Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor: April 28

Dockton Road

Write to the county before it’s too late

At a public meeting April 22, I was alarmed to hear that the King County Roads Division will not recommend keeping the road along Tramp Harbor open.

Even after receiving input from the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council, the fire department and dozens of Islanders regarding the importance of this vital road, the county produced an “Alternatives Analysis Summary” that was biased toward closing the road.

Transportation and traffic issues were relegated to one small box, while environmental issues, though of nearly zero difference between the alternatives, dominated the analysis.

With the roads division punting the decision to the King County Council, which has little understanding of the impacts, and providing a summary that gives the visual impression that abandoning the road is reasonable, it’s likely the road will be closed or funds withheld.

Closing the road will funnel all traffic past the high school, through the busy intersection at Center and through downtown Vashon. 

Currently, commuter traffic generally goes one route, and school traffic another.

I believe commuters, school traffic and ambulances will all experience a five- to 10-minute morning delay, but the count’s analysis shows only a one-minute difference.

Improving the road would provide a pedestrian walkway and make important ecological improvements to the beach.

Some board members of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust and People for Puget Sound, organizations that I’ve supported since their inception, seem to be advocating closing our well-loved road.

Folks, what could be a stronger statement for the beauty of Puget Sound and the need to protect it than to have 3,000 people daily passing by Tramp Harbor?

Please e-mail Linda Dougherty, the roads division director, at linda.dougherty@kingcounty.gov. Urge her to recommend keeping the road along Tramp Harbor open.

Otherwise, in 2011 as you sit in a traffic jam by the school, you may be contemplating the importance of speaking up before it’s too late.

— Frank Jackson

Glacier

The case could set a new policy precedent

I’m writing this as a University of Washington professor of marine policy and a scientist who has studied and engaged in the Glacier Northwest and aquatic reserve case, and compared it to many others around the world.

The commentaries in last week’s Beachcomber were welcomed, but I disagree with much of what Todd Myers has written. His argument that the mine wasn’t named specifically in the Puget Sound Partnership Action Agenda is misleading.

The agenda is intentionally general, but states on page 172: “Acquire high-priority habitats (e.g., … Vashon Island).”

The declaration, and scientific validation, of the area as one of the first state aquatic reserves is a clear signal of its significance. This inappropriately located and enormous mining project on the best remaining shoreline and rural community would undermine the reserve system and, therefore, Puget Sound recovery.

The so-called “independent science” to which Mr. Myers refers is not peer-reviewed by external scientists, is frequently paid for by the permit applicant (which tends to bias results), does not consider cumulative impacts, ignores possible impacts on animals listed under the Endangered Species Act, such as orca whales, and disregards societal impacts. Citing low scientific standards is poor defense of a high-risk development project that we don’t fully understand.

Finally, this agreement has the potential to send a clear sign that Washington state leadership and Vashon/Maury community residents — despite the odds, at great personal sacrifice and at great political risk — are finding a balanced solution.

This will be a precedent-setting case, which I suspect is what worries Mr. Myers and the Washington Policy Center most, and one that signals the emergence of a new paradigm of policymaking for Puget Sound.

Yes, the bar has gone up for the approval of development projects, for private citizens and companies alike. It is long overdue.

— Patrick Christie

Their gravel wouldn’t stay on Island, anyhow

A key point of Mary Reuter’s April 21 letter, “Think of the implications of turning the mine into a park,” is a concern that if Glacier isn’t allowed to mine Maury Island, we wouldn’t have enough gravel for Island use and will have to have it shipped in from off-Island. I’ve heard this argument several times now, at public meetings, neighborhood picnics and now in Mary’s letter, and while I try to understand everyone’s point of view, this little mantra just drives me nuts. 

For anyone who hasn’t really been following the issues with the mine, here’s the deal: Glacier’s plan is to barge the sand and gravel off the Island to Seattle. All of it. Everything that can legally be mined would be removed from the Island as fast as they could possibly get it out of here. So, it wouldn’t be on the Island for our use. It would be in Seattle. If an Islander (as in Mary’s letter) wanted to use it “for a driveway,” Glacier would be shipping it from Seattle. I hope this clears things up a little.

— Rick Dahms

Collaborators have done excellent work to secure site for purchase

Thanks to The Beachcomber for the comprehensive news coverage and steady editorial hand regarding the prospective Glacier purchase. It’s a complicated story, and the latest positive turn of events reflects the hard work of many. Not least has been the willingness of Glacier itself, and its parent company, to help resolve what appeared at times to be an intractable situation.

There’s no doubt the impasse wouldn’t have been broken without the leadership of Rep. Sharon Nelson and Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark. King County Executive Dow Constantine has also shown principled leadership on the issue. Gov. Chris Gregoire has been helpful in bringing the parties together.

On the nonprofit side, Preserve Our Islands and Cascade Land Conservancy have been indispensable in creating a climate for the negotiations to move off dead center. And with all modesty, I’m proud of the small but significant role played by the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust in what is the most significant local preservation effort in decades.

Make no mistake. This deal is far from complete. Much negotiation remains between the parties, and more work may well be needed to secure additional funding.

On the money issue, I need to address one point — a red herring really — raised by the handful of people who oppose a deal with Glacier. They question the priority of allocating $15 million toward a big-ticket effort at a time when budgets are tight.

It’s important to understand that the $15 million allocated by the Legislature doesn’t come from the state’s general fund — or from tax dollars of any kind.

The funds are part of the Asarco settlement. This is not, as some have suggested, an account that can be drawn upon for any worthy project. It is money dedicated exclusively to address environmental damage from the smoke plume that for decades dropped arsenic and other heavy metals on Maury Island and other locations.

The Glacier property was the site on Maury most heavily impacted by the plume; the Asarco fund has been appropriately tapped to assist with the land purchase and subsequent remediation.

— Leif Ormseth, president

Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust

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