Opinion

‘Is Vision 2040 beneficial to Kitsap’

This is the second part of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners’ (KAPO’s) review and discussion of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Vision 2040. This document covers regional planning for the central Puget Sound region of Kitsap, King, Pierce and Snohomish counties for the next 30 years. KAPO’s question is, “Is Vision 2040 beneficial to Kitsap?”

Contrary to the interlocal agreement under which Kitsap agreed to join PSRC and contrary to earlier policy drafts, PSRC has now made environmental concerns, real or imagined, the cornerstone of Vision 2040. There is virtually no strategic discussion or planning policy not directly tied to an environmental “concern” or objective. This elevation of environment now being placed above all other Growth Management Act goals, without clear explanation and substantiation, is a significant departure from the basic guidance of the Growth Management Act and thereby places all of 2040 in question. By subordinating all other considerations to that of environment, PSRC has willfully skewed the basis for policies and eliminated reasonable consideration of matters such as (1) housing affordability, (2) real economic growth, (3) reasonable land use planning and (4) private property rights.

Environment issues as set forth by Vision 2040 are not appropriate to Kitsap County. Its hydrological considerations, for example, are based on mountain snow pack and rivers as the primary water source. The Vision addresses migrating river channels when we have no real rivers in Kitsap County. Their model neglects the importance of precipitation directly on land areas and aquifer recharge as Kitsap County’s primary source of water. The model is more concerned with the restoration of habitat for fish than for preservation of water supplies for people.

The Vision also addresses “human impacts to ecosystem conditions” and finds nearly every possible use of land or resources by humans to be harmful. Human activity is identified as detrimental to air quality and incorrectly cited as a cause of climate change. Logging activity, a major source of income for the area at one time and the primary source of state funds for education, is treated as harmful, notwithstanding that forests are renewable resources and that logging industry practices today are in no way comparable to those of 50 years ago. Kitsap, now heavily forested in many areas was even virtually clear-cut 100 years ago.

Vision 2040 further indicates that competing water uses are harmful. The plan asserts that domestic and agricultural uses decrease the quantity of water in rivers and streams and lowers water quality. There is no recognition that most streams in Kitsap are really relief valves for over-full aquifers and that our potable water quality has little to do with stream flow. Vision 2040 also finds water–dependent uses and developed shorelines to be harmful. Yet in Kitsap, unlike the East Puget Sound PSRC counties, our major employers and underlying economy are dominated by water-dependent activities requiring shoreline development. It is hard to have major naval facilities without direct access to water. It also is most difficult to envision a naval shipyard or a major submarine support facility without extensive shoreline development. Perhaps PSRC only considers Elliot Bay, shorelines of Lake Union, the Ship Canal and the other shorelines of Seattle as relevant shoreline. It would be hard to imagine Seattle or Kitsap of today without their shoreline development, ferry systems and military bases. It also is a bit difficult to seriously consider the economic lifeblood of Kitsap to be “harmful.”

Alleviation of harmful environmental human impact to be implemented through Vision 2040 includes replacing diesel vehicles (the same vehicles touted by environmentalists just a few years ago as the solution to automobile emissions), better energy alternatives such as wind and solar (remember environmentalists made hydroelectric power a non-renewable resource), restoration of shorelines and other habitat. All such “restoration” actions lie outside the scope of the Growth Management Act. A restoration baseline is not provided. What is being promoted is elimination of the automobile in favor of walking, bicycles and mass transit. How this utopia is to support humans who need to work for a living and live in harmony with the environment is not addressed.

It is difficult to persuade environmentalists that many of their views are wrong. Only this past spring, a state bill to require draconian replacement of all Hood Canal septic systems was only narrowly defeated, pending completion of a University of Washington scientific study of the matter. That study later concluded the nitrogen problem causing periodic fish-kill in Hood Canal is a multigenerational problem extending back at least 90 years and is due to natural, not human, causes.

Most of us who live in Kitsap do so because of the environment — because we want to. We are capable of sound stewardship of our land. How may we benefit from an East Puget Sound bureaucracy making our policies for us? Do we want Kitsap to look like eastside counties? We may ultimately discover as our founding fathers did that ultimate quality of life is determined by whether or not we are able to enjoy our liberty as free citizens rather than as serfs of unelected, unaccountable political appointees. PSRC does not understand Kitsap’s unique economic, geographic, water-dependent and environmental conditions. How could their errors be corrected with Kitsap holding only 4 percent of the PSRC population vote? The basic environmental precepts of Vision 2040 are to turn Kitsap back to nature. Is that really beneficial to our citizens?

Additional Vision 2040 precepts will be reviewed in forthcoming guest columns.

Karl Duff is the president of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners.

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