The planning department has all kinds of tricks up its Critical Areas Ordinance sleeves. They want to exempt all outdoor recreation but as you know, I have been researching and writing on this issue, explaining that all human activities have impacts. And I have plenty of science to back me up.
To counter all my research (which is not referenced or acknowledged in any way, nor is any of my Best Available Science included in the report), on the impacts of outdoor activities, they modified the exemption to the critical area requirements for “low impact activities” (examples provided include hiking, canoeing, viewing, nature study, hunting, fish, education or scientific research” to include “that do not cause adverse impacts.” WCC 16.16. 230. Nice try, but all of these activities have impacts, and the nature and extent of these impacts is not determined by the nature of the activity, but the intensity of use by humans.
But here is the tricky part. Normally, activities are not regulated by the CAO, only development. That was one of the red flags that warned me about this provision. And sure enough, as I review Article 2 of the CAO, I see that WWC 16.16.225.B prohibits alteration of a critical area or its buffers. EXCEPT…when alteration is associated with an exempt activity under WCC 16.16.230.D. (or a farm plan, even though that alteration will be kept secret from the public.).
Let me explain the consequences here. You know that trail plan that Parks Director McFarlane presented for the park reconveyance? And I wanted to know why he was not following the CAO requirements, or doing a environmental assessment of wildlife and habitat? HE DOES NOT HAVE TO. Because hiking and biking (which is unstated, but this is not meant to be an inclusive list, which is very troubling) are exempt from the CAO, that allows the Parks Department to “alter” critical areas as well. That means he can build whatever the hell he wants without having to follow the local law. That is outrageous.
Please join me in writing to or testifying before the county planning commission on Thursday, 6:30PM at the Northwest Annex to ask that these provisions, WCC 16.16.230.D, and 16.16.225.B.5 and 7 be removed from the CAO provisions. We need more environmental protection and this allows the Parks Department free reign to do what they want, and it goes the same thing for farmers, even though there are the primary source of water quality degradation.