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New CAO rules not backed by science | Guest Column

By Bob Levinson
for San Juan Journal

JULY 30, 2012 · UPDATED 7:36 PM


San Juan Islands, WA – According to County Councilman Howie Rosenfeld, we now know the council will be passing the Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) by a majority of 5-to-1.

It has been over three years since the San Juan County has been involved with the CAO process. From the start the public has been asking the council and staff “What is the problem” without getting a reasonable answer.

The public, whom you represent and basically work for, deserve an answer from each council member giving us the reasons you are getting ready to pass a more restrictive CAO that will have profound impacts to our county.

You have been going through the new CAO drafts line by line. Have you ever gone through our existing CAO line by line to determine why it may not be maintaining our rural pristine character? If not, why not?

As stewards of our land we do not see any problems with our local environment that would require a major overhaul that will place more restrictions on the use of our property. Do you realize by just renaming our setbacks to buffers you are restricting the use of our property and we could go to jail for doing something on our property that we have been doing for years?

Previously, when you have been asked the question, your reply has been the Best Available Science. What BAS has shown a problem on our islands? I reviewed a chapter of the BAS and found that out of 150 cited reports only one was from the islands, all the others were from other areas, including three foreign countries and 13 other states.

The one local report did not show any existing problems. Would you use a car mechanic that did not first analyze the problem before he started working on your car?

In your response, if you do choose to respond, and explain the reasons for adopting the new CAO, please let us know specifically what local BAS you are basing your decision upon. Remember, our islands are unique geomorphically and our waters emanate from Canada.

We would also like to know why you think our existing CAO and Shoreline Master Program are not functioning as planned over 20 years ago, and what environmental problems have arisen as a result of those rules. If you cannot tell us the reasons, why change what has basically provided us with our present pristine conditions. Wouldn’t that make sense and be a morally appropriate thing to do?

Another very important aspect of these upcoming rules are both the unintended and also the obvious consequences, especially to our economic viability, that will surely be manifested upon the county if these new rules are adopted. Why have you not done an economic analysis on the CAO and SMP? Shouldn’t this be a high priority considering the condition of our county budget?

So please give us the reasoning for your forth coming actions. It would be appropriate, honest and forthright way to treat your neighbors.

— Robert Levinson, P.E., is a professional geotechnical engineer and a master gardener. He lives on San Juan Island.

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