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Sunday, August 23rd

Photographers - We Called and You Responded!

To The Editor:

Thanks to all who entered such wonderful photographs at the County Fair, The Photography Exhibit was a great success this year. People were talking - all over the islands. The quality of the images was very high and everyone who came by enjoyed the show immensely.

The Competitive section was also a hit, with 50 photographers submitting 120 images. Such wonderful images that our judges had a hard time selecting blue and red ribbons. The quality was so high that they gave out a number of Honorable Mention ribbons to acknowledge the good work.

The images in the Open section were equally outstanding. As I walked the exhibit during the week I realized that there were pictures that should have received a ribbon but didn't. I apologize for that and next year we will make changes to the judging process to be sure that everyone who deserves a ribbon gets one.

Start thinking about your entry for 2010, we look forward to hanging it.

Bob Stavers
Supervisor, Photography Department
San Juan County Fair


Wednesday, August 19th

Thank You For Supporting The American Legion Auxiliary!

Thank you Callie McKay, Alex Gavora and Minnie Kynch for organizing and getting the booth ready. I appreciate your time and energy spent before the fair. Callie, thank you again, for ordering the supplies and prepping the food every day. Thank you to Alex, Lynn, Mike, Kathy and Callie for being day managers.

There are too many to list individually, but thank you to those who volunteered and worked a shift or two at the booth during the fair. I also want to thank everyone who bought a burger or hot dog at the American Legion Auxiliary booth at the fair. We had quite the crowd Friday night, thanks for waiting!

The money we earned goes back to our community through scholarships, Girls State, and Veterans.
Without you we would not have been a success!
Nancy L. Vejvoda

American Legion Auxiliary President


Thank You For The Mammography Machine

Thank you so much to all of those who had a part in bringing the new digital mammography machine to the Inter Island Medical Center! And thank you to the staff at Mount Baker Imaging.

I had my annual mammogram on our old film machine in May and because some areas were unclear, I was asked to have another done on the digital machine at Mount Baker Imaging Clinic in Bellingham.

The article states, “Digital mammograms provide greater detail than traditional film-based mammography.” After later seeing both, the difference is amazing. What was most likely only visible to the trained eye on the old film machine now shows on the digital images, clearly - even to an untrained eye. I know professionals have always read the images, but I believe there have been ‘suspicious’ areas missed in the past that will be seen with clarity on the digital images.

The article also states that “Mount Baker Imaging works to provide the highest quality, most comfortable imaging services available”. I found that to be completely true. The procedure is still an interesting experience, to put it mildly. However the use of the word “comfortable” is perfect.

I found their staff extremely friendly, comforting, attentive and sincere. From Marcy, who did the imaging here at the Medical Center to the doctors, nurses and staff at the clinic in Bellinham, it was very clear to me that they love their jobs and that because of that, they do it well. When I asked Carol a nurse there if she loved her job, she said not only do they love their work, but they are like family. The family they have formed works together well and is welcoming to visitors!

Lori L. Ronhaar
San Juan Island


Monday, August 17th

Thanks For Helping Kunya

Thanks to the island community for your support of our recent quilt raffle to benefit Clean Water for Kunya. The winner of the quilt is Midge Paterson, of Friday Harbor.

The greater islands community, including many visitors, bought nearly 1,500 tickets, for a total of $1,327.

Special thanks to Krispi Staude and her helpers in the Textiles Department at the County Fair, who invited us to display the quilt and sell tickets there; John Stimson and his crew at Marketplace; Wes Corey and his crew at King's; and Sandra Tribotti, from Seattle, who made the quilt and donated it to us.

We wish that we had had prizes enough that everyone who bought a ticket could have won, but as one of our ticket buyers said, "The real winners are the ones who will get clean water."

(Those who want more information about Friends of Kunya: visit our website

Thanks again. This community has supported Clean Water for Kunya eagerly and generously; we appreciate you all.

Joanruth Baumann and Dick Coffey


Thursday, August 13th

Education Of Motorists & Cyclists Needed

The accident on Lopez Island brings to a head a problem we all share. Tourism is the lifeblood of the county’s economic system. Its impact is both positive and negative, as we all need to accommodate the mass of visitors during the peak tourist season. A significant number of cyclists and walkers join the throng. Each summer day most drivers can share stories of scary experiences and close calls involving cyclists and motor vehicles. Mopeds and tiny three wheeled vehicles test our collective patience and driving skills as inexperienced and frightened riders weave down the narrow roads.

To the Editor:

The single car, roll over, accident on Roche Harbor Road last week occurred at about 10:30 a.m., the same time that large groups are cyclists are frequently found riding toward Roche Harbor. This accident was reported to involve excessive speed while passing another vehicle.

One knee-jerk reaction to mitigate the problem is to decide to build a network of safe paths throughout the county. I agree with the authors of previous letters that we all need to take a serious look at our thinking before talking about investing in more vehicular infrastructure.

Education of both motorists and cyclists ought to be the primary focus. Our county’s lodging tax (4% tax on hotel/motel revenues) has netted over seven hundred thousand dollars each of the past few years. All of this money is invested to bolster our economy through tourist promotion and infrastructure. The $388 thousand budgeted this year for infrastructure goes to support the arts, county fair, parks, museums and the like. No funds are set aside for path construction or for education of cyclists and motorists.

An additional $350 thousand is spent to attract more visitors to the county. The Lopez Chamber of Commerce promotes Lopez Island as “A bicyclists’ paradise,” All promotions I was able to access on the internet included photos of cyclists enjoying the beautiful scenery while riding on our county roads. We are encouraging cyclists to come and are investing in services and facilities to increase their enjoyment. We now need to focus on their safety.

In my opinion, we need to explore ways to educate motorists and cyclists alike. Some of that lodging tax revenue might be designated for this purpose. High school student ambassadors could be employed to distribute welcome maps with safety rules to all ferry riders, for example. Island drivers could be encouraged to check their impatience on the road and steer carefully around cyclists. There are, already exisiting, safe places to pull over for bicycle riders, but they are not currently designated. The county could indicate these with tasteful signs and star them on the back of safety rule brochures for walkers, joggers, and bicyclists. If people know how far it is to the next safe place to stop they will be less likely to pull over in a dangerous spot. These ‘rules of the road” could be given to campers and guests staying in our island accommodations, renting a bike, or purchasing gasoline.

It doesn’t appear possible to develop paths that will protect cyclists from drivers using poor judgment or protect the cyclists from their own carelessness and reckless behaviors. Building more and better paths, at property owners’ expense, may be like the Field of Dreams “If we build them, they will come”. Might this cycle spiral out of control?

Joel Clark
San Juan Island


Wednesday, August 12th


How Many Boats on the Water
Letter to Editor:

I wish to encourage everyone to read the NOAA Orca Recovery Plan. I referred to “100 years” in last week’s letter for a reason and I put quotes on some statements since I had done some research and try to be accurate in my writing.

Please refer to pages II-112 of the NOAA report, which can be viewed at :

“Motorized fishing vessels were introduced in 1903 and probably resulted in substantial noise exposure for the region’s killer whales by the 1910s or 1920s. Numbers of non-tribal commercial fishing vessels remained high through the mid-1970s … Numbers of commercial fishing licenses in this area, which generally reflect the numbers of non-tribal vessels in operation, fell from 4,132 in 1974 to 286 in 2006 (D. Noviello, unpubl. data). During the peak decades of activity, under liberal fishing seasons, boats congregated in large numbers on productive fishing grounds for periods of weeks or months, especially from May through October. … the sound generated by the fleet was intense (K.C. Balcomb, pers. comm.) and the localized presence of so many vessels must have been significant at times. Observations from the 1970s indicate that the whales regularly mingled with commercial fishing vessels (K.C. Balcomb, pers. comm.). This information suggests that the Southern Residents were impacted by vessel effects for a number of decades before the buildup of commercial whale watching.”

The commercial boat numbers (4,132) did not include tribal fishing boat numbers or Canadian fishing boats. I’m not anti-commercial fishing, on the contrary I wish we still had the rich salmon resource of the past.

Bill Wright,
Owner San Juan Safaris

"The Cove" Thursday at Palace Theater

Recent comments on being tired of hearing whale-watching complaints seem self-centered, at a time when the survival of the Southern Residents should be the only criterion for our future plans of action.

Whether whale watch operators are tired of hearing things they don't like is really unimportant, in this regard. What IS important is that scientists now agree that the whales are starving, and that boat presence - including commercial whale watch boats - accelerate that starvation, by increasing metabolic rates, dive times, the length of swim paths, and therefore energy needs; while harming sonar efficiency, dispersing fish, and, on occasion, even bloodying the whales through collision.

Whale watch operators who think the whales in some ways are happy to be watched should consider that the older of these animals watched half their number killed or taken for entertainment, just a few decades ago. Did the whales attack those boats? No. No doubt, those people, too, thought they

were doing the right thing for the whales, putting them on display for the world to see, even if many were killed in the process. The law put an end to this, but you would never have known from their behavior what the local whales experienced.

Whales have been separate from humans for 50 million years of evolution, and I would suggest that none of us knows what they are thinking. They don't attack us when we kill and take their offspring; why? Every scientific paper published on boat / whale interactions shows a negative result for the whales. There is nowhere to "hide" on this question: boats are harmful to whales, particularly in low-chinook years.

Some boat operators also seem unaware that our example of the craziness of watching endangered wolves with Harleys is not really a metaphor: the same engines driving Harleys on land, are driving whale watch boats on the water. The only difference is that the sound is MUCH more intense and under water, travels MUCH further, and does more damage, because water is much denser than air.

As for pointing at private boaters, which seems to be the collective whale watch operators' theme song: these boaters used to be unaware of the whales, even when near them; it is only the constant presence of the commercial whale watch fleet that paints a big target on the water for all to see for miles around, doubling the number of boats by signalling the private boats the exact location of the whales, and so encouraging the bad behavior noted in the letter above.

We are beyond the time for experiment: the Southern Residents are listed as endangered because they really are. According to the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to pursue them. Of course it is! They are endangered.. Who would ever consider starting or running a business with the intent of pursuing an endangered species?

It sounds as disastrous an idea as it really is.

For those who believe in action, we encourage you to come see the award-winning film "The Cove" this Thursday (08-27-09)at the Palace Theater, and meet director Louis Psihoyos.

Mark Anderson
Chair, Orca Relief
Best Of Times For Whales

Since 1965 in some way I have had the good fortune to educate people about environmental issues. My experience includes Youth Conservation Corps, U.S. Forest Service, State Parks, Natural History Eco-Tourism, and for the last 15 years operating San Juan Safaris on San Juan Island.

I have some good news. In that period of time people’s awareness is much improved and the genuine concern and love for wildlife has become part of our American fabric. We have evolved from largely consumptive view of wildlife to largely a non-consumptive view of wildlife.

In my experience whales have been the driving force in this paradigm switch. Watching these wonderful creatures being slaughtered to provide inane products outraged the world and many whale species owe their very existence to people seeing whales on television with folks like Jacques Cousteau and going out on whale watching tours around the world.

Please understand that these are the best days our local whales have known in the last hundred years. In the past, the west side of San Juan Island had two large fishing fleets plying the summer waters, their nets in the waters and guns on deck to shoot the orcas. Older islanders say “You knew where the orcas where from the gunfire”. Others say ”There were so many boats that at night it looked like a city on the water”. Orca were also being captured and thrown into tanks to be incarcerated for the rest of their lives.”

We are so blessed to have sustainable tourism industry based on love and admiration for the orca. Because of increased awareness and science, we have a great chance to sustain and increase the orca population. What the orca need is Chinook salmon and many more of them.

Anyone who has gone on our boats knows that we operate with the greatest possible respect for the orcas. Much of the time, our engines are shut off, drifting so we can hear the whales talk to each other. My competitors operate the same way. If someone is less than courteous to the whales, they are rebuked. This is my life’s mission and my life’s work. To have anyone think I would harass these amazing animals is so hurtful to us. Please, if you really care for the whales give some thought to how many whales have been protected because people saw them from a responsible whale watch tour and became their advocates.

Bill Wright
San Juan Island

( Mr. Wright is the owner, San Juan Safaris Whale Watch & Wildlife Tours)


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