Concern over the proposed Sumas Energy 2 power plant has caused increasing involvement by Whatcom County and Canadian citizens. The fast pace and many different aspects of the project have succeeded in creating a confusing and, at best, frustrating process at the local, county, and state levels.
At the same time that Whatcom County residents are devoting their efforts to digestion of the draft environmental impact statement, our Canadian neighbors are rapidly dealing with the impacts of the proposed plant that have just recently been exposed to them.
The City of Abbotsford voted 8-0 to oppose all aspects of the proposed plant, and on April 26, the Fraser Valley Regional District voted to oppose construction and also oppose the impacts.
The City of Abbotsford has applied for intervenorship on issues such as air quality, water usage, noise, power lines, and of particular importance, the sewage treatment. At least 368,640 gallons per day of cooling tower blowdown, chemical neutralization products, and domestic sewage would be expected to travel north to Abbotsfords James treatment plant. This is more than double the total which is already sent from Sumas and would require major infrastructure improvements.
Senator Georgia Gardner (D-42nd District), has staunchly defended this proposed project by attempting to override Governor Lockes veto of Senate Bill 6062 which would have allowed a $24 million state sales tax exemption of which $3.9 million would have affected this county.
Claims of 400 workers for three years have been disputed by direct quotes from the draft environmental impact statement. Twenty-three permanent employees can even be disputed by the draft on pages 2-27 wherein it is stated that to realize operating efficiencies through staffing both projects (Sumas Energy 2 and the existing Sumas Cogeneration) with some of the same personnel, only sites immediately adjacent to the existing plant or in proximity to it were considered.
Other representatives in our legislature alluded to the misinformation about the need for power in our area. At a recent County Council planning and development informational meeting, Puget Sound Energy discussed the details on the countys power generation. Currently, the county produces 675 megawatts of power: Whitehorn-140MW, Sumas Cogen-125MW, Tenaska-250MW, and Encogen (Georgia Pacific)-160MW. Puget Sound Energy serves commercial, industrial, and residential customers with 370 megawatts.
Intalco purchases their power directly from the Bonneville Power Administration grid that runs through the county. The proposed Sumas Energy 2 plant would produce an additional 660 megawatts of power that is not necessary for serving this county.
For more information on power generation, power lines, and electricity, Puget Sound Energy held a forum at the May 2 planning and development meeting at about 3:30 pm. Every other Tuesday afternoon, the County Council will be continuing the informational process about these issues. Anyone may attend.
The Whatcom County Democrats passed at their convention on April 23 with no objections, to support Governor Lockes veto of the Sumas power plant sales tax exemption.
President of Sumas Energy 2, Darrell Jones, has suggested that the company would look at building its own wastewater treatment plant. Would this then allow treated wastewater to be dumped into the Sumas River, which already has problems, and ultimately end up in Canada anyway?
Not only that, but there has recently been a fungus problem in the existing Sumas sewage lines and a lot of corporate fingerpointing between existing industrial plants in response to this problem. Power plants on the east coast have had sewage treatment shutdowns because of the obliteration of necessary bacteria in the treatment process.
The adjudicative hearings to be held by the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council are tentatively scheduled for June 8, 9, 10 in Whatcom County and if necessary, June 12, 13, and 14 in Olympia.
The current plans are to hold an open public hearing at an evening meeting June 8 and, if additional time is needed, June 9, 2000. All meetings are open to the public although, except for the public witness hearings, only formal intervenors will be actively participating.
Mary Barrett, from the States Attorney Generals office is also compiling citizen input from the draft environmental impact statement and adjudicative phases to make sure they are communicated effectively to the Council. If you have concerns, please contact her office at (360) 664-2475, and/or send your concerns to some of the intervenors in the process. A list of them may be obtained from Allen Fiksdal, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, and (360) 956-2152.
Concerns are numerous over the proposed power plant and Whatcom county citizens can be heard and seen at public meetings and by the intervenors in the process. Residents of the county stand to reap the negative impacts while the backers of this plant, who are not area citizens, reap the profits.
Flow Chart of Whatcom County Transferable Development Rights Procedure
As part of a larger package of tools and techniques to help protect the Lake Whatcom Watershed, the Whatcom County Council adopted (in December of 1999) amendments to the county zoning ordinance and maps to enable a Transferable Development Rights program.
Q. How did the Transferable Development Rights program come about? Why Transferable Development Rights?
A. This is one of many steps being taken to help protect the Lake Whatcom Watershed. It is part of a larger package of tools. Numerous sections of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan adopted in May, 1997, call for the use of creative techniques and incentives.
In several places the plan specifically mentions transferable development rights to promote a variety of interests and protect various resources. The plan also specifically identifies the Lake Whatcom Watershed as one of those resources to be protected.
The appeal of a Transferable Development Rights program is that it is a technique that can protect resources without an actual or perceived taking peoples property rights.
Q. Who put this together and when?
A. As county planning staff began developing the proposals for the Urban Fringe Subarea Plan update between 1994 and 1996 the concept of a Transferable Development Rights receiving area was included.
The County Council approved the use of Transferable Development Rights as a means of attaining higher density in certain areas in September 1997 when the subarea plan was adopted along with the Urban Residential-Mixed Use zoning.
The county then had a Transferable Development Rights receiving area and a density transfer procedure but was still in need of a Transferable Development Rights sending area in order to have a functioning Transferable Development Rights program.
Work on a much broader Transferable Development Rights program was begun in 1996 by County planning staff with a consultant hired to do an initial market feasibility study. A multi-disciplinary review committee also provided assistance and input.
Then, in October of 1997, county staff began working on a Transferable Development Rights program specifically focused on transferring residential development rights out of the Lake Whatcom Watershed and into Bellinghams urban growth area. The county hired the original consultant to do a more focused feasibility study and to provide recommendations for revising the existing density transfer procedures.
Between February and September of 1998, county staff and consultants met with the review committee five times to develop a final recommendation to the county planning commission. The committee included a realtor, an attorney, real estate appraisers, land development consultants, a developer, the Manager of Water District 10, Sudden Valleys Community Association Manager, and a City of Bellingham planning staff person.
The planning commission held hearings and work session in 1998 and 1999 before endorsing a final recommendation to the Whatcom County Council. In December, 1999 the Council gave final approval to the Transferable Development Rights program as described in the following paragraphs.
Q. What are Transferable Development Rights?
A. The ability of a landowner to transfer their residential development rights to another owner or to another piece of property is based on what is known in real estate as the bundle of rights theory or concept.
Under this theory, landowners possess a bundle of rights that can be compared to a bundle of sticks. Each of these sticks may be separated from the bundle and sold or given away separately while retaining ownership of the bundle and the remaining sticks.
Some familiar examples of these sticks or property rights include rights to access (such as an easement for a driveway or utilities), mineral rights, and timber rights, all of which can be conveyed to someone other than the primary property owner.
Other property rights include rights to undeveloped spaces above the land, the right to use, the right to dispose, and the right to develop the property including rights to subdivide and build additional houses on the property as permitted by state laws and local zoning codes.
Development rights are generally defined as the difference between the existing use of a parcel and its potential use as permitted by existing laws. Another way of stating this is that the development rights represent the unused development potential of a parcel of land.
Transfer of Development Rights (Transferable Development Rights) means separating the right to build a house on a piece of land from the ownership of the land itself, and transferring that right to another piece of land and allowing that house to be built there. It is a way that landowners can cash in some of the value of their land without actually developing that land.
Transferable Development Rights simply takes the unused residential development portion of the bundle of rights from one property and transfers the rights to another property or owner. This shifts the future residential development potential from the original property (the Sending site) to a site designated for higher density development (the Receiving site).
Also, a government, a private conservation organization, or an individual could purchase development rights as an investment for later use or to retire them to not ever be used.
The transfer of a development right refers to a land use zoning technique used to preserve resources valued by a community, such as open space, farmland, historical landmarks, and environmentally sensitive lands.
Under such a zoning provision, people who own property that is desired by the community to be preserved can choose to voluntarily sell their development rights on the open market.
The purchaser may use the purchased rights to develop property above the density currently permitted in an area that is already planned for and better suited for growth in terms of the availability of urban services, including roads, schools, police and fire protection, sewer and water, and other utilities.
The purchaser may also choose to hold those rights for an indefinite period as an investment to be sold in the future or to not use them at all.
Q. What are the benefits of a Transferable Development Rights program?
A. This transfer of rights has the potential to benefit the community, the seller, and the buyer. You might call this a win, win, win situation.
The community benefits because the resource is protected from future damage from development and from future costs of repairing or restoring the damaged resources.
The seller has a way to realize some economic benefits or profits from the land without the time, expense and risk of developing the property.
The buyer gains by being permitted to develop at a higher density without incurring the costs of purchasing additional developable property.
Q. What are five essential elements of a Transferable Development Rights program?
1. Designated sending areas (or site selection criteria): These are the areas or properties that are considered desirable to protect. In most cases, the areas are designated on a zoning map overlay, where the community has established a desire to preserve open space, agriculture, or other resources that are threatened by development pressures.
The zoning changes that Whatcom County recently approved established the Lake Whatcom Watershed as a sending area based on the development pressures threatening this important drinking water resource.
In other cases, sending areas are identified on a case by case basis using certain criteria, such as wetlands or unstable slopes. These criteria are written into plans and land development regulations.
The Transferable Development Rights program enables landowners to transfer development rights to other locations, thus directing growth pressures away from the sending area.
2. Designated receiving areas (or site selection criteria): These are areas, also designated on a zoning map overlay, where it is appropriate and desirable to increase densities without threatening valued resources or community character. These are typically areas where public investments in public facilities and utilities have been made and where those facilities and utilities can be efficiently provided with the least cost to taxpayers.
As with sending areas, receiving areas may also be established on a site by site basis using criteria identified in community plans and development regulations. Whatcom County has established the Urban Residential-Mixed Use zone in the north part of Bellinghams designated urban growth area as a receiving area for development rights transferred from the Lake Whatcom Watershed.
3. A formula for allocating rights: In some Transferable Development Rights programs, property owners may be permitted to transfer more development rights than they would actually be able to use on the sending property. Such Transferable Development Rights programs use ratios such as 2 to 1 or 1.5 to 1 to determine how many rights may be transferred from the sending area and used in the receiving area. Such formulas may be quite elaborate.
Whatcom County has chosen a simple formula that uses full density allowable under zoning; or a one-to-one ratio. In any case, one must be able to calculate the number of Transferable Development Rights the sending area landowner has available for sale and the amount of density increase permitted to the receiving property.
4. A procedure for transferring development rights and keeping track of whats been transferred: Such procedures can vary and are usually explained in local land use and development regulations.
5. Public awareness of the program and its benefits: This is particularly important for communities that have established voluntary Transferable Development Rights programs. Obviously, if no one knows about the Transferable Development Rights program, no one will use it and the opportunity to protect the resource is lost.
Therefore, a public information campaign is essential to assure that property owners of both the receiving and the sending areas (and any other potential purchasers of Transferable Development Rights, such as parties interested in investment or conservation) are aware of the Transferable Development Rights option, procedures, and the benefits of the Transferable Development Rights program.
Q. What is Whatcom Countys Transferable Development Rights program?
A. Whatcom County has adopted what is described as a voluntary, market driven program using a zoning map overlay and zoning regulations that describe the process of certifying and transferring development rights.
In Whatcom County, the designated sending area includes all zones in the Lake Whatcom Watershed that allow residential development and construction with the exception of Sudden Valley.
The receiving area in Whatcom County is the URMX zones in the Countys Urban Fringe Subarea, that portion of Bellinghams urban growth area to the north.
The procedures for certifying Transferable Development Rights for future sale and/or transfer and the process for transferring rights as part of a development permit for subdividing in the receiving area are described in detail in the Whatcom County zoning code (Title 20 of the Whatcom Count Code) in Chapter 20.93.
Q. How does the Transferable Development Rights program work in Whatcom County?
A. Transferable Development Rights Certification for future sale or transfer. Individuals, businesses, government or organizations may wish to bank or otherwise hold Transferable Development Rights either for future use or resale or for conservation purposes.
The certification option of the Transferable Development Rights program gives owners and purchasers some assurance of a specific number of Transferable Development Rights that they may be able to acquire.
After administrative review, the Whatcom County Planning and Development Services Department issues a Transferable Development Rights Certificate that identifies the number of residential development rights that may be transferred or offered for sale.
Transferable Development Rights Permit: (A Transferable Development Rights Permit is part of the development approval on the receiving property). This is where the actual transfer to another piece of land occurs.
A Transferable Development Rights Permit requires final approval by the County of a subdivision development project in the receiving area (Short plat, long plat, Planned Unit Development, etc.) to make the transfer final.
The Transferable Development Rights Permit requires that either the developer already own a certain number of Transferable Development Rights in the form of Certificates or go through the same steps as for the certification concurrently with the development project. Extra density is requested for the project and the Transferable Development Rights are cashed in when the project is approved.
Deed of Transfer: The legal instrument that conveys the development rights from one owner to another is called a deed of transfer.
It must be recorded with the Whatcom County Auditor and must also be filed with the Whatcom County Planning and Development Services Department before any sale or transfer of Transferable Development Rights is final.
This deed is required when the Transferable Development Rights are transferred to a receiving parcel and when the Transferable Development Rights are to be banked or otherwise held either for future use or resale or for conservation purposes.
Restrictive covenant: In all cases when Transferable Development Rights are transferred, an Irrevocable Covenant to Restrict Platting, Subdivision and Additional Residential Development must be recorded with the Whatcom County Auditor against the sending parcel.
The Covenant specifies the number of potential lots remaining on the sending parcel after the transfer and becomes permanently attached to the title to the land. A copy of the applicable sending parcel covenants must be provided as part of the final approval process for development projects using Transferable Development Rights.
Transferable Development Rights Registry: The Whatcom County Planning Department has established and initially will maintain a registry for the purpose of allowing prospective buyers and prospective sellers of transferable development rights (Transferable Development Rights) to contact each other. Registry information is provided voluntarily and is not verified by the County for accuracy.
Q. What next?
The county has hired me to work with Water Resources Division staff and Cooperative Extension Service staff to Jump Start the Transferable Development Rights program through a number of means, one of which is the publication of this article.
The intent is to make as many potentially interested landowners and others aware of the Transferable Development Rights program as possible. I have also provided training to county planning staff and have assisted with preparation of a Transferable Development Rights brochure for publication. Other efforts include making presentations to a wide range of interested groups including, for example, the North Cascades Audubon Society and the Whatcom Association of Realtors. Additional broader media exposure will be pursued in the near future, as will be meetings with neighborhood groups and other interested organizations.
The county will monitor the Transferable Development Rights program for at least one year to gain some idea of its degree of success. As part of the monitoring, the county will be looking for any glitches in the program to determine whether to recommend changes.
Q. Possibly later...
A. The county and the City of Bellingham are thinking about several future actions, none of which have been definitely determined. Being considered are designating additional sending areas (such as agricultural land or critical areas, for example), designating additional receiving areas (possibly other parts of Bellinghams urban growth area or urban growth areas of other cities in the county), and fine tuning the regulations as experience dictates.
Q. Where can I get more information?
A. Whatcom County Planning and Development Services, Land Use Division is responsible for administration of the Transferable Development Rights program.
For the Transferable Development Rights registry, certification or permits, county planning can be reached at their offices at 5280 Northwest Road (at the intersection of Smith Road) and by calling 676-6907.
A brochure giving an overview of the Transferable Development Rights program is available. For scheduling a presentation on the Transferable Development Rights program or to receive copies of Transferable Development Rights information by email, contact me, Carl Batchelor by phone at (360)595-2519 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An excellent internet site that provides general background information about Transferable Development Rights in general, provides links to additional information, and is periodically updated to chronicle Transferable Development Rights programs for communities throughout the United States can be found at the following internet address: http://www.plannersweb.com/tdr.html
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Where else is it being done?
A. The following is a partial list of communities that have adopted Transferable Development Rights programs. Some of this information was taken from the web site listed above.
The City of Bellingham, Washington; King County, Washington; Clallam County, Washington; The City of Olympia, Washington; Thurston County, Washington; Island County, Washington; the City of Redmond, Washington; Boulder, Colorado; Delta County, Colorado; Montgomery County Maryland; The New Jersey Pine Barrens; The Long Island Pine Barrens; Collier County, Florida; and others.
Q. How are these programs working?
A. Unfortunately, no two programs are identical so it is hard to compare. The ones that are known to be the most effective are mandatory programs, where the sending area property owners have no other alternative for realizing some development value from their land. Whatcom County has declined to consider a mandatory program.
Q. Where can I find out who has Transferable Development Rights they want to sell or if someone is interested in buying my Transferable Development Rights?
A. Whatcom County Planning has set up a registry for the purpose of allowing prospective Transferable Development Rights sellers and prospective Transferable Development Rights purchasers to make themselves known to each other.
Q. If I purchase Transferable Development Rights, am I the only one who can use them or can I sell them to someone?
A. Transferable Development Rights can be bought and sold over and over, but each transaction requires that a new Transferable Development Rights certificates be issued and recordation with the Whatcom County Auditor.
Q. How long is a purchased, but unused Transferable Development Rights good for?
A. An unused Transferable Development Rights does not expire. This creates the opportunity for banking.
Q. Can single-family residence Transferable Development Rights be converted into commercial or multi-family space? For example, could one Transferable Development Rights unit be equal to x square feet of retail space?
A. Not as of yet in Whatcom County. Conversion formulas do exist in other programs around the United States, usually in urbanized areas.
Q. If I already have a house on my property, can I still participate in the Transferable Development Rights program as a sending site?
A. If your property is in the sending area, you could still participate depending on the size of your parcel. If your parcel is zoned to allow creation of another building lot, you may be able to sell development rights off of your land and keep one house on the land.
Q. What would be the benefit of becoming a sending site?
A. Some people who own land in the watershed would like to keep their land open, in timber production, or develop at a lower density than zoning allows. The pressure to subdivide, however, is strong because of the economic benefits of selling off pieces of land.
By selling development rights, a property owner can retain ownership of their land for open space preservation and forestry while gaining some monetary benefit from the development potential of the property.
Q. Why was Sudden Valley excluded from Whatcom Countys Transferable Development Rights program?
A. Throughout the process of committee recommendations, planning commission review and recommendations, and final County Council adoption, representatives of the Sudden Valley Community Association voiced concerns about being included, based on the potential for Sudden Valley lots to be abandoned and potential loss of Community Association dues.
The planning commission and County Council required that Sudden Valley provide proof that they are independently pursuing density reduction within the subdivision in order to be excluded.
Q. Is there a market for Transferable Development Rights locally and how much would a residential development right be worth?
A. According to the market feasibility study done by the countys consultant in 1998, under the program that was finally adopted by the county, there would be a positive market for Transferable Development Rights (demand exceeds supply).
Development rights were estimated to be potentially bought and sold in the area of between $5,000 and $8,000 each. The market, of course, will determine the final answer, as Transferable Development Rights are bought and sold.
Slowing Degradation of Drinking Water Supply
Although to date no one has registered or certified their Transferable Development Rights with county planning, some realtors have shown interest and have familiarized themselves with the required paperwork. The Transferable Development Rights program has the potential to play an important role in slowing the degradation of Lake Whatcom, the drinking water supply for thousands of county and city residents, but only if people accept the program and participate in making it a vital and active complement to other land use programs.
Editors Note: This article offers an opportunity to listen to the concerns of many Washington State residents on the east side of the Cascades. This article is reprinted with permission from the April 2000 issue, Volume 43, Number 4, of Wheat Life, the official publication of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.
Virtually every American wheat farmer is taking a long, hard look at his operation and wondering how much longer he can last. Even fifth-generation farm families with over 100 years of farming tradition are being forced to consider whether this might be the last crop they harvest. Tough times are bringing some very difficult decisions.
Many farmers are being forced to ask themselves whether they should quit now, while they can, or keep farming and risk losing their land.
You dont hear about it on the broadcast news media. You also wont find much coverage of it in the major print media, but rural America, and especially agriculture, is suffering.
With the explosion of the United States economy in the past decade, fueled by the stock market and especially the technology industry, it has been easy for the severe economic problems of agriculture and other natural resource-based industries to go unnoticed.
Who can blame the general public? We Americans are definitely spoiled. When we go to the grocery store, were annoyed if there isnt a variety of different brands and sizes of each food to choose from. In many other countries around the world, consumers are glad to find any food at all on their grocery store shelves.
Of every dollar we earn, we spend only about 11 cents for food. In South America, they spend 40 cents. In China, they spend 60 cents.
Incredibly, although you could buy a loaf of bread for a dime back in the 1930s, the market price for wheat then was not a great deal less than what farmers are receiving right now.
Most people dont understand that we have no way to pass on the ever-increasing costs of our seed, fertilizer, fuel, chemicals and other essentials.
For example, diesel fuel that cost 63 cents per gallon last spring is now at $1.11 per gallon, and the price is expected to continue rising.
Another example of what has occurred in the United States agriculture industry is the steady shift in profit from the food producers to food processors and packagers. Between 1910 and 1990, the share of agricultural profit to the farmer has been reduced from 21 percent to five percent.
Our production costs are also rising due to management practices designed to comply with ever-increasing federal regulations. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act have all had significant financial effects on United States farmers.
The new Food Quality Protection Act regulations are still being formulated. Its obvious that the expanding role of the federal government in determining how our farms can be operated will continue. Despite the fact that all United States citizens benefit from our compliance with all of these regulations, farmers have been forced to bear the financial burden of this compliance.
Obviously, there have been other lean times in the history of agriculture. Crop failures and famines have taken place in the past. Farmers have always been at the mercy of many factors out of our control. That has been part of our legacy.
The answer in the past has always been to become more efficient and raise more bushels of grain from each acre we farm. However, in recent times, these advancements in technology and crop yields have caused us to face new adversaries. Ironically, one of our toughest problems now is to overcome our own successes.
More efficient use of fertility products, improved farm equipment, and better wheat varieties caused worldwide grain supplies to periodically build up in the latter part of the 20th century. United States farm programs used acreage restrictions to control grain production. Even with those controls in place, too much grain production sometimes caused depressed market prices.
Recent farm programs utilized a system of paying farmers deficiency payments based on the difference between a government-established target price and an average cash sale price. Payment amounts were determined by factoring in historical acreage and yield figures.
These programs were not popular with everyone. They were restrictive, and took away a lot of the farming decisions we wanted to make for ourselves. There was also pressure on Congress to change the system for budgetary considerations.
The passage of the 1996 Freedom to Farm bill brought about some basic changes in federal farm policy. Preset, declining farm program payments were set up for the seven-year term of the program. These were intended to gradually reduce our dependence on government payments. The theory was that the transition to a free market would make future support payments unnecessary.
Allotted acreage and set-aside restrictions were removed. Unfortunately, increased grain acreages and the Asian economic collapse combined to cause a glut of wheat that has severely depressed the global wheat market for the past three years.
The Freedom to Farm bill was passed with assurances that the federal government would be very aggressive in utilizing the P.L. 480 and Export Enhancement Program tools to help make the farm program work. The federal government simply has not followed through on those promises.
It has also become obvious that the safety net provided by the new farm bill is insufficient for a sustained period of low commodity prices. The reality is, the safety net needs to be redesigned.
I also believe the United States has not been nearly aggressive enough in our free trade agreements. Heavy grain subsidies by Canada, the European Union and Australia have continued, leaving the United States grain producer at a distinct disadvantage.
Single desk grain trading allows some competing exporters to effectively undercut United States prices. Our government has been either unable or unwilling to do anything meaningful to help the United States farmer with these issues.
At times, our government seems to be working against United States farmers. Trade sanctions and grain sale embargoes imposed by past and current administrations have eliminated about 11 percent of the potential global market for United States producers. Pakistan is a good example of an excellent export market lost to the politics of an embargo.
The most frustrating thing about grain embargoes is that the United States farmers are the only ones that get penalized. Competing grain exporting nations quickly move in to sell to the countries we cut off.
Not only does this render the embargo useless, it sends a message to other grain importing nations that the United States is an unreliable grain supplier. Past experience has also shown that once these export markets are lost, it is extremely difficult to gain our market share back again after the embargo is lifted.
Some statistics may provide a clearer picture of what has been happening to American agriculture.
Farming as an occupation in the United States has been declining since the beginning of the 20th century. The federal government classifies a farm as any establishment from which over $1000 worth of agricultural products would normally be sold in a year.
Using that criteria, the latest government figures say there are slightly fewer than 2-million farms in America, covering about 968-million acres. That is a decline of about seven percent in the number of farms since 1987, and a reduction of over three percent in land use.
The vast majority of United States farms, over 86 percent, are still family farms. Over three-quarters of those farms average less than $50,000 gross annual sales, and require some sort of non-farm income to support the family.
Production of United States farms, however, has increased at an amazing rate of two percent per year since 1948, mostly due to the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other technological advances. Recently, the rate of growth has slowed, leading some to believe that agriculture is nearing its production limits from existing farmland.
Given the anticipated global population and income growth, food demand is expected to increase by at least 64 percent over the next 25 years. This raises the possibility that the United States could be faced with the prospect of going from being a food-exporting nation to a food-importing nation by the middle of this century.
How could this happen? Two major factors are significant in this regard.
American farmland acres are now being lost, mostly to development, at a rate of over 50 acres per hour. Between 1992 and 1997 alone, over 16-million acres of United States farmland were lost. Most of the acreage lost was the most productive, prime farmland near urban centers.
The second factor is the increasing average age of farmers. Fewer than 10 percent of American farm operators are under the age of 35. Although about half of the operators are under 55, there are three times as many farmers over 65 as there are under 35. At 40 years of age, Im 13 years younger than the average Washington state farmer.
With the current state of agriculture, who can blame our young people for not wanting to take over the family farm? And what is going to happen in a few years when so many of our current farmers retire?
The time has come when our country must decide whether it wants to make the necessary commitment to maintain our position as a self-sufficient agricultural nation with the ability to also produce enough additional foodstuffs to have a healthy food export trade balance.
If we are not committed to it, we will become dependent upon other nations for our food. This would leave us with no control over the prices we would pay for our food. We would have a limited input on the chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides that would be used producing our imported food. To me, that looks like a bad deal.
One only needs to look at what happened with oil prices and the OPEC nations to see where this could lead us. It would seem to be obvious that we need to do everything we can to avoid that situation.
United States farmers dont want a handout; we just want a helping hand from the people for whom we provide the cheapest, safest and most abundant supply of food in the world. In return, we will continue to help Americans maintain a lifestyle using 89 cents of every dollar of disposable income that includes everything from healthcare to recreation to investing in Americans future. The partnership between America and its agricultural sector must be strengthened, not abandoned, if this is to happen.
Squires Lake, Whatcom Countys newest park is for all seasons, but first visits are especially memorable. Ill never forget the delicate shades of yellow moss-covered shrubs on the north shore backlighted by early autumn sun.
Whatever the season, there is tranquility. Last summer I found Alice ODonnell relaxed at the dam and admiring the vistas. A Bellingham musician, she had noticed the park while riding past on a motorcycle and decided to visit. Beautiful, lovely, enchanting, she said, but then suddenly broke off to exclaim, Oh, theres an eagle! And as if to reward her first visit, the bird, resplendent in white head and tail, wheeled directly over our heads.
One always wants to return but never knows what to expect. Later on that visit a cottontail rabbit crossed the path and a muskrat swam under the footbridge. Blue damselflies swarmed over aquatic plants and dragonflies hunted lesser insects. Even a western tiger swallowtail fluttered by.
Both the parking lot and the first section of the quarter mile trail to the lake were carved out of a steep hillside. A fibrous netting covering the bank is now hidden by grass, forbes and shrubs, and together with tender loving care, they have stabilized the slope. Native trailing blackberry vines cascading down the cutbanks soon catch the hikers eye. Their white flowers are a favorite for veined-white butterflies in spring. In mid-summer, red, unripe berries liven the slope and are soon to be followed by ripe blackberries, the gourmets delight. Every butterfly buff ought to consider growing those vines on a trellis.
Plants with heart-shaped leaves, and with younger, smaller leaves growing out to the tops of the older leaves, are abundant along the trail. They are known as piggy-back plants or youth-on-age, one of the few truly native species grown in pots as house plants.
One soon passes into a second growth forest of western cedar with elegant swordfern dominating the understory, and then under a shady, cool canopy of bigleaf maples. The small clearing at the dam is a great place to relax and enjoy. Come after 5 p.m. on a midweek afternoon and you might have the views all to yourself. Weekends are crowded.
Dont miss the sunny northside trail and the large, pink, pyramidal flower clusters on hardhack shrubs along the shoreline. They last well into the fall; however, if you consider using hardhack at your pond, be advised that it absolutely is of no value to wildlife.
Native three-way sedges, Dulichium arundinaceum, fill a narrow, shallow water niche along the north shore east of the dam. The species is named for the repeated pattern of three successive stem leaves each pointing in a different direction. It is a perennial that grows from rhizomes, but not aggressively, so you might enjoy its esthetic quality on the edge of your pond.
Besides, you might want three-way sedge for its relation to dragonflies. Nymphs eat mosquito larva and adults catch mosquitoes on the wing. Moreover, the ever-changing perpetual motion of dragonflies fills the usual human need for a modicum of stimulus on a calm day without even a leaf wiggling.
Shallow bottom water among reeds and sedges is a favorite habitat for dragonfly nymphs. They leave the water just before the last molt, commonly climbing up sedges or reeds where their cast-off skins remain. In the summer of 1999, some 100 dragonfly nymph skins were hanging to three-way sedges in a 50-yard stretch of shoreline east of the dam. Most dragonflies you see around a lake are not looking for insects to eat. They are males looking for females with which to mate.
Off the north shore are large mats of aquatic plants with floating leaves. Yellow pond-lily leaves are large, green, and heart-shaped. Muskrats have eaten the blades on the truncated stems reaching for the sky. Watershield leaves are smaller, oval, and pink below. Young leaves are green above, but by mid-summer a dramatic change to yellow, gold and red begins. They are beautiful, but both species can be very aggressive and choke a pond.
By mid-summer, pond-lily leaves throughout the Pacific Northwest lowland lakes including Squires have an aphid population totaling many billions. The yellow and smallest are baby daughters that soon change to orange and blue-gray as they mature. Hornets eat aphids and birds eat the insects, but no matter. All the aphids are wingless females with no need for males and no time for sex life. Their sole functions are to eat, mature, and parthenogenetically pop out tiny but fully formed baby daughters that have no fathers or grandfathers. The daughters in turn soon are popping out more daughters, thus causing a sudden exponential population explosion. Later in the season winged males and females are produced. They mate, lay eggs, reproduce, and eggs from the last generation overwinter.
As your north shore hike approaches the far end of the lake, you will notice a patch of aquatic plants that remain green or somewhat bronzy in late summer or even fall after a number of other aquatic plants have begun to decay. That patch is native grass-leaved pondweed, Potamogeton gramineus.
The species has two kinds of leaves, floating leaves with elliptic blades on long stalks, and submerged, slender, grass-like leaves attached directly to the stem. A perennial growing from rhizomes, it is highly adaptable, which is a desirable quality for a private pond. It grows in water only inches deep or up to six feet deep. Form follows habitat. In shallow water it is profusely branched; in deeper water three or four feet deep as at Squires Lake, it is scarcely branched. Consider using it to contrast with the late summer and fall yellows and reds of watershield and floating-leaved pondweed, Potamogeton natans.
During the 1890s, Victor Squires was working as a railroad detective when he fell in love with the Pacific Northwest during two trips he made to investigate hijacking and theft cases. He married and settled in Mt. Vernon where he had a variety of employment including work at a sawmill.
The logging history of the Squires Lake area, at best, is very obscure. Judging from second growth timber, virgin timber was logged at about the turn of the century. Logging at that time was with steam-powered equipment and the South Side Trail appears to follow a railroad grade dating from that era.
There is no family history of logging at Squires Lake, so it is likely that the Squires Lake property already had been logged when Victor and Lula Squires bought Government Lot 4 including most of the lake and the surrounding property in 1905. George Martin, a cousin, bought the rest of the lake and property. Thus began the legacy of four generations of Squires living on that land. It ended in 1988 when the remaining heirs moved to Des Moines, Washington.
The original, natural lake was two thirds the present size. A peat meadow at the northwest end near the present dam became the backyard of the Squires cabin that was their home until the mid-1920s. Victor built an earthen dam to raise the lake level, but in the 1920s the dam broke and washed out Old Highway 99. A new concrete dam replaced the old one and a hydraulic ram and piping were installed to lift water to a 1,000-gallon storage tank for the family water supply. The shoreline stabilized long ago and has all the appearance of a completely natural lake.
The Squires operated their property for two periods as a place sportsmen could use for a fee. The first was in the 1920s when sportsmen could fish and trap muskrats and mink. The second was in the 1950s when the lake was stocked with rainbow trout. In the 1950s the family built a house on the hill north of the lake. It burned in the 1960s but was rebuilt and still exists today.
Plans for a Squires Lake County Park began when Richard Eggemeyer visited the property. Impressed by the peaceful setting, he felt that public use might be a feasible alternative to the lakeside residential development already planned. He contacted Roger De Spain, Director of Whatcom County Parks, and Rand Jack of the Whatcom Land Trust. They visited the property and were captivated by the tranquil setting, but the County Council was reluctant to use tax dollars to buy it. After an anonymous donor provided half the $600,000 purchase price, the county bought the 84-acre property on October 25, 1995. Exactly two years later the new park was opened.
Remember examples of property purchased for public recreation use left virtually idle because of no funds for essentials such as a parking lot, restrooms, and so-forth? Not so at Squires Lake. Development of the Squires Lake park is a classic example of public and private cooperation. Both the leadership of County Parks and of Whatcom Land Trust deserve high praise. More than a dozen corporations, clubs and governmental entities assisted by private volunteers contributed funds, materials, and work.
Remember wonderful parks badly blemished by lack of funds for maintenance? Not so at Squires Lake. Whenever you enjoy your Squires Lake visit, give credit to the corporation that donated five years of park maintenance, and to those who had the foresight to solicit the gift.
The easy way to visit Squires Lake is to drive Interstate 5, turn off at Exit 242, the Nulle Road exit, go east and park at the Squires Lake sign. Enjoy!
Note by Author
The history of this article itself might be of some interest. My current avocation is aquatic plants. To round out my study of aquatic plants in local lakes in 1998, I asked RogerDeSpain, Director of Whatcom County Parks, for permission to take my canoe into Squires Lake. Not satisfied with what I had learned in 1998, I asked again in 1999 for permission to take a canoe into Squires Lake. Mr. DeSpain kindly granted permission but added, Wed like to know what you are doing there. Rosemary Read of the Whatcom Horticultural Society and I have a mutual interest in native plants, and when I happened to remark that I was studying Squires Lake, she expressed interest in an article on the lake. Part of this article was previously published in The Social Gardener, the journal of the Whatcom Horticultural Society. And Mr. DeSpain received the full report of what I was doing there complete with a detailed plant list.
When Washington state gains its first wind energy farm in 2001, it will represent the first mass deployment of an innovative new wind turbine designed and built by a Bellevue, Washington, company.
Since the mid-90s, the Wind Turbine Company has been working on the first wind generator designed from scratch since the 1980s, WTC President Larry Miles says. Most of todays machines have three blades sitting in front of the tower, but the new turbine sites two blades downwind. That makes for a lighter and more flexible generator that delivers more juice for the buck.
When you put blades in front of the tower, the wind tries to push them back toward the tower, which requires a very stiff tower and blades, Miles explains. Reversing the arrangement changes wind dynamics enough to allow around 40 percent weight savings, translating into 20 percent materials cost savings. Towers can rise higher letting machines capture more wind.
The advantages caught the attention of Energy Northwest, the old Washington Public Power Supply System primarily known for a largely failed nuclear construction program that caused the worst municipal bond default in history. The utility is changing more than its name. It has committed to develop 100 megawatts of new renewable energy by 2006. Most is expected to come from wind.
In the first phase, a 10-15-megawatt wind farm, Wind Turbine Company will supply 20-30 of its 500 kilowatt machines. They will be assembled in the Seattle area. The wind farm site, somewhere in Eastern Washington, remains to be finalized.
We need a responsible mix, Energy Northwest Project Development Manager Dan Porter says. Wind power wont be all the answer for the Northwest but it should be part of the portfolio.
Ironically, even as Wind Turbine Company gains its first big market in the Northwest, a far larger market could steal the company away. A move to California is under serious consideration, Miles says. The company has contracts with the California Energy Commission, involved in one of the worlds largest clean energy programs. They dont want to be sending their checks out of state.
Its not just the money but also the amount of interest in wind in California, Miles says. If we were a dot-com or a biotech company we would probably get more attention up here. But we are not quite in the right niche in Washington state. Its amazing with the size of the global electrical industry.
Wind has had a turbulent history in the Northwest. Boeing was involved at an early point but pulled out. More recently, Advanced Wind Turbines, working on a design similar to Wind Turbine Companys, closed down here.
The Northwest can boast two world-class wind consulting firms. Global Energy Concepts of Kirkland, Wash. offers the full spectrum of consulting services needed to develop wind farms. Global Energy Concepts and its 16 employees work on projects across the United States and around the world, from China and India to Mexico and Brazil. Springtyme L.L.C., based in Sequim, Wash., is operated by Bob Lynette, a leading wind consultant since the 1980s. Lynette recently worked on a village wind project in Nepal.
Wind development is starting to pick up in the Northwest. In 1998 Oregons first wind farm opened on Vansycle Ridge near Pendleton. It pumps 25 megawatts during peak winds and eight megawatts averaged over the year. With 38 turbines manufactured by California-based Vestas-American Wind Technology, the $35 million installation was built under contract to Portland General Electric.
On Earth Day 1999, Wyomings first wind plant opened on Foote Creek Rim. Owned by PacifiCorp and Eugene Water and Electric Board, which together invested $62 million, the wind farm ships a substantial amount of its production to the Bonneville Power Administration. With 69 Mitsubishi-built turbines, Foote Creek generates 41 megawatts at peak and averages 18 megawatts, consistently closer to top capacity than almost any other wind farm in the United States
More wind development is in the works. As part of the 1999 deal which allowed Scottish Power to take over PacifiCorp, the new owner agreed to build 50 megawatts of new renewables, much likely to be wind. Bonneville Power Administration is also committed to develop at least 25 megawatts of new wind energy.
The Northwest certainly has vast potential, Renewable Northwest Project figures show. Montana, a Saudi Arabia of the breeze, could reliably supply 116,000 megawatts, 15 percent of United States electrical demand. Oregon with 4,900 trusty megawatts and Idaho with 8,300 could meet all their own power needs. Washingtons 3,700 megawatts are enough to run three million homes.
Cost for that power would range from 4-6cent;/kilowatt hour, notes Renewable Northwest Project. With the standard Northwest wholesale power running 2.5-3cent;/kilowatt hour, wind still faces hurdles. But when wind becomes fully competitive in a decade or so turbines are bound to shoot up all over the region and world. Whether they bear nameplates of Northwest companies crucially depends on the level of support regional institutions show today.
For more information contact Climate Solutions, 610 E.4th Ave., Olympia, WA 98501 (360) 352-1763 or email@example.com. Web address: www.climatesolutions.org.
My normal activities and thought patterns were joyously disrupted today by a letter that appeared in my mailbox. I knew instantly from the randomness of the coffee stains, the distinctiveness of the handwriting, the three different pens that attempted to function but were pronounced dead from abuse, and the Australian post mark, it was from my friend Bear. He had reached another port of call in his unique sailing adventure around this planet.
My wife and I spent our first 11 years together living aboard a small wooden schooner. We were attempting to create a life for ourselves, avoiding some of societys pressures while maintaining a level of adventure both of us longed for.
During this time I had the good fortune to meet Bear, a person so unique, I immediately came to the conclusion I was meeting a one of a kind individual. At first glance, without seeing the depth of the man inside, any person could be easily rushed to judgment by Bears outward appearance.
Looking past his unkempt exterior, however, one quickly sees many great qualities. He is not judgmental of people, giving each person the benefit of the doubt no matter what predicament he might find them in. He is able to laugh at himself and this world in situations where others would be brought to tears. He possesses a buoyancy that floats him above lifes negative moments when other people would be sinking fast.
Late one summer evening while walking through our marina parking lot, adrift in the unconsciousness of my own daily routine, my first meeting with Bear would come as a shock, followed by curiosity, and eventually friendship. With towel and soap in hand and nearly to the shower, I was suddenly startled by loud grunts emanating from a dilapidated station wagon off to my side. Spinning to my left I saw the car rocking from side to side as a huge, hairy man emerged from his sleeping quarters in the back of the wagon.
The passage of time has clouded my memory of our exact opening words, but many other details remain vivid and clear. Bear and his dog Poopsy were residing in the car until they could sleep onboard the boat he had recently purchased. Even though the boats interior was torn apart and lacked floorboards and a berth in which to sleep, Bear had still tried sleeping in the cold dampness of the bilge. This arrangement proved to be too uncomfortable, so the parking lot had become their chosen home.
Looking past him and into his car, I noticed that it was filled to the point of overflowing with what looked like junk to my biased eyes. Bear had just emerged from his den, a hole dug into his belongings, tailor made for an exacting fit. His mattress consisted of two gigantic bags of dog food that were surrounded by the remains of three dismantled chain saws. Precious belongings to be sure, but not what most people would consider normal bed partners.
Familiar smells of the logging industry drifted from his direction, Bears cologne for the month. He said he had just gotten through planting trees amidst the destruction of Mt. St. Helens. He had the look of being in the blast zone himself.
Knowing immediately I had never met a man like Bear before, I felt like fleeing, but the friendliness of his eyes, and the laugh that is his trademark, filled the emptiness of the parking lot and kept me engaged. During this first meeting I wondered if he was dealt a full deck. Now almost 20 years later I am wondering if it is not me who is lacking a few good cards.
Bear quickly became a welcomed member of our close community of friends living aboard their boats. These boats varied from our own small classic schooner to large expensive yachts. The people ranged from construction workers to doctors, spanning international boundaries. It was a very diverse group with Bear occupying a niche all to himself on the far end of the spectrum.
He solidified his position on this spectrum the day he took an ax to his boat, removing its cabin and deck upon finding that rot had invaded its structure. It would have been a very sad moment for anyone who had just found decay in their dreams. He lamented very little over losing his shelter and having to spend his meager savings rebuilding.
Because I had become a good friend, I was invited to witness and photograph the removal of the boats topsides. This scene is etched in my brain forever: Bear straddling the top of his beloved vessel, his back-lit silhouette against the blue sky and bay, ax swinging, delivering repeated fatal blows to his home. At the same time that wood chips and sweat were flying in all directions, Bear was verbally questioning his own sanity and wondering whether he was doing the right thing.
In two hours what had not floated away with the tidal current was lying in small chunks in the bottom of the hull. Passing boaters must have thought they were witnessing a madman in action.
None of our group could believe what Bear had done this time even though we had all grown accustomed to Bears unique sense of style. For Bear this boat bashing had been a bold statement, rebelling against his own weakness of procrastination. Even though his future remained uncertain, Bear had made sure there was no easy path back to where he had just been.
Rebuilding a boat is a huge project for a trained shipwright. For Bear, possessing no woodworking skills and limited money, it was a monumental endeavor. We all wondered if he would ever complete the task. I tried placing myself in his shoes and found the situation overwhelming and deeply depressing.
We all worried what sort of toll this would take on our friend. None of us truly understood how strong willed and determined he was. The drama lay in the fact that Bear was still in the very real process of finding out for himself. Many of us thought there was a good chance that the Saint Jude (named for the patron saint of lost causes) would never see open water again.
Few saw any good reason for rebuilding the boat in the first place. Why not let it die like all wooden boats eventually do? It would soon become just another memory like the numerous thirty-five dollar automobiles Bear had abandoned in friends back yards up and down the coast.
For over a year Bear toiled with his dream. He expressed the notion that he not only wanted to make the boat livable, but also strong enough for possible ocean travel. How he maintained a positive attitude we will never know as we watched him each day covered with glue, sweat, and fiberglass dust. Even when Bear was cleaned up, he was covered with gook.
Rebuilding proved to be grueling work. He lost his marginally paying job as the marina night security guard, through no fault of his own. Marina politics. Through adversity Bear would soon have a new motto to live by. My wife created a card which included a picture and quote from Bears mentor, Tristan Jones, a world renowned single-handed sailor who consistently chose adventure over creature comfort.
The card was posted overlooking what Bear would call the destruction zone. It read, When in danger, when in doubt, hoist the sails and bugger on out. For Bear, words to live by, and words he took to heart. Dont let the pressures of society pull you down. In a life-threatening storm, trust your inner wisdom and your boat. Safety lies in the open ocean, not near the shallows where most people reside and find comfort. Steer your own course, mate!
Part way through the rebuilding of Saint Jude, our live-aboard community lost an inspirational young member to a cancerous brain tumor. Clance had put up an amazing fight for his life. He inspired everyone close to him by accomplishing more in his last year than most of us will in our lifetime. He spent little time asking why me, instead focusing on making dreams come true.
In the midst of his battle with cancer, Clance went off to Nashville and recorded his first music album. Recovering from a second major brain tumor operation, he set off for Australia to see the outback and its people. He bought a small oceangoing sailboat and began making plans to sail around the world when he recovered.
Watching Clance, the way he danced around the outside edges of his life, I knew without a doubt he had all the necessary talents to sail across any ocean. All he needed was a fair length of life. Clance never got his chance. Even with his incredibly positive attitude fighting cancer, he lost the battle, never getting the opportunity to fulfill his dream of sailing across an ocean.
Bear and Clance had become close friends through all of this, their unique personalities meeting on a level the depth of which few of us could really appreciate or comprehend. After Clances death, Bear commented to me that he was going to complete Clances dream in memory of an individual who had given all of us a gift of fresh perspective and joyous outlook on our precious lives. I knew that Bear was very serious in his comment and not to be taken lightly.
Bears problem was that his seafaring skills were non existent and he possessed a boat which most people would not trust their lives to. From outward appearances, not a very likely candidate for a global adventure better left for men and women with huge egos and money to burn on the latest ocean going vessels. Any detractors Bear might have had at this time, he was about to prove wrong and out of touch with the reality he was living in.
Upon the completion of the new Saint Jude, the first test was sailing her down the Washington-Oregon Coast to her new home in Berkeley, California. In October, this is a very serious adventure for even seasoned sailors in well-tuned boats. Few would do it single handed, and I know of only one who would do it in the Saint Jude, that person being Bear.
He completed his trip down the coast, an adventure that could fill an entire book. Problems arose on the trip that would have caused most people to flounder, but not Bear. Adversity had become Bears friend and constant companion, allowing him to function one problem at a time, as if chaos were just a normal fact of daily life. Jokingly, he said his main problem arose while making his life-sustaining coffee during the constant gales. His Coleman stove kept flopping about, threatening to catch his boat on fire while boiling coffee sloshed onto his arms.
I will never forget the day Bear and I were working at the marina refinishing a boat together not long after his coastal trip. Since Bear had worked at the Marina as a security guard, most of the patrons knew him.
Few knew him very well, though, and I would not hesitate to say many of them looked down on him. They were not able to see beyond the dirty clothes, dented rusty car, and a boat that looked like many that the marina personnel were constantly in the process of trying to refloat after sinking to the bottom from neglect. They were unable to see past his rough exterior to a person whose parents were both college professors and had raised a college educated son with an imaginative mind. Most only saw a man going nowhere, incapable of generating the necessary money needed for living the good life.
On this particular day all the sailors were returning in their boats from a big race out on the bay. A couple of them had noticed that Bear had been gone for a good while and asked where he had been. Upon hearing that he had sailed his boat down the coast with no motor, and in October, I could literally see their mouths drop open in disbelief.
I saw egos taking huge hits as it quickly dawned on them that this individual, whom they thought they had towered above, had beaten them to the punch. Bear had completed a feat they had been unable to accomplish, even with their expensive, more than capable boats.
It takes a unique person who can confront the inner demons that become apparent during any ocean passage; few possess the talent or desire to confront these demons alone. Of those who do, Bear is somewhat unique in that he is very much a people-oriented person.
Bear spent the next few winters living in his home town of Berkeley, California. During the rest of the year he gained knowledge as a sailor working on numerous fish tenders in Alaska. Alaska and the characters it draws were right up Bears kaleidoscopic alley. He is quickly bored with normal people and is drawn to the extreme. He could fill a book with stories just from all the crazy people with whom he has conferred at laundromats and libraries.
I believe Bear has logged more time talking to schizophrenics than most psychiatrists and probably has a better understanding of them, too. I know he shares more in common; his dreams attest to that. Dreams which tenaciously survived through long bouts with reality now began to flicker back to life, fueled by self-confidence gained through experience at sea, and a distant voice which would not die away. Just as interplanetary gases coalesce to form stars and planets, Bears dreams were consolidating into a real concrete form.
A couple of years ago Bear decided that before he himself went over the edge, it was now or never, concerning his dream to sail the South Pacific. With Clance as Bears guiding light, Bear set sail on a journey that has taken him through the Marquesas Islands, Fuji, and now to his latest destination, Australia. He has visited many remote islands, entertaining the Native people, Im sure, as much as they have entertained him.
In many ways Bear is a throw-back to earlier times before modern sailing vessels and sophisticated sailors became the norm. Bear is the sort of person kids still flock behind when walking the streets in these remote islands. He is the sort of person these people admire because he has done so much with so little. He is also the kind of person capable of developing friendships so deep that he would devote a major portion of his own life to honoring another mans dream. In some inexplicable way, Bear has taken all his close friends on his journey. I for one would like to thank him for that.
This article is a study of contrasts. An ombudsman is an appointed public official who investigates activities that may infringe on the rights of individuals. Diametrically opposed is the city newsletter.It is spin-doctored to make the city government controlling majority look good while not revealing information on untreated or mishandled issues that the public would find objectionable.
Problems caused by developers are prevalent in Bellingham. Development in the Cody Avenue area is one example of an issue that could have been handled successfully by an ombudsman.
The Cody Avenue area is in south Bellingham, south of Old Fairhaven Parkway. A contractor is finishing three new houses west of existing homes on an alley that is an extension of Cody Avenue west of 22nd Street. All houses are on septic tanks.
The alley was unpaved until 1999 when the building contractor paid for a one-lane blacktop pavement. The pavement was moved five feet to one side of the alley centerline to save three large trees, a shift made possible through donation by a neighbor of five feet of his property.
Russ Weston lives on Cody Avenue and owns the adjacent vacant lot on the northeast corner of Cody and 22nd.
I had just returned from Arizona when I got a phone call from Russ Weston. He said he needed some photos because a contractor had said neighbors are just complaining, but everything is OK.
I commonly get requests to become involved in issues, but I was very surprised to hear from Russ Weston. We had a civil relationship but I scarcely knew him and did not vote for him in the last election. However, I thought he must have a real issue or he would not have called me. I didnt want to go, but I was curious and I went.
Russ Weston gave me a tour of the complaint area. Unknown to me at the time, a Bellingham City Council member had visited the area without contacting Russ Weston. Here are some of the things I photographed which include some of the things the Bellingham City Council member evidently missed.
The first stop was the vacant lot next to Westons house, a neat, well constructed log house he himself built on Cody. There were extensive areas of fresh concrete where drivers delivering concrete to the construction site had dumped excess concrete to clean out the mixers. That cement had not been noticed by a Bellingham City Council member to whom complaints had been made.
Next, we crossed 22nd Street and followed the alley. I photographed deeply rutted lawns on both sides of the blacktop. Weston told me the ruts were caused by concrete trucks passing construction workers cars parked on the alley.
A Bellingham City Council member later told me the ruts were caused by shifting the blacktop strip five feet from the original legal center of the alley. Do you suppose the concrete truck drivers were trying to follow the original center of the alley or just trying to follow the blacktop pavement with cars parked along it?
Then we came to the raw end of a pipe carrying effluent liquids from a homeowners septic tank. It was located in the ditch on the edge of the alley blacktop. Weston told me it had been ruptured the year before through grading the alley in conjunction with laying the blacktop. Water running down the ditch together with liquids from the septic tank ran through the culvert and under Cody Avenue and down the ditch on the west side of 22nd Street.
As we approached the houses under construction, we were met by a stream of water from the construction site. As we reached the site a man rushed up saying, You cant do that. The man was from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Russ said.
The man told the workers to stop the water by putting back the coffer damn of loose dirt that had been removed to let a concrete truck reach the construction site. The workers complied.
The Bellingham City Council member had been a friend of mine, so I thought Id do a favor by telephoning to say that I found the Cody complaints real and thus save that council member some political flack later.
Instead, as so often happens, it only made matters worse. The immediate response to my call was a question of how I happened to be involved. I was asked to come and take photos, I said. Was I asked by Russ Weston? Yes, I replied. Wasnt it the Russ Weston who ran for mayor against Mark? Yes, I replied. He is still running against him was the instant response.
As for the effluent liquid from the septic tank, the council member said it is the responsibility of neighbors to notify the Whatcom County Health and Human Services Department and not the party that caused the damage. I wondered how neighbors not schooled in Bellinghams Byzantine labyrinth of local politics and divided legal responsibilities could be expected to know that.
The Bellingham City Council member said the homeowners could not afford sewers. Russ Weston said the neighbors would like sewers but were not asked. It is my understanding that last year the Bellingham City sewer reserve was $12 million and has since risen to $20.8 million. What does the city plan to do with all that money? Shouldnt the city target sewers for its own people first?
I find the city newsletter very boring. I feel I should read it, but I can scarcely bring myself to do it. The city newsletter is not wanted by any of my friends with whom I discussed it. Once I even was stopped on the street by a man who objected to the newsletter. He complained we were forced into street traffic on Squalicum Way near the Willows because of a disjunct in the sidewalk. When I made an excuse for the city by saying it probably is short of money he quickly replied, The city has money for the newsletter. They publish it to help incumbents get reelected.
The mayor and Bellingham City Council members advocating the city newsletter say the newsletter is needed because they are not getting their message out.
There are several objections to that rationalization. First,the City Council could get its message out at no cost to the taxpayers by using existing newspapers if they had the will to do it. Also very importantly, the information would reach the public in a more timely manner than it does now.
I cant speak for The Bellingham Herald, but I know for a fact that Whatcom Watch and The Every Other Weekly would publish articles by the city if offered to them.
Do not be misled by the number of subscribers for Whatcom Watch and The Every Other Weekly; there is a much larger circulation. Hard copies of those papers are free to the public at number of places in Bellingham, and both are free to the public on the Internet. I know that people do read articles in Whatcom Watch on the Internet.
The second objection to the city newsletter concerns whose message it is. Is it the mayors, or is it the majority of the City Council? One thing is abundantly clear. Its not democratic freedom of the press envisaged by the founders of our country.
Publishing in uncontrolled press would be good for the public, but would not be a free lunch for city officials. Articles in uncontrolled press invite scrutiny, criticism, controversy, and rebuttal. Is that the reason our city government chose to publish in a controlled, undemocratic press?
We have just reviewed support for diametrically opposed policies, one for serving the public, the other for serving politicians and special interests. We need an ombudsman, but dont hold your breath waiting for that to happen. We need to replace some office holders first.
This is the final excerpt from the report on global warming published by Climate Solutions in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, the Washington State University Energy Program, and the Northwest Council on Climate Change with support from the United States Environmental Protection Agencys Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation.
If El Niño is a dress rehearsal for global warming, then a crucial scene in the play unfolded during the 1997-98 El Niño when an upscale development on an eroding coastal bluff at Oceanside, Ore. threatened to slide into the Pacific. El Niños typically push the ocean up 2-10 inches in the Northwest. Higher tides and storm surges eat at the base of coastal cliffs. Over the winter months this is exactly what was happening beneath The Capes. When the danger became apparent, 34 homeowners including former Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield were red-tagged out of their dwellings. The threat later receded, but four homes closest to the edge were still posted no-entry a year later.
Just a few inches of ocean might not sound like much. But they can represent a threshold, one of those last straws, that set off big and sometimes hairy changes. Those are in prospect. Elevated ocean levels that lap at the Northwest coast for short periods during El Niños are projected to become business as usual over the next century. As a permanent condition, their effects will be compounded.
Because of both melting glacier ice and the expansion of water as it warms, world sea levels have already risen 4-10 inches over the past century. Three inches more are expected by 2020, 8 by 2050 and 20 by 2100. Those are best guess estimates High end is around three feet.85 In any case, sea levels will continue rising for hundreds of years while higher temperatures melt ice caps and work their way through the deep oceans.
As the ocean increasingly crowds coastal bluffs, chances for landslides will increase. If global warming brings more intense rainfalls, turning hillsides into muck, those odds will multiply. The Capes exemplified that. Storms from above and sea from below together conspired to undermine bluffs.
Small rises in sea level add height to tides and significantly boost storm surges. Starting from a higher platform, surges can flood more turf. A 75-year storm a century from now will be able to do the kind of damage a 100-year storm does today.86 Flooding could spread far inland when higher surges and tides back up rivers gorged with storm runoff. Low-elevation river valleys in the Puget Sound and along the Oregon Coast might be especially hard hit.
Rising waters will busily chomp away at beaches. The sandy edges of Oregon and Southwest Washington that have shaped so many pleasant days and contemplative moments are at risk of severe erosion. They already experience temporary setbacks during El Niño's. Diminished extent could become more the normal condition. Coastline and beaches on inland straits from Puget Sound to the Fraser River delta are also at high risk of erosion.87 Northwesterners of the future might find narrower sandy stretches on which to play, think, read and gaze.
As seas rise some land will also be rising but other places will be sinking. Its the natural course of geological history. For the British Columbia coast, the upward push of the earth will cancel out as much as 16 inches of climbing waters. But the Puget Sound is settling by six inches per century in Seattle, nine around Tacoma, and five around Olympia.88 Put 20 inches more water on top, and some areas around the Sound are clearly in a precarious position.
Olympia is perhaps the most vulnerable place in the Puget Sound area to sea level rises, notes Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Oceans Philip Mote. Large areas of downtown would be inundated by 2100 under current projections of sea-level rise without substantial investment in building dikes.89
Coastal communities from Raymond and South Bend in Washington to Tillamook, Cannon Beach and Coos Bay in Oregon, as well as coast-hugging highways, are vulnerable to rising waters. Even a one-foot rise will force a costly realignment of Oregon Highway 101, disrupting businesses and forcing people to move.90
A special concern surrounding sea level rise is tidal marshes, whose contribution to biological productivity is far out of proportion to their size. They are food and shelter for wildlife including oysters, clams, ducks, geese, salmon, herring and smelt. In Western Washington alone, coastal wetlands play a vital part in the lives of 212 animal species.91 Development has already eliminated vast reaches of the marshes. Rising sea levels could take out much of what remains. If water ascends only 13 inches in particularly vulnerable Puget Sound, 40 percent of its tidal flats would go permanently under the wave.92 Oregons coastal marshes, now limited to Coos and Tillamook Bays, could drown under a 1-3-foot rise.93
With higher tides and storm surges undermining banks, property owners will feel driven to armor even more shoreline. Already, for example, human alterations line 52 percent of central Puget Sound shores.94 Besides huge economic costs, the ecological price of bulkheading what remains would be considerable. Wetlands pinched between rising waters and bulkheads would find no place to move. Shores would lose plant life, wildlife corridors, spawning areas, and logs and debris that create wildlife habitat. A more biologically impoverished coastline, with fewer salmon, shellfish and birds, would result. For wildlife and fisheries, it would be bad news.
Humans are already putting intense pressure on coastal ecosystems through armoring, wetland filling, logging, agriculture, dredging, exotic species introductions and other disturbances. Climate change piles on yet more stress.
Wetter winters and hotter summers...Fewer salmon...More forest fires and less forest cover...A disrupted water cycle with snowpack cut in half...Too much water in rivers in winter...More floods and mudslides...Too little water in summer...An increase in drought years...A squeeze on hydropower and farmers...Shortened ski seasons...Drowned highways, waterfronts and tidal marshes...More heat waves, air pollution and disease-carrying insects...None of these outcomes are what we want. Yet all are what we potentially face in the disrupted climate of the next century.
The damages global warming might inflict on the Pacific Northwest constitute a call to action and leadership. Part of the challenge will be adaptation. The Northwest is likely to experience a degree of negative impacts. A range of public policies must take likely climate change into account, from comprehensive water conservation, to increased focus on slide and flooding hazards in land use and transportation plans, to added emphasis on salmon recovery.
But we cannot stop at adaptation. In a way, we are in a paradoxical situation, for our region is vulnerable to circumstances far beyond our control. Yet if we want to save much of what we value about the Northwest, we must find a way to alter global trajectories. Our corner of the world clearly cannot do much to slow global warming, at least on our own. But we can play a leadership role far out of proportion to our numbers or geographic extent. It is said that with a sufficient fulcrum, one might move a whole world. Perhaps the Pacific Northwest, leading by example in and export of practical and profitable solutions to global warming, might tip the scales toward a worldwide response equal to the challenge.
Really, we are not so small. As an independent nation our economic region would rank as the 10th largest economy in the world.95 From software to aerospace, coffee to microbrew to music, we are leaders in technology and culture. Our budding clean energy industry is already on the global map. We are also a center for environmental policy innovation. The Northwest has mounted world-recognized efforts in urban growth management and ecosystem-based protection of forest and watersheds, areas with important ramifications for climate change. We possess all the raw materials needed to craft a regional global warming strategy that provides a leading-edge model for the world.
So far, we are not there. To some extent, the Northwest thinks regionally in terms of the hydroelectric system and related issues such as salmon and flood control. But we have barely begun to grapple with climate change on any level. As Ed Miles of the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Oceans Climate Impacts Group notes, There is now very little regional capacity to plan in response to climate variability and none with respect to climate change.96 A warming world and disrupted climate do not give us the option of continuing that status quo.
The first step is to build regional self-awareness of both the perils we face, and the opportunities. For as the vast issue of global warming and its potential impacts is most readily comprehended on a regional scale, so are the solutions. Though national and global responses are utterly crucial, it will be at the bioregional scale where the rubber meets the road, where changes take visible shape:
Where clean energy sources such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels and hydrogen fuel cells are employed.
Where homes, stores, offices and factories are constructed and retrofitted for maximum energy efficiency.
Where neighborhoods, downtowns and town centers are revitalized and rebuilt so sprawl is constrained and the need for travel is minimized.
Where climate-friendly transportation systems emphasize buses, trains, car and van pools, bicycles, walking, telecommuting and clean-fuel vehicles.
Where farmers and foresters grow carbon reservoirs that lock up greenhouse gases in trees, crops and soils, and harvest biofuels that add no net greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Each of these transformations represents substantial opportunities for economic prosperity as well as environmental gain. In most of these areas, the Northwest already has models on the ground. The foundation is in place for a comprehensive regional climate change initiative bringing together large and small businesses, state and local government agencies, educational and research institutions, labor, and environmental and other nonprofit groups. Pulling together at the regional level, combining our resources, skills and knowledge, we can generate sufficient critical mass to create a Northwest climate change agenda that carries global significance.
For the sake of our future and our childrens future, and all the elements of Northwest nature we have come to treasure and rely upon, we must together consider both adaptation to a changing climate and innovative actions to avert the more dangerous scenarios. If we can clearly understand there are potentially bleak outcomes, we can also become a leader in global warming solutions and help the world navigate one of the coming centurys greatest challenges. With clarity, vision and purpose, this role is well within our grasp.
85Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change, Summary for Policymakers
89Mote, Philip, Impacts of climate change on Washingtons forests, salmon, coasts, and human health
90Sea Level Rise, Washington State Department of Ecology, Washington Coastal Zone Management, November 1996; Oregon Task Force on Global Warming, Report to the Governor and Legislature, Part One: Possible Impacts on Oregon from Global Warming, June 1990
91Washington State Department of Ecology, 1988 Washington Wetlands Study Report, Olympia, Wash.
92Park, R.A. et al, Potential effects of sea level rise on Puget Sound wetlands, Geocarto Int., 113, 8(4)99-110
93Environmental Protection Administration, Climate Change and Oregon
94Seattle Post-Intelligencer, A salmon fight on the beach, March 18, 1999, pA1
95Schell, Paul and Hamer, John, What is the Future of Cascadia?, Discovery Institute Inquiry, May 28, 1993. The authors refer to the five U.S. states and two Canadian provinces that make up the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.
96Miles and Hamlet, p4