Northwest NEWS

October 1, 2001


Policies that hamstring rural activities should be changed

(Letter to Tri-County Officials regardingTri-County Model 4(d) Rule Response Proposal [Vol. II - Stormwater])
   The adoption of the 65/10 policies for rural areas will preclude new hobby farms and livestock pastures, thereby prohibiting traditional rural lifestyles and activities, which is contrary to the Growth Management Act. (Has Tri-County done a SEPA social/economic analysis of the effects of these policies, as required by the State Supreme Count in Barrie v. Kitsap County 93 Wn.2d 843.614 P.2d 1184?) The policies also are contrary to federal and state constitutional requirements for protection of private property rights, among which property use is among the most important elements.
   The use of best available science for the Tri-County document is debatable:
   1. How does Tri-County explain our being in the midst of the biggest salmon runs in 60 years. Main-stream scientists give the credit to ocean conditions.
   2. The current politically-correct "best science" tactic of installing large wood debris in all streams, besides endangering floaters and boaters, induces flooding caused by debris jams, resulting in fish strewn all over the countryside.
   3. The Tri-County roof downspout BMP that calls for downspout "flowpaths through undisturbed native vegetation of at least 100 feet" will become stupid science if and when chimney sparks fall onto that "undisturbed" brush and cause a fire, with lots of water runoff from fire fighting efforts. (Green lawn around houses is recommended as excellent fire protection.)
   4. Jan Coles' U. of W. Master of Science thesis found that hobby farms do not threaten water quality in the Puget Sound area. I'm attaching a statement from an expert on old-time fish in King County's Bear Creek Valley, which refutes the findings of modern scientific modeling, too much of which is goals-oriented.
   5. As recently as 1990, Les Eldridge, while conducting a hearing on the 1991 Puget Sound Water Quality Management Plan, stated that the fenced buffer shown on a slide as an example of good stream protection, was 15 feet wide. There are long lists of scientific reports showing 25 foot buffers as ample for sediment and water quality protection, steep slopes excepted. (You should know that a 100' buffer around a 1-acre circular wetland increases the controlled area to 3.4 acre; a 200' buffer around that acre increases out-of-use to over 7 acres in size.)
   6. At a 1988 hearing in Langley, Wash., state wetlands hydrologists and biologists stated that properly executed tree clearing increases aquifer recharge. One of the hydrologists said "When you remove the trees you get more water - it's been demonstrated all over the U.S." Tri-County scientists say the opposite.
   In September 1999 State Senator Marilyn Rasmussen, in a major article in the Salem, Oregon, Capital Press, critcized government agencies working to achieve their own, rather than legislative, agendas. She said, "They seem to view people who own land as the enemy," and wondered "How many more of our young people will flee to crowded cities because of a declining job base in rural areas?".
   Tri-County policies that hamstring traditional rural activities should be re-done.
   (The statement below from Feb. 1, 1993, by Bradford T. Stevens of Woodinville, is pertinent to current environmental legislation. Mr. Stevens has a B.S. degree in Plant Science and an M.S. in Truck Crops, both from University of California at Davis. He also has a 2-year degree in livestock production.)
   Statement from Bradford Stevens on conditions in the Bear Creek Valley during his residency on Bear Creek for nearly 50 years.
   "During the time I lived in the south part of the Basin, near Redmond, I was surrounded by dairy farms that stretched north clear up to the area around Cottage Lake. Hundreds of cows were in grass pastures threaded by Bear Creek, Cottage Creek, and numerous tributary streams. The cows had full access to the streams. Manure was left in place and spread on the fields.
   Further, residential septic systems were substandard by today's standards. And road runoff contained leaded gasoline because that was available then - and Avondale Road ran very close to Bear and Cottage Creek, as it does today.
   Furthermore, there were lots of chickens and mink farms scattered around the area, with the chicken and mink manure spread on-site, presumably polluting the streams.
   Despite the above, the fall fish runs were tremendous, with the backs of the big fish rising above the surface of the small tributary which ran through my yard, from Bear Creek northeast to the McWhirter farm (now McWhriter Park.) Schools of salmon, as many as 30 in a school (possibly more because I worked and was seldom around to count them) passed by my barbecue pit. We could here them splash in the shallow water by our bedroom window.
   Today there are no cows in the fields I speak of, and few horses. The chicken and mink farms are gone. We have modern high septic standards and unleaded gasoline. But the fish runs are depleted.
   Common sense tells me that livestock is not the cause of those declining fish runs, based on my nearly 50 years of observations and talks with old-timers from other areas - Happy Valley and the Sammamish River where there used to be numerous dairies - confirm what I'm saying.
   I wish to go on record as objecting to the very severe restrictions being placed on agriculture, especially livestock-keeping, which is destroying an industry that is important not just to our local and state economy, but also to a lifestyle that has been treasured for centuries.
   (My remarks apply also to the forest industry. Fish thrived during past periods of intense clearcutting, so what's the difference now?)"
   Maxine Keesling, Woodinville