River owners balk at selling out their property; 
encouraged by county agencies with an agenda to become “willing” sellers

By Sue Forde, Editor, Citizen Review Online

 May 29, 2002 – Over the past week, property owners along the Dungeness River have been offered the opportunity to sell their land to the county by way of grant money – taxpayers’ money.

Clallam County agencies called a meeting of River’s End landowners to discuss the buyout of their properties with a federal/state Salmon Recovery Fund Board (SRFB) grant of $1.5 million.[1]  River’s End is near the mouth of the Dungeness River – the end of a 10.8 mile section of the privately owned portion of the river. (Bill Rucklelshaus is director of Washington’s Salmon Funding Board (SRFB); local county commissioner Steve Tharinger (D) serves on that board with him.)

The previous day, county commissioners had held public hearings about the proposed buyout of the upper portion of the river, at Kinkade Island, with a proposed FEMA grant.[2]

At both meetings, landowners along the river were adamantly opposed to selling their property to the county.

On both ends of the privately-owned portions of the Dungeness River, property owners have spoken out in the attempt to defend their right to own their property without government interference.  And at both ends of the river, property owners offered solutions to the flooding problems that have increasingly threatened their property.

The two groups of landowners have been kept separated with statements by county agencies that they are in two separate, unrelated situations. 

The Dungeness River is contained by a dike and berm near River's End private property.

Photo by Sue Forde

Yet at both ends of the river, the property owners have come up with similar solutions to the problem:  fix and maintain the dikes which have historically protected their homes, and dredge the river bottom to remove the gravel built up by the fast-running river.  Gravel could then be given to the county for various projects, they suggest.  The funding for these types of projects, according to the owners, would be far less than the money required to buy out the property owners.

River's End Road leads to the private property known as "River's End".  This area would become part of the river if bought out by grant money.

Photo by Sue Forde

The county has made it clear that they will only buy out “willing” sellers.  In each instance, owners have commented that they could be forced into becoming “willing” sellers when the county refuses to protect them and their homes, and will not allow them to protect themselves.  Regulations - county, state and federal - preclude them from taking measures to defend themselves against the raging river during flood season. 

Though outspoken against selling their homes, the people are told that there are “others” who are “willing” – yet the agency cannot produce them.  One county agency employee stated that “not everyone who is ‘willing’ is willing to say so in public…It’s a rather private issue.”  Private?  When it’s tax dollars that are footing the bill?

It seems there is a different agenda at work regarding the Dungeness River, however – and rivers across the entire nation. 

In 1997, the so-called “local watershed council” (Dungeness River Management Team - DRMT) consisting of various agencies, the county, tribe and a token landowner or two, prepared a report [3] which reveals some of the true intentions about the fate of the river and the people who reside beside it. 

The report states that human activities, including “diking, bridge and road constrictions” are to blame for fish habitat problems.  “The lower 10.8 miles of the [Dungeness] river are the primary focus of restoration…virtually of the bank hardenings, diking, water withdrawals, gravel mining, bed aggradation, floodplain development…has occurred in the lower river.”

People are the problem, it seems.  Another document from the DRMT [4] states “the private ownership status of the Dungeness River channel also makes it difficult to implement habitat improvement or channel stabilization projects.” 

Homes and recreational properties dot the River's End area.  If bought out, the people would be forced to move to homes that would be far more costly than those they live in now.

Photo by Sue Forde

The Dungeness River has brought water to the prairie plains of the Dungeness Valley for 107 years, ever since pioneers dug irrigation ditches by hand to bring it there.  Located at the foot of the Olympic Mountains, the Sequim-Dungeness valley is extraordinarily beautiful, green and lush, as a result. 

Now the plans of the various agencies are to return the river to its “natural” state by “restoration” projects.  “Important river processes are altered when a dike is built that doesn’t allow flood waters to dissipate energy by spreading out across the floodplain, or that inhibits the river’s natural ability to store excessive sediment outside the channel”, the restoration report says.[5] “These problems are the primary causes for increased flooding risks and declining fish populations in the Dungeness.”  However, “restoring” the river by removing structures like the many dikes that protect would cause flooding across the valley, endangering homes and possibly lives.

“Restoration activities are challenged by the fact that most of the property surrounding the lower Dungeness River is privately owned,” the report continues.[6]  “Some work will require substantial funding, permits, property acquisition, easements or other types of agreements with willing landowners, some of which could be considered contentious,” it states.  (I wonder how a “willing” landowner could also be “contentious” – isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”)

The grant application repeats these words: “The lower river and estuary have been altered by diking, roadbuilding, and development causing degraded estuarine/riparian habitat, channel confinement, aggradation and related bedload instability…. The project will primarily benefit spawning and rearing of summer chum, lower river pink salmon and Chinook…Match is available from landowners, WDFW [Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife], USFS [U.S. Forest Service] and NOLT [North Olympic Land Trust].”[7] 

In other words, the buyout really has nothing to do with protecting landowners, and everything to do with “restoring the ecological processes of the estuary and lower Dungeness River.”[8]

Words mean things

We hear a lot about this word “restore”.  What does it really mean?  We went to the U.S. Department of Commerce “Stream Corridor Restoration” site to find a definition.  Here are several:

 “Ecological restoration” -the process of returning an ecosystem as closely as possible to ‘predisturbance’ conditions and functions. [as in, before European settlers], as compared to

“Rehabilitation” - making the land useful again after a disturbance. Involves establishing stable landscapes that support the ‘natural ecosystem’ mosaic’. (from the US Department of Commerce “Stream Corridor Restoration - principles, process, practices”. (www.ntis.gov/yellowbk/1nty82.1.htm) or

“Reclamation” - implies the process of serving a “utilitarian human purpose”

“Disturbances to Stream Corridors” - reviews the range of natural and ‘human induced’ disturbances that can ‘stress the corridor ecosystem’.

Where does this attack on people’s right to own private property originate?  In the plans for the river, statements are made that the river must become "self-sustaining." The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) is the lead agency overseeing the changes along the river.  In reviewing their website, you’ll notice the word “sustainable” used frequently.  We discussed the issue of “sustainability” in a previous article, and learned that it looks an awful lot like socialism.[9]  Biosphere reserves (of which we are one here on the North Olympic Peninsula) involve the concept of “sustainability.”

U.N. biosphere reserves, along with U.N. World Heritage Sites (our Olympic Mountains hold both designations), are covered under the U.N. Biodiversity Treaty.  We live in a “buffer zone” for this U.N. biosphere.  At the United Nations level, the Biodiversity Treaty, which was a relatively short document, (and which incorporates the "Wildlands Project") is further developed by another document, the Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA).  It’s in that document that we see terms very much like the ones in our local “Restoration Projects” papers that are working to bring about the public ownership of our river.

“Unsustainable Projects”

Noted as “unsustainable” in the GBA, is “While dam construction is the most obvious human intervention leading to the loss of wetland habitats, other engineering works also cause problems.  For example, straightening rivers decreases the retention of matter and energy, naturally functioning floodplains provide wildlife habitat and help reduce or buffer non-point-source pollution.”[10]

“”Irrigation has continued to play a role in agricultural activities world-wide…Over the last few decades it has played a vital role in the dramatic increase in food production.”  This is considered an “unsustainable” project.[11]

“Rivers are also being influenced through human activities in their catchments, which are being influenced by embankments, draining, deforestation, urbanization and industry.”  Unsustainable, says the GBA.[12]

“Agricultural activities which have destroyed much of the original prairie habitat.”  Unsustainable again![13] 

“A decline in biodiversity has been associated with the specific land-use changes associated with economic development such as power line construction,” says the GBA.  Unsustainable![14] Well, you get the idea!

“Legislation should facilitate government land acquisition for conservation purposes by instituting a right of pre-acquisition over land coming on the market, a right of compulsory purchase, and tax incentives for vendors”, says the GBA.[15]

The following quotes are very telling about where we’re headed:

“The major cause of biodiversity loss in recent historical times is human action, primarily land use that alters and degrades habitat to serve human needs.  Yet the ability to forecast the impact of specific actions on biodiversity is not yet well developed.”[16]

“A major factor of success in designing sustainable exploitations systems is the cooperative capacity of the local community, and its ability to design and implement management plans.”[17]

“…land-use planning is the responsibility of local governments.  There are two broad categories:  comprehensive planning and environmental site planning.  Comprehensive planning includes anticipatory mechanisms such as zoning to define appropriate land-uses and anticipate or direct certain types of development.  Comprehensive land-use plans are implemented through four basic instruments: (1) public acquisition; (2) public investment; (3) incentives, and (4) regulation.”[18]

The same GBA discusses religious and spiritual values, and points to Christianity as the primary problem for loss of biodiversity.  Consider:

“Stressing the place of humans outside nature, and the need for and possibility of technology mastering nature, these attitudes tend to treat all biodiversity elements as material resources created for human use.  Therefore, nothing is ‘wrong’ in the extinguishing of other life-forms if the pursuit of material well-being (called ‘progress’) is served by it…Such modern materialist views have directly or indirectly led to considerable over-exploitation of nature, and consequently to the loss of biodiversity.”[19]

“If a new ethic and a revolutionary change in human consciousness are necessary to support conservation purposes, why is there a general lack of support for non-utilitarian causes, and why are current cultural values usually human-centred?”[20]

“This world-view is characteristic of large-scale societies, heavily dependent on resources brought from considerable distances.  It is a world view that is characterized by the denial of sacred attributes in nature, a characteristic that has its roots in Greek philosophy, and became firmly established about 2000 years ago with the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religious traditions.  With hunting, gathering, fishing and low-input agriculture and animal husbandry as the mainstay of subsistence, the people are also closely tied to the natural resources of their immediate environments.  They therefore tend to view themselves as members of a community that not only includes other humans, but also plants and animals as well as rocks, springs and pools.  People are then members of a community of beings – living and non-living.  Their relationships with other community members be they trees, birds or mountain peaks are moulded by the relationships with other human members of the communities, as recipients of altruistic or mutualistic favours.  Thus rivers may be viewed as mothers;…Animals may be treated as kin; thus antelopes are brothers…”[21]

“Societies dominated by Islam, and especially by Christianity, have gone farthest in setting humans apart from nature and in embracing a value system that has converted the world into a warehouse of commodities for human enjoyment.  In the process, not only has nature lost its sacred qualities… Conversion to Christianity has meant an abandonment of an affinity with the natural world for many forest dwellers, peasants, fishers all over the world…On so converting to a religious belief system that rejects assignment of sacred qualities to elements of nature, they began to cut down the sacred groves, to bring the land under cultivation, as well as to market rattan and timber…Many of these people have …re-established the sacred groves, although now they are termed safety forests instead….it is, however, identical to that which supported the protection of sacred groves in pre-Christian times.”[22]

“Locally-based conservation, is, in some ways, a reaffirmation of traditional ways of thinking about resources and the natural world….If conservation is to become embedded in our daily activities, nature and society must be intimately linked in our minds.  This is a radical departure from the Western view of the separateness of Man and Nature – one that rekindles a holistic, ancestral way of thinking about our species in relation to the rest of the natural world.”[23]

It would appear that we are being moved by the United Nations and its goals rather than our own locally elected representatives, as is set out in our U.S. Constitution.  It is up to each of us to educate those we place in office at the ballot box, and if they are unwilling to listen, work hard to replace them with individuals who cherish freedom and our way of life as much as we do.

A scripture from the Bible comes to mind: 

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

-Psalm 8, 1-9

[3] “Recommended Restoration Projects for the Dungeness River, produced by the Dungeness River Restoration Work Group, a committee of the Dungeness River Management Team, 7/1/02

[4] Dungeness/Quilcene Plan.

[5] Recommended Restoration Projects for the Dungeness River, produced by the Dungeness River Restoration Work Group, a committee of the Dungeness River Management Team, 7/1/02, pg. 3

[6] Ibid, page 4.

[7] (4) Short Description of Project, SRFB Manual 18i: Estuarine/Nearshore Marine Application Forms, June 22, 2001

[8] Ibid.

[10] Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA), Page 751, Chapter  The GBA is an 1140-page document published by the Cambridge University Press under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP).  Nonsustainable items include grazing of livestock, fencing of pastures, modern farm production, logging, fossil fuels, etc.

[11] Ibid, page 745, Chapter

[12] Ibid, page 755, Chapter

[13] Ibid, Page 776, Chapter

[14] Ibid, page 755, Chapter

[15] Ibid, Page 1040, Chapter

[16] Ibid, Page 78, Chapter 11.2.4

[17] Ibid, Page 789, Chapter

[18] Ibid page 1041, Chapter

[19] Ibid, Page 766, Chap.

[20] Ibid. page 786, Chap. 11.3.3

[21] Ibid, page 838, Chapter 12.2.3

[22] Ibid page 839, Chapter 12.2.3

[23] Ibid, Page 1033, Chapter 13.5.4

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