04/07/2008: "Jelly Jar"
When people tell me they want to preserve something I get a mental image of being stuck inside a jelly jar like some freaky thing on the shelf in a curiosity shop. So when I heard about a proposal to turn the San Juan’s into an “aquatic preserve” I had to investigate. I studied the 84-page proposal and went to the open house meeting at the Grange Hall. It got ugly quick!
The “Open House” that the Marine Resources Council (MRC) hosted in Friday Harbor almost immediately broke out into a hockey game. The quarrelling got so heated that the moderator actually asked one audience member to “step outside”. Just asking a simple question drew the ire of MRC members as they shouted back angrily in defense of their proposal. The surprising emotional response of self-righteous anger that some committee members showed towards the public certainly did not dignify the affair. So what was all the fuss about?
Acting outside of any constraints a group of appointed MRC committee members has made it their goal to give control of the permit process for the marine areas around San Juan County to bureaucrats from the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR). Never mind the fact that they have no legal authority to act on behalf of the people nor any mandate from elected officials to negotiate the sellout of our local control to a State Agency. They are determined to do it anyway. Who is going to stop them?
They thought they could get away with it. No one from the public comes to their meetings so they haven’t had much feedback except of course from all the enviro-fundamentalist groups. They ran their ideas by the Nature Conservancy, SeaDoc Society, Friends, and others, but that is like Michael Jackson inviting a cadre of pedophile priests to a slumber party at the Neverland Ranch. They’re all twisted up in the same way. It certainly was not what any fair-minded person would consider impartial public outreach.
As an attendee I was shocked to find out that an appointed advisory group to the County Council actually believe that they can dispense with public hearings and go around elected officials in an attempt to get a State agency to lock the islands into a 90-year management contract. When asked about this their reply was, “MRC is the lead agency on this.” But how can an unelected group of volunteers be agents for us? Something is way out of whack here.
The DNR Aquatic Reserve is for those people that just can’t get enough regulation. The reserve is advertised as a “regulatory tool” that will add another layer of intense scrutiny to the already onerous permit process. Proponents argue stubbornly that a takeover of the permit process by DNR will give us islanders more of a voice in decisions that impact our marine environment. How naive is that? Since when has a bureaucracy really had our best interests at heart? Can anyone name one that is effective or efficient at anything?
I suspect that this bureau will be inclined to deny almost all permission to use our shores for commercial or recreational activity. Instead the DNR will give us more reasons why humans do not really figure into the “natural marine ecosystems” that they will manage for us in the next 90-years. Their new focus will be putting an airtight lid on the big jar.
There are many new laws that will come into play if we somehow end up in the jelly jar of aquatic preserves. Here is a doozy: WAC332-30-151 (2) “ Leases for activities in conflict with reserve status shall not be issued.” Who will decide what activities are in conflict with what? I guarantee you that the decision will not be made locally.
So for anyone concerned about strict enforcement upon new or existing marine activities you should know there may be a new Sheriff in town. If you enjoy the use of boat launching ramps, docks, or marine repair facilities; if you benefit from underwater marine utilities or desalinization intakes and outfalls; if you live-aboard a boat, or you are a clam digger, YOU should get involved.
Send an email to the County Council, and the DNR and tell them what they can do with their aquatic reserve. Contact the DNR in the person of Doug Sutherland ( firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP! email@example.com The County Council may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org