Thurston County Commissioner Candidates Answer:
"In your opinion, what are the most significant environmental challenges facing Thurston County?"
Compiled by Joanne McCaughan
Candidates for Thurston County Commissioner were recently invited to respond to a series of questions by the Washington Conservation Voters. The following responses were received in answer to a question regarding local environmental issues: "In your opinion, what are the most significant environmental challenges facing Thurston County?"
By far the most significant environmental issue facing the County is sprawl development. Thurston County is blessed with beautiful vistas, abundant fishing and hunting opportunities, recreational opportunities on Puget Sound and our many lakes and rivers, as well as hiking and camping opportunities for families.
Sprawl development is endangering these very things that make us unique. Sprawl development is characterized by low-density development that separates residential uses from other land uses, and that relies entirely or almost entirely on automobile transportation to connect the separate uses.
We are just beginning to link auto-dependent development with the energy debate. According to a Wall Street Journal article (Feb.4), driving has continued to increase in the US – from 1977-2001 it increased by 151%. The WSJ argues that fuel efficient cars won't have a large impact if Americans are driving those cars twice as far.
This is the pattern we have been encouraging for Thurston Co. It is the same pattern that many other desirable places to live have followed. Just look to California and see what rapid development did to the natural landscape and livability of one of the best climates in the world.
1) The lack of funds in the General Fund Budget to purchase, protect and maintain open spaces, agricultural land, trails and parks. The budget deficit is now approaching $5 million by December 31, 2008. The County's emergency reserve funds have been nearly all spent on current level services. I have years of experience at both the State and City levels of government in dealing with tight budgets and making the difficult choices. I know that meeting the basic needs for public safety, public health and county roads does not mean we have to reduce our commitment to protecting the environment. They are not mutually exclusive.
2) The lack of funds to adequately reach out and educate rural county residents on the need to properly install and maintain septic systems and storm water facilities. These systems are failing and threaten to contaminate the very same aquifer that all of us use for drinking water, and polluted run off is rapidly ruining Puget Sound. We need to work with other jurisdictions and the Puget Sound Partnership to fund an action plan to protect our precious water systems.
Thurston County is facing two critical issues today. High concentrations of fecal coliform and Nitrates have been found in wells in the Woodland Creek drainage area, a part of the greater Henderson Inlet Watershed. Septic tanks in the Henderson Inlet Watershed have not been perking due to higher than average rain fall, soil saturation, and poor permeability of soils. Henderson Inlet contamination has increased. Working with the residents, Thurston County is addressing this issue. I am working with others to find a way to lessen the financial impact on homeowners in correcting the problem. High concentrations of fecal coliform and Nitrates have also been found in the lower end of Budd Inlet. A plan is currently being formulated to address this issue.
In my view, the top environmental priorities for the county are dealing effectively with the pressures of growth, i.e., ensuring growth management compliance and the carrying capacity of natural resources; and clean water.
1. The water - water quantity and water quality. Thurston County is growing. Even though the annual pace was predicted to be greater than has actually occurred the changes are still noticeable. The planning for growth has been intense; however infrastructure has not kept up. I think the major disconnect with the adoption of the Growth Management Act was not addressing the amount of water that would be necessary to meet the growth projections communities were required to meet.
2. Continuing to provide the essential elements of county government is critical, i.e. public health and safety, which contributes to the quality of life in Thurston County. Managing Thurston County's budget to insure that we adequately provide for all the services citizens desire will be very challenging.
(Note: Pilkey did not participate in the WCV process. As a courtesy, Green Pages requested his response to the same question.)
I am campaigning as an Independent, just as I did last year for Port Commissioner. Both parties want to select those for whom we can vote, taking away the power of the people. I am fighting to stop destroying several hundred thousand more trees by greedy developers who only want more people moving into the County.
We need to protect diminishing water and land resources, and not turn South County into another Seattle. Global warming is a reality. No more talk and no action by politicians. It will take a strong leader, a statesman, concerned about getting the job done, not about being re-elected. I am that leader. It is time for a real change, real action, an independent who is for the people and for the environment.
Candidate responses used with permission of the Washington Conservation Voters and compiled by Joanne McCaughan, Managing Editor, South Sound Green Pages.
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