The people have spoken out on the proposed watershed management plan: Overwhelming numbers tell commissioners to "send it back" for major changes
Review Report & Comment – WRIA 18 Watershed Plan Public Testimony
by Sue Forde, Managing Editor
December 6, 2004
A Clallam County Department of Community Development (DCD) “Staff” Report was prepared on Nov. 8, 2004 (with a duplication of the Report dated Nov. 19, 2004) by Val Streeter, Water Quality Planner, Ann Soule, Groundwater Specialist, and Andy Brastad, Director, HHS Environmental Health Division to the Clallam County Board of County Commissioners, as a result of three public hearings held September 21, October 6 and October 12, 2004 covering the proposed WRIA 18 (Elwha/Dungeness) Watershed Management Plan.
The “staff” had previously prepared a Summary for each of the public hearings, defining what they perceived the public had stated during those hearings. The first Summary was comprised of notes; the second and third Summaries also offered “Staff Reponse” to each of the “areas of concern” by the public.
The Staff Report gave a background based on staff’s perception, then proceeded to address the “common themes” of the public testimony. Their opening statement is titled “Support for WRIA 18 Watershed Plan Approval”, and stated that “many” comments, both written and verbal, were received in favor of adopting the watershed plan. They also referred to one developer’s comment in favor of the plan as written.
The Report then went on to list “areas of concern”, followed by “staff response” to each “concern.”
As a result of attending the public hearings, and then reviewing the staff report, our staff determined to review the records because there appeared to be discrepancies between the staff report and what we witnessed at the public hearings. We obtained a CD of the verbal testimonies for review, along with the 579 pages of submitted written testimony.
Our initial review disclosed that in the public verbal testimony,
there were as follows:
By removing the testimony of the WRIA team members, who would obviously
be for the plan they created, the numbers are more clear:
These would indicate a clear consensus of individuals who were against the plan, as written. Most called for a remand to the planning teams for further work.
Going to the letters submitted as testimony, we reviewed each and every letter submitted as testimony to the county commissioners.
There were 415 testimonies submitted, some of which were written by the same person. These will be addressed below. Based on raw data of this figure, there were 57 statements in favor of the plan, as proposed; 349 against the plan as proposed; and 339 requests that the plan be remanded for changes.
If testimony given by “team” members and agencies are discounted, the number in favor of passing the plan as written is reduced by 25 letters, leaving 32 proponents of the plan.
7.71% of the written testimony favored passing the plan as written.
After reducing to one each of those who had written more than one testimony, the numbers are as follows: Total individuals presenting written testimony: 386; those favoring the plan as written (including team members and agency personnel): 47; those opposed to the plan as written: 330; those requesting the plan be remanded: 324.
If testimony given by “team” members and agencies are discounted, the number in favor of passing the plan as written is reduced by 17, leaving 30 proponents of the plan.
7.77% of the written testimony favored passing the plan as written.
After review of the above information, it is clear that the strong majority of those testifying, both verbally and in writing, oppose the plan as written, and want the county commissioners to remand it for changes.
The final staff report dated Nov. 19, 2004, leads the reader to believe that there was strong support for the plan. The report reads: “Support for WRIA 18 Watershed Plan Approval: Many comments, both written and verbal, were received in favor of adopting the watershed plan.”
The term “many” according to the dictionary, means:
Less than 10% of the total input cannot be considered “many” by this definition. It would appear that “staff” is skewing their report to the county commissioners to favor the passage of the plan as written.
With the opportunity of “staff” to have the last word by way of their “staff response” within the report negates the purpose of holding public hearings. The county commissioners are perfectly capable of reviewing for themselves the testimony as presented, and drawing their own conclusions about whether to remand the plan. The will of the people is clear, based on the overwhelming testimony to that end.
It remains to be seen whether the “people” really matter, or whether unelected, unaccountable “staff” holds sway over the electeds.
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