Northwest NEWS

July 12, 1999

Editorial

Writer is concerned with the parts of the Draft Compact for King County cities

(This is a copy of a letter sent to members of the King County Council, King County Executive Ron Sims, selected state legislative committees, and Gov. Gary Locke.)

   1. Lead entity: Having observed and studied King County's regulatory processes for over 20 years, and being especially concerned with King County Executive Ron Sims' recent assumption of legislative authority over land use by way of issuance of Administrative Rules (or, as termed in the May 5th Seattle Times, "executive orders"), I'm very concerned with the push to designate aptly-named King County as the "lead entity" for the watershed. The carrots of state funding for habitat protection and for $150,000 from the state to help King County carry out its lead role are reminiscent of the state planning grants that suckered some non-covered counties into the growth-management net, only to find the state grants woefully inadequate and the counties' regulatory authority significantly curtailed.

   Under no circumstances should King County be named as "lead entity" without thorough consideration of ALL the implications and plain-English explanations of those implications to all citizens.

   2. Regional governance: I'm even more concerned about the Draft Compact with local governments which employs not only the funding carrots but also the instilled fear of Bogeyman NMFS's failing to "grant them legal assurances" against lawsuits. (Note: these are only assurances, not guarantees.) The Compact creates Regional Watershed Governance with dictatorial King County leading the way. Local governments, who DO have the land use and funding authorities that the WRLA committees and the watershed forums do not have, will, by signing the Compact, obligate their citizens to implement policies in a proposal document for which the completion deadline is the same date on which formal approval decisions by local governments are to be made. Where is the intervening period for studying the proposal and holding hearings?

   Even if local governments approve turning over certain land use and funding controls contained in the proposal to a regional-governance body led by King County, the adaptive management provision whereby "management and related policy can be changed promptly and appropriately" will leave local governments at the mercy of a "policy-making body" which is already spelled out as not being this WRIA committee. If ever there was a pig-in-a-poke, this is it.

   3. As the claim under "Purpose" that King County Watershed forums "have proven an effective and successful means to addressing regional fish habitat, flood protection, and water quality needs in watersheds," I beg to differ. While King County has locked up huge amounts of rural land for fish habitat, its "flood protection" activities have also been geared toward fish habitat and have definitely not cured flooding. (Except in the instances of replacing too-small plugged culverts with larger, maintained culverts.) The county's Regional Needs Assessment (RNA) is implemented as fish protection, not flood protection. As to water quality, King County streams already have good water quality, except for some temperature and fecal coliform problems.

   The twigs and sprigs being planted along stream banks are not going to alleviate temperature problems for many years, and along the Sammamish River, never. (The problem there is the Lake Sammamish weir, which is not being addressed.) As to fecal coliform, that problem probably lies with geese and ducks, as the dairy cows in this WRIA are long gone. The water fowl are merely being shooed from one waterfront to another, instead of reducing them to far lesser numbers.

   4. Finally, it should be strongly noted that state and local concentration on habitat, as opposed to overharvesting and predation, is akin to assigning oneself to spending a fortune on polishing up a rusty race car when the real problem is that the car has no engine. Saying "The engine is not our responsibility" won't affect the end result that the car will not run, no matter how slick its skin. State and local governments should do only minimal habitat work until after the federal government has done its part on controlling overharvest and predation.

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville