Consequences of Bureaucratic Decisions - Piping irrigation ditches harms people and fish 

- By Ron Perrow    

OC3 Newsletter
July 2002

            The only way we can stop the juggernaut of oppressive bureaucracy is to fight it at every step of the way. It can be done. And, it works!

            Ken Sletten of Mazama and Keyport was instrumental in stopping a taxpayer bailout of a poorly conceived private investment plan surrounding the Arrowleaf project in the upper Methow Valley. His dogged determination in presenting the "real" facts to decision makers who historically had been manipulated by profit motivated individuals using "environmental junk science" is just the type of political action we need more of in Okanogan County.

            Very few of us have the time or expertise to do what Ken did. However, I think most of us have enough time to write a letter, or send a form letter, or send an e-mail to our elected officials or other appropriate decision makers. Here's an example: OC3 is presently investigating just who are the decision makers in the proposed Central Washington University purchase of 1,671 acres of privately owned land two miles up stream along the Okanogan River. The decision is to be made next spring. 

            There will always be exceptions, but basically, most people entrusted with making decisions on our behalf try to do a good job. But in order to do a good job, they need accurate and verifiable facts from which they can make these decisions. Our job is to ensure the facts are "real" and that they are based on current circumstances and reflect a complete picture of the whole situation. The folks making this decision need to know:

1.         That Okanogan County is already more than 80 percent owned by some form of government and any more government ownership is very detrimental to the tax base.

2.         That the county commissioners were not in support of the project.

3.         That there is no direct benefit to fish from the project.

4.         That the appraised value of the land is based on conservation considerations not on market considerations.

5.         And finally, the public should have had the opportunity to be involved in the leading evaluations preceding any determination of the projects worth.

            After we find the identity of the living, breathing persons who are tasked with making the decision to either go forward or stop this purchase, you may be assured that we will publish their names and addresses in this newsletter.

            Unfortunately, even with "facts" from which an accurate decision could have been made, the bureaucracy screws things up.

            Take the case of tightlining the Wolf Creek Reclamation District ditch above Big and Little Twin Lakes near Winthrop. Over four miles of ditch was put in pipe. Then the lakes began to dry up and nearby wells went dry - adversely impacting ‘habitat’ for fish, wildlife, and people

Now some hydrologists studying the Methow Valley say it's too soon to determine what is causing the lakes and wells to dry up. What a bunch of nonsense! 

The consequence of ground water recharge of the Methow River, surrounding lakes and wells is not exactly a new revelation. The recharge should have been thoroughly evaluated and primarily considered before spending a bunch of money on pipe. Is there a familiar ring to this? Could this situation be just like the one in the north county where the pipe had to be perforated to restore the benefits of  ground water recharge?

            I think so.


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