Planning Commission Begins Critical Areas Ordinance Review / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

whatcom hawk

17 hrs  February 27, 2016  Wendy Harris

I attended the county planning commission work session Thursday night because it was addressing the CAO [Critical Areas Ordinance] update. It went as expected…. poorly. The PC [Planning Commission] majority still clings to a property rights/pro-business agenda and rubber stamps most of what the staff brings forward. (I lived blogged the event on my personal FB page.)

Unbelievably, the PC was generally fine with the failure to update the science or regulations regarding critical area recharge areas (CARA). So what if we have the highest nitrate rates in our groundwater drinking wells, and that the cause is well studied and well known to be from excess manure from dairies and livestock farmers? I hope some organization can step up and sue the county over its failure to protect groundwater. (Or the state Sp. Ct finally issues its opinion on water issues and resolves this issue.)

I was very disappointed in the presentation by Cliff Strong, the staff planner who led the CAO update process. He provided the PC with misleading or incomplete information in several instances.

And here is a nice parting gift. When I went to the citizen advisory committee website to review agendas, notes and audio, I discovered that it only was updated to 8/5/15. Our last meeting was in January. That is almost 6 months of meeting information that is missing, and those last meeitngs were the wrap-ups and final reviews. The public review process has already moved forward so I am not sure what the county is waiting for.

Frankly, we (the committee members) were all misled as to the process, being told that the citizen committee, the technical committee and the staff would have different versions of the final CAO recommendations, which hopefully could be combined. That was not even discussed at the end of the process. Instead, Cliff went off and came up with one BAS report without reference to some of the disagreements or BAS that was submitted. If I knew this was going to happen, I would have kept a log of what I submitted. (Well, I would have tried.)

In the end, it may not matter. With the exception of state and federally mandated changes for wetlands and frequently flooded areas, very little change was made, and some of that change was not favorable to the environment. And the biggest problem of all… our failure to track and measure whether there is a loss in ecosystem function in which an impacted critical area is located? Not even on the agenda for discussion.

Read Wendy’s post in the Whatcom Hawk Facebook group here.

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