. While some can harm fish gills, many others do not. While some are toxic, many others are benign . . . in fact there are many naturally-occurring surfactants that are absolutely critical to the biological processes of all living things.

Mr. Kaill’s use of the presence of product-residual surfactants in the marine environment as justification for wide separation between human activity and the shore is alarmist in nature and inappropriate as a basis for prescriptive regulation. CAPR, its members, and other concerned citizens are not acting out of "ignorance" or "stubbornness" in advocating for the application of the common sense test in our regulatory processes. We firmly believe that any regulatory restrictions on the use and enjoyment of property be based on the very best science possible, and we are not convinced that all of the science being used as justification for the provisions of San Juan County’s upcoming CAO and SMP meet that criterion.

In contrast to Mike's assertion that, “We don’t need a peer-reviewed study . . . “, we believe that every study, synthesis, and assessment used to support and justify the provisions of these programs must be subjected to independent and rigorous peer review. There’s a lot to be said for the concept of “Trust, but verify.” As citizens, we deserve the full validation of the science used to drive restrictions of our activities. Independent peer review is something that our scientists should welcome, not fear.

I agree with Mike that there are many chemicals getting into our stormwater as a result of the way they are used by some. It’s something we should look at as a community. Surely we can come up with ways to work on these issues without acrimony.

Recent Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elinor Ostrom was awarded her prize for her work on the commons. Her findings are that the users of natural resources are far better stewards of those resources than government. I agree with her and I fervently believe that property owners love their property and will do whatever it takes to properly maintain it and protect it for their children’s use. If we are educated on which surfactants are dangerous to our marine life, we can voluntarily take the necessary steps to keep those substances out of the marine environment.

I am encouraged by the research that indicates that we are continually making progress in cleaning up our water bodies. It’s something that often seems to get lost amidst the “sky is falling” rhetoric. CAPR looks forward to producing boots on the ground conservation actions that make a real difference without taking the right to use and enjoy property from our citizens. Please join us for our monthly educational presentations.


Frank M. Penwell
San Juan Island
Dead Canaries and the CAO
To the Editor:

In a talk with a leader of the CAPR (Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights) it was suggested that I stick to facts, and not philosophy. That is advice that I will take in this letter. I am arguing in favor of leaving as much protection as possible between households and the shoreline. Certainly more than is suggested by CAPR. The reference to “canaries” refers to the canary that dies in an unsafe mine, providing a warning signal. Animals dying in the Spring Street Aquarium may be offering a similar warning. Here are some facts:

A. “Canaries” are dying in the Spring Street Aquarium. The latest one, a flounder, was last week. Any fish that does not have a swim bladder to keep it off the bottom will die. In the last year we have lost this and another flounder, a greenling, and a sailfin sculpin. Now there are no bottom-fish. There are several species of anemone that cannot now survive. On the other hand, there is a lined perch (stays off the bottom) in the aquarium that I captured when the aquarium was first started, about 10 years ago.

B. Detergents (surfactants) are polluting stormwater from the Spring St. stormwater outfall. Surfactants from stormwater lock onto silt. Silt settles out in low current areas, like the aquarium and the bottom of Friday Harbor.

C. Surfactants harm sensitive surfaces of marine animals, like gills. Our testing of both the aquarium and Friday Harbor show high toxicity for surfactants. Our tests are confirmed by Town of Friday Harbor tests, and lethal doses are established by certified labs.

D. High concentrations of surfactants exist in many household products: Weed and Feed, rose spray, herbicides, deer repellent, and more. We are currently evaluating samples of these from local shops.

E. There are no barriers or controls for the use of these products maintain a smooth, green lawn.

F. San Juan County has uniquely thin soils, with a minimum of soil microbes. Surfactants traveling over and through these soils do not “naturally” break down.

We don’t need a peer-reviewed study to add up these points. Households near the shore in critical areas will put surfactants, in some amount, into marine waters. I have artificially restricted this argument to surfactants. A lot of other harmful chemicals are put in stormwater and ground water by households - that’s a problem for another time.

Currents along the shore are high -unless they are not. There are eddies, caves, any number of nooks and crannies that have low or negligible current. In those places, if silt is around, it will accumulate.

Silt from homes near critical shores, especially with crumbling banks, will be surfactant-loaded. Can we (do we want to?) tell these home-owners they are not allowed to have a large lawn, chemically fertilized and weeded? I don’t think so. But, in this situation, there will be surfactant/silt, and poisonous places where there is no current. I have seen these places diving on the west side. Appropriate set backs will allow natural treatment.

If these safe margins are not enacted and enforced, homes will ever after pollute the near-shore. Can we all just slow down for a minute, and compromise?

I don’t like writing letters like this. I’m supposed to be retired. But I love the ocean, and as long as I can, I’ll be puttering on the docks, tide pools, boating and SCUBA-diving. It makes me sad to see all that we are losing (why did we come here?) through ignorance and stubbornness.

Mike Kaill
Friday Harbor
CAO It Could Happen To You

To the Editor:

I, like many San Juan County residents, did not really understand the detrimental impact for all property owners if the currently drafted Critical Area Ordinance is, in fact, implemented by our county government. However, I have recently attended several meetings regarding this issue and have learned some very disturbing facts about this proposal that eventually could affect most all property owners in the county.

We have been full time residents of San Juan County for approximately 10 years and have owned our waterfront property for more than 18 years. When we built our home here we provided all of the required documents to county officials including site and construction plans for approval. We received our building permit, paid our fees to the county and passed all appropriated inspections. In short, we complied with all of the county’s regulations and approval processes in building our retirement home here on San Juan Island. In addition, we have paid our fair share of property taxes to the county, which I believe to be quite substantial.

Now, it is my understanding that our property like many others in the county could actually be classified as non-conforming if the proposed ordinance is passed. This could very well result in a significant financial impact should we or you ever need to sell, build or rebuild a structure on your property. All because of some so called “Best Available Science” that has not been tested via peer review or determined to be appropriate for this area. There are numerous experts that do not agree these proposed buffers are either appropriate or reasonable.

If you believe that you will not be affected by the implementation of this ordinance as currently proposed then I would encourage you to checkout the Common Sense Alliance website as soon as possible at Then contact your County Council Representative and let them know how you feel about the current proposal that could result in reduced property values and impairment of your civil rights.

Jim Pound
San Juan Island
Surprised We Allow Any Shoreline Development

To the Editor:

Though long overdue we now have an opportunity to update CAO. That we need to have more stringent protections and accept the consequent sacrifices is evident. Opponents say we need to strike a balance, a welcome opening position if it is sincere but I am skeptical because what balance has been struck in the past has been heavily weighted toward the human community. Personally I think restoration of the environment should take precedence over striking a balance.

Across our culture, the consequences of our decisions to date are well documented: the collapse of major fisheries, coral reef and forest ecologies, loss of topsoil, air and water pollution. We are facing further and mass extinctions of the world's flora and fauna. And the population of the planet will double in our children's lifetime. Please do the math. We are erasing our natural heritage and all its wonders.

So I am not surpised at proposals to push development back from the shoreline. The real surprise is that we are allowing any more shoreline development at all.

Our resources are finite: water, forest, soils. If we can't understand finite living on an island perhaps all hope is lost.

Tightening CAO regulations is not governmental regulatory overreach. It is responsible attention to population growth, consequent demands on the environment, and subsequent degradation. This restoration of the natural world isn't mere environmentalism. It is another chapter in the civil rights movement seeking to guarantee greater protections for the community of life forms with which we share this planet and with whom our lives and histories are intricately interwoven and interdependent. We are related to everything that surrounds us and share a common ancestry whether biological, chemical or molecular. We have no more rights than any other living thing on this planet. We've just assigned ourselves more.

Charles Carver
Quick Action Needed On CAO Regs

Dear San Juan County Council Members,

For the sake of our economy, please, please please consider the following approach:

1. Regarding the uplands: It seems that the purpose of an update would be to solve problems with the best available science. If we don't have identifiable problems, then what we have in place must have been done so well that it is working. If the DOE does not agree, then let them point out the problems they see and then we can address those specific issues. Please do not use broad strokes, they impact properties that have nothing to do with the issue. You do not have to sacrifice our rights and you have been told so by one of the most experienced environmental attorneys in the state. Do not commit our legal funds to defending positions that are not defendable.

2. Regarding the shoreline, I recommend a two step approach.

Step one - Please publish a written statement declaring that the shoreline regulations will not be changed prior to January 1st of 2012.

This will restore quite a bit of commerce and give short term confidence to the investing public.

Step two - Within the next 90 days, update the SMP within the changes that will become effective on 1-1-12.
If done in a balanced way, this will restore investor confidence for the long term, which as been completely devastated
for undeveloped or under developed properties. (please consider the upland strategy mentioned above for the SMP)

If any of you doubt that long term investment for such properties has been devastated, just ask yourself if you would invest
in a property for which there was great uncertainty of use and value.

The business of the county is, in part just that, a business and you must look at is as such. You must manage your / our assets. As of the last month or so, like it or not, the unintended consequences of your actions have caused the loss of over a BILLION dollars of value on shoreline properties.

If you ask the Assessor to segment out the total current assessed value of the undeveloped or significantly underdeveloped properties ( determined by lower valued improvements) and reduce those by a minimum of 50%, I believe you will be very impressed with the number. It may be less then I have suggested, but it will be a very big number that will impact our county for many years to come. If you doubt the loss, please allow me to help you or convene a panel to help you. The DOE set you up based on no or little peer reviewed science and you should be mad as heck about that. You had a right to trust them and based on recent case history, it is obvious that they failed that trust.

You must do something now to restore confidence. Just take a moment to really digest the impact of a lack confidence. I know you are burdened by so many issue, but please just get past your resentment towards me right now and think out this out. This is so big and the timing is very critical for our community at large. What is the down side to taking more time?


Sam Buck
San Juan Island
Open Letter To County Council

Dear Council Members,

At one time, the Best Available Science (BAS) told us only that the earth was flat and that it rotated around the sun. This was based on limited observations without correct scientific study. Unfortunately, we have a similar situation facing San Juan County today. It is of the utmost importance that as legislators you maintain the independence of science from policy pressures. This is the only way to ensure legitimacy and quality of science.

You are being asked to judge the reasonableness of a new Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) which is supposed to be based on BAS. Your decision will have far reaching consequences on the quality of our lives with unforeseen economic consequences. It is important you have a full understanding of the BAS being used to validate the need for the new and longer buffer zones.

As a Professional Geotechnical Engineer, I have owned and operated a consulting firm for 35 years providing geotechnical, environmental, and wetland studies on thousands of Puget Sound projects. For the last 20 years, as a resident of San Juan County, I have been providing studies on our Islands. Most of the local projects have been for slope and bank stability.

Let me first address bank stabilization, as this seems to be the reason for a lot of misinformation being circulated. Based on my years of experience with hundreds of bank stabilization projects, a natural rock embankment can be constructed on the shoreline that will perform for decades without any adverse affect on the shoreline environment. If you so desire, I can show you several of these rockeries that have performed as designed. They also blend in with our bedrock shorelines.

A properly constructed rockery placed at or above the high tide line will not adversely affect the movement of terrestrial insects onto the shoreline, or fish forage zones. All of the BAS is based on the Puget Sound area, which is geomorphically different than the islands’ bedrock shorelines.
Most of our San Juan County shorelines are subjected to high impacts due to wind and wave action. In these areas, low impact stabilization methods will not work; they will be destroyed by the high impacts on the shoreline. Low impact stabilization will only work in areas not subjected to high impacts such as bays and inlets.

The other area of concern I would like to discuss is the prescriptive buffers that are being suggested. The arbitrary buffers have little value in protecting functions and values of critical areas. The BAS cited and referenced does not provide the scientific conclusions to validate the reasons being offered for these new buffers in San Juan County. The buffers we have had in place for years have worked. In all my years on the Island I have not observed adverse impacts to our critical areas.

Maintaining the independence of science from policy pressure ensures legitimacy and quality of studies. Scientific studies can only be credible by rigorous peer review. Scientists agree that in the absence of monitoring, a project may be rendered invalid. Most of the BAS that is available is devoid of any long range monitoring and in many cases performed by organizations that have a bias towards the end result; more restrictive covenants. Also, almost of all these studies are performed in the Puget Sound area. These studies are not applicable to our Islands.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to call on me if you have any questions whatsoever on the subject of natural shoreline rockeries and reinforcements.


Robert Levinson, P.E.
San Juan Island
Gordy Has It Right

Letter to the Editor:

Kudos to Gordy Petersen for telling it like it is.....oh that “Pain”! I trust he'll elaborate further at public hearings should the County Council choose to ask the electorate to approve a levy lid lift in November.

I last served with Gordy on the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee and can personally attest to his eloquence, forthrightness and, as respects the subject matter, well...that goes to the heart of his mettle.

Maury Liebman
San Juan Island
Sam Is Right On!

What a great letter by Sam Buck [see below] to the County Council re. shoreline setbacks. He absolutely nails the issue. Most waterfront property owners do care about the environment and a lot of us actually know more about the scientific basis and real best available science than the so called experts who are trying to cram these proposed setbacks down our throats while our property values are destroyed.

Anchor DeWitt Jensen
$9,600,000 To Be Recovered Via Higher Mil Rate For Everyone.

Letter to the Editor

There are two legs: uplands (mandated to update) and waterfront (optional for now). If the changes as proposed become law, both may have dramatic impacts to the use, enjoyment and value of ones property. For the uplands it depends on how close you are to what is considered to be a seasonal stream or wetland. For waterfront, if depends on the impact a 100 foot building set back or a freeze on all existing development within 100 feet of the shoreline will have for you.

Our marine waters on both sides of the border are being degraded from pollution sourced from; industry, storm water (from agriculture & population centers) and from toxic products we contribute via municipal sewage plants and failing septic systems which allow most chemical toxins to pass through.

Logically and relative to the daily deluge of toxins that are dumped into our waters, what percentage is being contributed from the newer homes built to current codes? Is a new house the problem?

Trying to polarize this issue as, dollars vs. the environment, is not fair. The vast majority of property owners alter their habits when they understand the need to do so and to think anything else is truly bigoted. If you used your creative forces and unrecoverable life energy to achieve such an investment how would you feel? People have stopped buying waterfront land. How can we restore confidence? Think of the negative trickle down effect to our local economy.

What financial impact will a 100 foot shoreline set back have on a wooded waterfront lot or a lot with a little cabin on it? Huge! We are losing those whom can afford to implement new “green” techniques that are really starting to catch hold.

Our $3.7 billion of waterfront properties = 47% of our total assessed value. A 1/3 lose of value = $1.2 billion (not counting upland losses) which = about $9,600,000 that will have to be recovered via a higher mil rate for everyone.

As an alternative to beating up those who have chosen to invest in our community and ruining our little economy, we could blueprint a means of creating significant and measurable reductions in persistent toxins.

With the help of private funding we could; 1) create a baseline of the toxins flowing into the sound via local sewage treatment plants, 2) use a creative and sustained educational campaign via simple drawings and bullet sentences via local media to demonstrate the links between what goes down the drain and the food chain etc. 3) highlight the products that are the safest to use, 4) take measurements on a monthly basis to determine the effectiveness of the campaign.

If after a year we had accomplished even a 10% reduction in pollutants, we will have: had way more impact on the actual health of our marine environment than 100’ setbacks and once proven others would follow, leading to an even greater positive effect.

If a specific area is demonstrated to be critical habitat, may be organic standards could be required. It is not the location of the house; it is the habits, which will change with effective education.

Sam Buck
San Juan Island
No More Gardens??

Letter to the Editor

I enjoy the ambiance of the island and its varied wildlife, and would like to see it continue the same way for the rest of my life. I do not believe the increased buffers outlined in the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) Guidelines are needed. In fact, they constitute an illegal taking of property.

In the past 20 years I have not seen any deterioration of our environment. It has certainly become more populated, but the quality of our shorelines and wildlife has not decreased. So, why do we need these new CAO guidelines? The environmental guidelines in place have served us well over the years. Although the resident Orca population has declined, even NOAA cannot pinpoint a specific cause. It makes no sense to make blanket changes when the cause of the problem is unknown.

As a professional geotechnical engineer, I do not understand how any increase in buffer set backs from shorelines, wetlands, or streams will help our whales or other wildlife. It appears that these setbacks are arbitrarily set. We cannot rely on the principles of best available science to give us a realistic analysis. They are not scientifically proven and contain far too many variables. In addition, they relate to conditions in Puget Sound which is vastly different than the shoreline condition in the Islands.

I have been personally involved with numerous shoreline slope retaining projects on the islands using natural rockeries, and when constructed correctly, they do not interfere with shoreline processes. I have also observed well constructed rockeries that have been in place for over a decade with no adverse affects to the shoreline.

The toxicity that affects our whales is caused by other sources, not from our single family shorelines. Other sources of toxicity could be sewerage that is dumped into our waters and even from the outflow of large rivers. Most of our shoreline development consists of homes founded on bedrock with native growth between the houses and shorelines. I doubt very much that shoreline homeowners on this island use massive amounts of fertilizer and chemicals.

If these extreme buffers are adopted, almost every shoreline and many other inland homes near wetlands and so called “streams” will become non-conforming. The existing structures may be grandfathered in, but what if the owner wants to put in an addition to the home? They will have to go through an expensive and time consuming process.

They will have to hire consultants just to prove their addition will not adversely affect the environment. Should they want to sell their home, the potential purchaser would have no idea of what it would cost to permit an addition to the existing home. Thus, the value of the home and property is reduced due to the uncertainty of future costs.

I understand that several potential sales have already been lost due to the possibility of the CAO becoming a reality. Make no mistake about it, the value of shoreline and other affected properties will go down with the likely consequence of lower tax revenue to the county and higher taxes to CAO unaffected homeowners.

I have an organic raised bed vegetable garden that is within the buffer zone. It appears that I will have to go through the permitting process to add another bed since gardens are not allowed in the buffer zone.

Adopting the proposed CAO sounds environmentally friendly. However, it will not reduce human impacts on the environment and will lead to higher taxes on other properties not affected by the CAO. There is no valid reason to force these illegal property taking laws on the citizens of our islands. Our shorelines are governed by the Shoreline Management Act, which has more than sufficiently protected our shorelines thus far. We do not need an arbitrary and invasive ordinance forced upon our already environmentally friendly citizens.

Bob Levinson

(Mr. Levinson is a civil engineer, past director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and is a graduate of USC and Berkeley. He lives on San Juan Island and is a staff member of Earth Solutions NW, LLC .)
Reader Responds To "Balance Of Panel" Complaint

Letter to the Editor

Dear Vivian Burnett, I am so sorry you misunderstood, and misquoted, our event slogan. {Burnett letter below} It was prominently displayed on posters all over the walls as well as on flyers and handouts on the tables.

The slogan was, “It is not whether we protect the environment, but how”. I am in hopes that you will attend the July 28th FORUM at the FHHS Hall gym.

Dr. Kenneth Brooks will explain how property owners are better stewards of the land than government planners, and he will tell us better ways to protect the environment.

Education is our primary goal.


Frank Penwell
President of CAPR San Juan
Reader Questions Balance of Panel


I went to a meeting and pot luck last night hosted by the Citizen's Alliance for Property Rights. The panel was supposed to be a balanced dialog discussing the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) impact on property owners. What it turned out to be was a feeling that property owners should be able to do anything they want on their property -- not wanting any regulations or change from the old days when “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was the slogan.

They also believe that protecting the environment under the CAO current updates would be a financial burden. Members of the panel were from the San Juan Builder’s Association, the San Juan Realtor’s Association, a private land-use attorney and planner, members of the Citizen’s Alliance for Common Sense, the editor and publisher of the Island Guardian and members of the Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights.

Who wasn’t there on the panel to add to the one-sided dialog: The Orcas, the Eelgrass, the Heron, the Smelt, the Sand Lances, the trees, the water, the Salmon and more. They couldn't stand up for themselves to protect their lives. They weren’t invited. They weren’t considered, even though the Orcas and Salmon are endangered and full of toxins. All the wildlife is affected by what we humans do. We think we’re just building a house with a great view.

Things have changed here in the San Juans. We have grown to 16,000 residents; and over 200,000 visitors flock to our islands annually. We have created a great impact on ourselves and that is why we have laws to govern how we can be responsible stewards of our islands. The CAO isn’t perfect but at least it addresses the changes that are needed to protect our property which includes our environment. We can’t separate the two. Let’s work together to create something we can all be proud of.

Vivien Burnett
San Juan Island

(Guardian response: The Editor of The Island Guardian was not a member of the panel, but only asked by the Citizen's Alliance for Property Rights to serve as a moderator for the panel, and to manage questions from the floor. Also, the SJ Realtors’ Association was not represented.

As for a balanced dialog, a statement was made at the beginning of the meeting that this was to be a balance to the views expressed by County staff in their past presentations, and was a panel representing the views of “the other side” of the story on what the CAO process was about, and what the possible impacts on property owners would be -Editor.

Bad Stuff Happening Here


I spent a career in Alaska, watching clear-cuts take place. And sitting in lectures in which “biologists” told us that clear-cuts were GOOD for deer. Yeah. With slash 8 feet deep, hillsides eroding into the streams in the rain, and drying up when it was sunny.

Unhappily, similar things are happening around here. Not as bad as clear-cuts, or maybe they are as bad, everything considered. The County Council is allowing docks to punch right through eel grass beds, allowing sea walls to be built to protect LAWNS. These things directly impact rearing areas for salmon, crab, and other things we want. Ironically, we are spending millions of dollars to bring back salmon, while at the same time, allowing special interest groups to do things that help destroy those same salmon, crabs, etc.

And now, the kerfluffle about the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). Let’s focus on shorelines. There is a huge turn out of special interests to stop logical protection of shorelines. If the natural vegetation (lawn does not do the job!) is taken out, the shoreline is much less stable. If the shoreline erodes, spawning beaches (for fish that are salmon food) are damaged. If there is not a buffer, things in the stormwater can reach marine waters.

And remember, I have been fighting to keep my marine creatures alive in the Spring Street Aquarium for more than a year. Thanks to the town, things are better, but not fixed. Why is the aquarium still getting toxic water from Friday Harbor? Because Spring Street storm water has no natural filtration and processing of roots, soil microbes, and oxidation. The water runs right from your car drippings, Aunt Mable’s rose spray, Joe’s weed-and-feed, into the harbor. Where (since it’s toxic) it kills marine animals.

I recently read a good article on Minnesota. Why they elect these bizarre politicians (like the wrestler, and now the comedian). It turns out that Minnesotans pay attention. When the politicians stop doing their job, the Minnesotans get some one in there to shake things up. And it works. Don’t get me wrong. I am not running for office. But I would like to ask the question: Why do these special interests have so much power? The shoreline belongs to us!

To me it would seem reasonable that we would protect our natural resources. I never hear the special interests argue on merit. That is: “We don’t need erosion protection.” The best scientists in the University, the County, the State, the US government, are all telling us how to keep banks stable, so that our marine ecosystem can not just be healthy, but recover.

If you live here, if you fish, if you crab, if you like to walk on the beach and see a healthy shoreline, please participate in the CAO discussion. Support the recommendations of the people that study this stuff for a living. For example, 100’ (150’ would be better) set-back from the shore to allow stabilization, and ground water processing.

Mike Kaill
Friday Harbor
Reader Responds To Slocomb Letter (3rd letter below -Ed)

To the Editor:

It seems like the 7.7 million could be used to compensate property owners who have property that you and your "friends" want to take from them.

Activist government employees should stop trying to bribe us into giving up our local control with grants. Instead government should pay for what they take. It's the law. It is also fair. I'm not sure that stealing our property is going to work this time.

Gordy Petersen
San Juan Island
Letter To Citizens Of SJC
Dear Citizens,

It is clear that some people are trying to pit property rights concerns against critters and the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. With a little education on the subject, one can quickly learn the debate centers around, “How to best protect the environment”, “How to follow constitutional law”, and “How to be fair to our neighbors”.

At a recent picnic in Port Townsend, scientists and environmentalists, such as Dr. Kenneth Brooks, one of the authors of the “Precautionary Principle” and “No Net Loss” said that there are better ways to protect the environment than by setting arbitrary buffers.

There is a lot of misinformation regarding property rights concerns and the environment. The sky is not falling. Carlson from KOMO News recently reported: Despite the increase in the number of people, business and public consumption; EPA reports have been recording improvements in air and water quality year after year all over the United Sates.

This draft CAO Ordinance:
1.) Takes away the use of property from owners, without providing compensation or any proof of how it would help our environment.
2.) Will make many properties non conforming or unusable for the owners.
3.) Has overbearing regulations that do not account for human health or safety protections.
4.) Will make it impossible for the average person to remodel or rebuild.
5.) Is being done in a covert manner, because owners are not being told the details of why, or how, this CAO will burden their particular piece of property.

I know of one person whose home now falls in a buffer zone in King County. He now is not allowed to mow his lawn despite the fact that it creates a fire and rodent hazard. The “Reasonable Use” clause in the CAO document is meaningless. I can introduce you to people who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to obtain “Reasonable Use.”

The studies required, rejections from Planning Departments, and other unknowns usually make building a home economically impossible for the average person. No net loss, to some planners, means no new buildings or people. If you want to hear some real horror stories, google “Behind the Green Curtain”.

If you want to help the environment in effective ways, if you want the average person to be able to afford and enjoy property ownership, if you want to prevent government theft from your neighbors, then join us at the Grange Hall on July 7th, and at the Hall Gym July 28th. CAPR San Juan is a 501 c 3 organization, and it is non partisan.

Frank M. Penwell
San Juan Island
Open Letter To Council
Hon. Council Members:

In the debate regarding the Critical Areas Ordinance and it's practical effect on the county I feel that there is a factor that is being overlooked. The Salmon Recovery Program through the Lead Entity and MRC is bringing app. 1.4 million dollars into the county this year. This program has been bringing to the county substantial sums of money for almost 10 years now, over $7.7 million since 2001. This is project money that winds up as employment for local contractors and service providers. In other words it goes directly into the local economy at the street level.

The central tenants of the approved local Salmon Recovery Plan are protection of salmon habitat and restoration of damaged habitat. The Best Available Science principle guides both salmon recovery and county planning for the CAO and soon the SMP.

If the County Council encourages and adopts a CAO (and SMP) that are not clearly within State guidelines and do not bring us into GMA compliance by meeting at least the minimum state standards it well become clear to the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound regional salmon recovery organization that our central tenant of protection of habitat is in fact a smoke screen. This begs the question of why we would bother to restore habitat if that restoration is not going to be protected. Given that scenario it seems quite likely that the money that has been flowing into the county through salmon recovery would dry up.

Considering that the county is not eligible for a substantial volume of grants and loans due to it's lack of compliance do you really want to cut off yet another substantial source of funds?

Jim Slocomb
San Juan Island
Supports Proposed Changes
To the Editor:

The San Juan Islands are undeniably a beautiful and desirable place to visit, and for those of us fortunate enough to live here an environment that nourishes both solitude and community.

Most of us have several reasons why we chose to live and work here. Likely among them are the scenic qualities, the recreational opportunities, the proximity of wildlife, and the feeling of belonging in a special place. Along with these benefits should come responsibilities such as being good stewards of what we presently have and to preserve as much as possible for those who come after us.

We, the citizens of San Juan County, will determine what these islands will look like in the future. The County has recently been holding public hearings to discuss the proposed Critical Areas Ordinance. I notice that some of us feel that the regulations are an infringement on the right to develop our property in the manner that we wish. This is understandable in a culture that values financial success and even excess.

However, I suggest that we take a larger view. Think about the values that brought us here. If we value salmon or orca, then perhaps we should not place a bulkhead on a forage fish spawning beach, or place a dock over eelgrass, or allow toxic chemicals or bioactive hormone mimics into our waters.

The less we interfere with the natural processes and the web of marine life, the more likely we all will be able to enjoy those values that called us here and be able to pass on a healthy functioning environment.

It all comes down to what you value. People protect what they love. The proposed CAO is a reasonable effort and our best opportunity to protect this precious place we call home.

San Olson
Lopez Island
Fair Play
To the Editor:

This letter is in response to county comments on the Critical Areas Ordinance and reasonable use of “buildable lots”. The county published that there are:
50 shoreline lots of less than 1 acre possibly affected by shoreline setbacks or geological hazards
25 possibly affected by a stream buffer
80 possibly affected by a wetland buffer

How many of these undeveloped parcels are actually legally created building lots and not just recreational lots or tax parcels adjusted by Boundary Line Modifications?

San Juan County unlike all other counties allows property owners to adjust lot sizes by Boundary Line Modification and create by lot averaging substandard parcels that would not be building lots in any other county.

The existence of a tax lot (parcel) does not mean it is a legal lot.
There is a difference between legal lots and tax lots or parcels created by the assessors’ office. A tax lot is created solely for the purpose of property tax collection.

RCW 84.56.340 requires anyone requesting a separate tax parcel # be given one. A legal lot is created for the purpose of sale and is subject to county codes and state laws governing lot segregation.

Legal lots can include recreational lots that have been exempted from county subdivision codes but they are not building lots. The courts have ruled in St Clair v Skagit County 43 Wn App 122 that recreational use is reasonable use.

This county does not:
Determine how a lot was created
Does nothing to prevent a proliferation of innocent purchasers and Continues as ( recently as last month) to allow the creation of nonconforming lots through BLM .

How many of these lots could be eliminated by requiring that substandard lots in contiguous ownership be combined for building purposes as all other 38 counties and the smallest of municipalities in this state require?

RCW 58.17 regulating subdivision of land as a public interest was enacted in 1969.

RCW 90.58 the shoreline management act identified San Juan County as shorelines of Statewide Significance needing increase coordination in their management and development necessary for protection. It was adopted in 1971.

RCW 36.70A the Growth Management Act was enacted in 1991 to prevent urban sprawl in rural areas.

Some of us have had a lifetime of increasingly restrictive land use laws that we have had to abide by. Most of us accept rules that are justly applied. It is wrong for the county to write ordinances to further allow special privileges to be granted by the director. Procedures should be established to define what a legal building lot is. Existing county code should be followed. To allow ever more development on ever more nonconforming lots is completely destructive to county and state zoning objectives.

These actions would further violate state laws and plays the fool to all those many citizens and organizations that are wasting their time and money thinking they are saving these beautiful islands and playing on an even playing field.

Lori Gutschmidt
Eastsound, WA 98245
Hendrickson Needs To Follow The Law
To the Editor:

I have served as one of nine appointed members of the GMA Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) review committee for two years. A polarizing and contentious issue during this entire process has been whether the committee should address the shorelines.

Critical Areas are regulated under the Growth Management Act (GMA) but shorelines are regulated under a completely different state law -the Shorelines Management Act (SMA). It is illegal to regulate the shorelines through GMA.

The State Supreme Court issued the Futurewise Anacortes decision in August 2008 which confirmed that it is illegal to regulate the shorelines under GMA. That’s why we were astounded in early May 2009 when we learned that the Director planned to release (without committee review or approval) his own draft of GMA amendments to the shoreline code.

The draft includes drastic changes to the shoreline code, including 100’ setbacks for all structures and landscaping. The advertisement run by San Juan Count the heading of “Puget Sound Partnership” is misleading. The ad suggests that the county is required to adopt new stringent shoreline rules at this time. That is simply not true.

In fact that statement contravenes the advice given to the County Council by the County Prosecutor, who said in a May 15 letter: “an amendment to the critical areas regulations in the SMP at this time is voluntary and not required.”

San Juan County will be updating its shoreline regulations in due course. That process deserves the attention and time necessary for a comprehensive update. New shoreline setbacks and regulations at this time are inappropriate, and will cause nothing but chaos.

We must not allow this to happen.

Stephanie Johnson O’Day
San Juan Island

(O’Day is a member of the CAO Review Committee, and a former SJC Freeholder. )


Tuesday, June 2nd

$600K Tax Dollars For A Lease?

Dear Editor,

Every so often, two stories are published simultaneously that show just how wide the gap has grown between the environmental movement and humanity.

In today's guest column entitled "By and For the People" LIncoln Bormann, director of the San Juan County Land Bank, congratulates his colleagues -and himself- for successfully lobbying our state legislature to allocate money to protect a piece of land on Lopez Island that hosts, among other things, an aspen grove:

"This year, even in a disastrous economy, the legislature approved $600,000 for a county lease of 40 acres of Odlin South...This money would have gone somewhere else without county residents advocating for conserving our lands."

And in this morning's edition of The Seattle Times we learn where that money could have gone if the Land Bank crowd hadn't gotten its way:

"Budget cuts may soon force out some 36,000 low-income people from Washington's Basic Health Plan, a state-sponsored insurance program."

It looks to me as though the callousness of our Land Bank officials is exceeded only by the stupidity of our elected officials.

Herb Meyer

( Herbert Meyer is a contributor to the National Review; the American Thinker and is the author of several books. He lives on San Juan Island. )

Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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