Monday, August 16, 2010

ADAGE Support Imported

This morning I sat in on the public hearing before the Port Commissioners. You know how I am about numbers. So here's my take on the meeting.

Of the 36 who spoke today at the Port public hearing, 16 spoke in favor of ADAGE. Of these 16 only four, as best I could tell, actually resided in Mason County. There were 12 people speaking who said they were from Olympia, Tukwilla, Puyallup, Pierce County, and Montesano. One who spoke tried to be cagey and not tell us that he's from Lewis County but we know he's not a resident of Mason County. The message from the 16 was basically about the jobs that ADAGE would be bringing to the area. None of them were speaking directly to the proposed lease as had been previously given as a condition of this public hearing. One speaker got Mason County mixed up with Kitsap County. That's what happens when support for a cause is imported.

Then there were 20 Mason County residents, mostly Port of Shelton voters, who cited specific language in the proposed contract and offered specific recommendations to make it more balanced, Basically the message to the Port Commissioners and their attorney was: "Hold up. You don't need to sell our souls to have ADAGE at the Port. How about some balance in this lease?"

Here's another impression that I will share with you. As I sat there waiting for the meeting to begin, I tried to make a bit of idle conversation with a man sitting to my left. Within seconds of beginning to talk to him, he told me to, "Shut up." By the way, he gave testimony and I now have his name. He's not from Mason County. This should help you really get a good impression of the fear, anger and open hostility coursing through this room.

What a bio-mess, Mason County.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Premeditated Permitting

One day as I was out door belling I met an 86 year old woman who wanted to talk about smokestacks in Shelton. Here's what she shared with me. She said when she was younger Shelton smokestacks polluted the air. She stated with such passion that she didn't want to see Shelton go back to that period. Clean Shelton air was a precious gift in her opinion.

Our county and port commissioners say they are powerless and just can't do anything to stop ADAGE from coming to Mason County. They tell us they don't want to show a judgement for any one company out of fear of a lawsuit. We hear our elected officials telling us that their hands are tied and that we should trust the "process". The "process" will take care of us. We hear them tell us how they work so hard to learn more about this topic but that they must remain neutral.

What some of them aren't telling us is that bringing this large multinational corporation to Mason County was planned - for years. For example lifting the height restriction was planned to allow for this facility. As some of our elected officials celebrated this ordinance change, which I'm calling premeditated permitting, the citizens of Mason County were unaware of what this would ultimately mean to their lives.

Too bad the elderly woman that I mentioned above was not consulted, she could have told our elected officials what it was like to live in a town with smokestacks. Had we known what the impact would be, many citizens would have probably shown up for the public hearing to change the height restriction that will now allow ADAGE to build their facility.

The take away lesson for me is that citizens to the best of their ability must pay attention to what's happening with their government. My mom always told us, "Even the King had to check to make sure his horses were fed." This was the reason she used to give me when she'd inspect the dishes that I washed. Knowing that she might be coming to check made me a lot more careful when I did the dishes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

“pre-commercial thinning" as a source for biomass incinertion

The posting below comes from Shawnie who has provided photos many times for this blog. She loves hiking in our forests. Thank you, Shawnie for your thoughtful contributions to the blog.

Many of us have been wondering where the wood for our three proposed biomass plants will come from. The numbers don’t seem to add up, there does not seem to be enough wood out there. I believe that the numbers do not add up because people are not counting our National Forest lands in their calculations. Now, I’m just stating this as an opinion based on what I have seen in the forest and I could be way off base, but I think that a lot of the wood will come from our National Forest. No, I don’t think they are going to clear cut in the National Forest; those days are over. I think they are going to thin every inch of the forest. The catch phrase for this is “pre-commercial thinning”, Tim Sheldon used the phrase in a recent commissioners meeting but he was talking about tree farms.

Pre commercial thinning is a part of the Olympic National Forest (ONF) plan to accelerate old growth characteristics within the remaining second growth forest. Here is a link about precommercial thinning in Olympic National Forest. From my perspective as a student of forest ecology, this does not make a lot of sense, but I can see how this would make great sense from a business perspective.

The forest service is cash strapped and has hundreds of miles of logging road to decommission. Decommissioning logging roads is expensive and clear cutting the forest to make money is not in line with the forest service current goals of conservation.

Pre-commercial thinning is a way for the forest service to log the land and make money and all in the name of "stewardship".

When they do a pre commercial thinning they take out the smallest trees and leave the biggest trees. The little trees they pull out don’t have a lot of commercial value. That is where biomass incineration comes in; these little trees are perfect for incineration.

The forest service can make contracts with logging companies to do the thinning and then the logging companies can sell the thinnings to the highest bidding biomass plant. Like I said, it‘s just an opinion but I think that is where a lot of the wood is going to come from.

Olympic National forest has been doing a lot of pre-commercial thinning lately and with the demand for biomass that the three proposed incinerator will bring in I think this practice of pre commercial thinning will accelerate and turn into a big money maker for the National Forest.

Here is a quote from a recent pre commercial thinning operation that took place near Shelton.

“The selected stands would be commercially thinned to enhance structural diversity and promote the development of old growth characteristics to achieve desired conditions identified by the Forest Plan. The 69 acres of commercial thinning would be selected from a combination of two stands; one stand is in the Pine Creek drainage and the other in the Lebar Creek drainage within the Skokomish watershed. The receipts from the commercial thinning of these stands would be used to fund decommissioning and conversion to trail of 0.6 miles of Road 2361000 and to pre-commercially thin 110 acres of overstocked conifer plantations within the Skokomish drainage."

This is a picture I took of that very thinning operation in the Skokomish watershed. You can see the old growth stump left over from when Simpson clear cut the land under the 100 year sustained yeild  and you can see a second growth stump that was created during the "thinning" that was done to pay for the pre-commercial thinning. You can also see the logging scars left on the remaining trees when the trees all around them were cut down and dragged out.

This next picture shows where the property line is between Simpson and the National Forest.  The standing trees are in the National forest. That's a lot of wood and thinning it would create a lot of "biomass" to burn. Ignore the trees on the other side of the lake, some of them are in a protected wilderness area.

The property line near Lake Cushman.  Simpson land is clear cut, the forest service land has trees. I bet logging companies salivate when they see all these trees that they can not have.

Another picture of the property line.  The trees left standing are on Prospect Ridge.  Prospect Ridge was clear cut by Simpson during the 100 year sustained yeild.  Due to the new Forest Service conservation goals, these trees can not be clear cut again, but they can be "thinned" in the name of stewardship.  There are hundreds of acres of land just like this in Olympic National Forest, maybe enough to supply a  biomass plant or two.

Room full of "pesky citizens" at the Port of Shelton July 13th

Standing room only at the Port of Shelton

citizens trying to stay cool by using the agenda as a fan

Photo's by Shawnie Whelan, all right reserved

Who's Benefiting?

It's great having trusted reporters getting to all of the meetings I can't make. My priority these days is meeting the voters. Thanks a bunch for the following posting, Ros.

I'm really impressed at how well the local elected officials are working so well together on preparing the infrastructure for Johns Prairie. They frequently and vehemently insist they are maintaining their neutrality on ADAGE while doing so. Great. We are cautioned not to discriminate against ADAGE by referring to ADAGE because it has not come up for a vote by the County Commissioners.

For quite sometime, the electeds have been busily adding water lines, expanding sewer capacity, changing zoning, changing height restrictions, noise restrictions, and who knows what else. A lot of the actual "work" seems to be done out of sight of the taxpayers but at the expense of the taxpayers. Community members are trying desperately to understand what is happening and believe me, it is a lot of work. It almost feels like something is being done TO us instead of being done FOR us. The electeds are so busy, they don't even have time to listen to the taxpayers. Worse yet, they tell us they don't have to because there are no specific rules that say they do. In all fairness, I must add that not all electeds are "going along" on this taxpayer swindle.

The taxpayers seem to think they need a voice in what the elected officials are doing on their behalf, with respect to the proposed ADAGE incinerator. The electeds tell us not to use the word "incinerator", but any smart person knows that you can't have ash without incinerating something. So, we pesky citizens will continue to use the word because ADAGE spokespersons say their ash will be trucked to eastern Washington. Probably a good idea they get their ash out of town.

At the July 13 Commissioners' Meeting, Tom Davis, who read an addendum he prepared for inclusion in real estate transactions regarding his "near incinerator" properties, was told by Commissioner Sheldon that he was speculating and that wasn't reasonable. I think ADAGE's permit application information is based on a computer model because the plant has never been built? Isn't that speculation? There is a lot of emotion surrounding something that may not even be real.

On that same date, the 216 meeting (read as Port of Shelton) was interesting as most of them have been since January 29. My guess is, meetings before that were interesting, we were just too busy with our lives to check in on them. Matt Matayoshi, Executive Director for the Economic Development Council of Mason County, decided to announce the Council's support for ADAGE. Matt said, "He/they will be working with ADAGE as we work through the SEPA process." It wasn't clear if he meant they, the Council and ADAGE, are now one, so they should be referred to as "we" or could he have meant the Council and County will be working the SEPA? He further stated there would be other entities stepping up in support.

So, another entity did. Steve Bloomfield stepped up and said he didn't live in the Port's District, but his business, Seattle Shellfish, is in the District. He claimed to be speaking for a silent majority (didn't say if they were in the District or out), who are influenced by the possibility of jobs, trucks running around, etc. He labels this invisible group as "We who work for a living." Suggesting those who are against ADAGE are just unemployed welfare recipients. He didn't actually say that, but the inference was there. Although he could have been suggesting we were all independently wealthy and just happened to have plenty of time to sit around and monitor how our money is being spent.

Anyway, Port Commissioner Jack Miles received stern looks of disapproval as he requested a new version of the Advisory Ballot, proposed by Al Brotche, be added to next Tuesday's agenda. Commissioner Hupp argued that the matter had already been voted on, to which Miles stated, "Not this one." See you all Tuesday.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Surprise Surprise

The Mason County Board of Commissioners has decided once again to ignore the voice of the people.

They will not (yes I said NOT) hold a public forum on the potential health impacts of the biomass incinerator ADAGE proposes to build here in Mason County. According to a report by KMAS, Commissioner Ross Gallagher told 1030 KMAS News Thursday that the Commissioners decided the County's Health Officer will draft an information sheet on the proposal instead.

Why should we be given an opportunity to comment and ask questions? Here's what's at stake - our health, environment, community, and property values. This is a significant decision which will impact this county for decades to come.

By releasing an information paper, the commissioners won't be exposed to public feedback. The citizens of Mason County want to be heard on more than election day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

ADAGE: The Voters Are Talking

Over the last month I've knocked on several hundred doors and stood in front of Wal-mart. This evening I want to report to you what I've heard and reiterate what my position is on ADAGE and the advisory ballot.

After speaking with hundreds of voters, I must report to you that I can count on one hand the number of people who think ADAGE is a good idea for Mason County. Of those I've visited with, every single one wants to see an advisory vote on the November ballot. The only five people I'm aware of who are not in favor of the advisory ballot are 5 of the 6 commissioners we elected to represent us, two on the Port Commission and three on the County Commission. The few people I found who favor ADAGE still thought it ought to be put to a vote of the people. What is wrong with this picture?

I do believe we need to attract new jobs to this county but based on my own research on ADAGE, I believe the costs far outweigh the benefits for the citizens of Mason County. I also feel there are some very real health concerns. For a county that ranks as one of the most unhealthy counties in Washington State, why would we want to bring more health risks into this community?

I continue to urge our elected officials to put the issue of ADAGE on the November ballot and then act based on the will of the people. I realize seeking, listening to, and then acting on the will of the people is a novel concept for some of the elected officials here in our county. But if our elected officials fail to represent us, then shame on us if we don't replace them when we have the chance.