Supporters of CAO are jumping to conclusions

I am writing in response to the letters regarding our Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) published in last week’s Sounder and Journal.

Mr. Kaill (“Support A Strong Critical Areas Ordinance”) complained that those asking questions during a recent CAO workshop were just property owners concerned about their “economic interests” and natural resources “need to be protected from property owners and their by-products.” Ms. Alderton (“Bellies or Buffers”) argues that big buffers are needed to protect us from non-ionic surfactants.

I do not understand how the questions that are being asked about the CAO will somehow result in a “loosening of protections.” Although property owners are rightly concerned about the value of their homes, because for most families the home is their principal investment, most islanders are also vitally interested in protecting the environment. Why should property owners be expected to roll over and accept—without any question—any environmental protection regulation proposed by those whose jobs depend on finding more problems and imposing more regulation.

We have been asking “What is the connection between a house built to County standards, and pollution in Puget Sound or the Salish Sea?” Instead of a direct answer, however, we are told that 500,000 pounds of non-ionic surfactants are produced each year in the United States, or that 150,000 pounds of toxins spill into Puget Sound daily. Neither of those data relate to San Juan County.

Mr. Kaill dismisses good stewardship in San Juan County claiming the rest of Puget Sound was also “seemingly developed in a responsible way.” Equating the decades of mismanagement and neglect down Sound with our situation is ridiculous. Finally, while he urges putting the burden of establishing whether additional regulation is needed on property owners, under current law, the government must show that there is a problem that can be solved by proposed restriction that is roughly proportional to the harm that would otherwise be caused.

I encourage all islanders to participate in this complex policy-making process seeking reasonable, just, and defensible decisions protecting our environment and our people.

Tim Blanchard

Orcas Island