In her farewell to Congress on the floor of the House of Representatives and just before being sworn in as Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland stated: “It’s the fact that I know what it is like to be Indigenous that makes me qualified to advocate for our country to meet its trust responsibility.” Not just her lived experience as an Indigenous woman and 35th generation New Mexican and member of the Laguna Pueblo, Sec. Haaland has worked hard to earn this position. An elected U. S. Representative, she served on the Natural Resources Committee and chaired the Subcommittee on Parks, Forest, and Public Lands.For all who have advocated for the protection of land, water, fish, wildlife and justice, this appointment has put a grin on our faces and validates that the long and painful arch of history can bend toward justice. As our own Val Alexander puts it, “In the interests of equality, it’s hard to overstate how happy tribal people are about her appointment. It’s been a long time coming.” Val is a founding board member of FOCC and member of the Grand Ronde Tribal member.
We celebrate Sec. Haaland’s appointment as a triumph and wish her all the success she has worked so hard to achieve.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland tours near ancient dwellings along the Butler Wash trail during a visit to Bears Ears National Monument Thursday, April 8, 2021, near Blanding, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)
Where Should We Build?
Step one in the revision of Clark County’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan is calculating of how much land is currently available for development within our existing growth areas, and to evaluate how accurate the past growth projections have been. The Buildable Lands Inventory, along with projected population growth for the next 10 years, will inform the Comprehensive Plan Update process regarding whether or not there is a need to expand city and county growth boundaries. This is a complex process that has been underway for about a year and a half in preparation for the 2025 Comp Plan revision. Included in this planning process are county planning staff, EcoNorthwest Consulting firm, and a Council appointed Buildable Lands Advisory Committee. The public will get an opportunity to weigh-in on the inventory calculations during public hearings in the next couple of months.
The stakes get higher with each new iteration of land capacity and growth projections. Past decisions have resulted in sprawling growth patterns in Clark County which squander our limited land resources. Farmland is most at risk of conversion – flat, well-drained, and easy to build on, make farmland desirable to developers. Sprawl also increases the costs to serve urban and suburban expansion areas and puts further demand on existing infrastructure that has not been keeping up with the current pace of development.
Points of concern with the buildable lands review now underway:
· The process needs to be data-driven and assumptions fully tested to assure accuracy, not to justify policy positions.
· The Buildable Lands Committee, with the support of staff and consultants, should be allowed to continue their work to fully test the model as a whole to assure its accuracy as required under the Growth Management Act.
· Undercounting what is actually “buildable land” through wrong assumptions about density, redevelopment, and underutilized lands would lead to growth boundary expansions that lead to sprawl and threaten both working lands and natural resources in rural areas of the county.
EARLY & OFTEN: Public Participation in Land Use Planning
Save The Date: Join us on May 13th for a Zoom forum on how citizens can engage early and often in land use planning and the upcoming Comprehensive Plan update process. Experts in the field will discuss best practices that support effective public engagement in decisions about land use that affect all of us and our quality of life. We will learn about frameworks and civic engagement options that can shift public participation from merely being informed about decisions to being empowered to affect those decisions. Civic engagement practitioners will share their successes and challenges in citizen involvement in land use issues. As the Comprehensive Plan update process is already in its beginning stages for a June 2025 completion, now is the time for us to be engaged early and often!
Friends of Clark County is excited to introduce our new Project Manager, Leanne Bain, or Lea (pronounced LEE). Lea will be leading FOCC’s social media pages and helping to grow our reach in Clark County. Lea is a 7-year resident of the PNW currently living in Vancouver. Fueled by the desire to make a positive impact on the world, Lea has led campaigns, diversity programs, and community engagement programs in Clark County, Oregon, and Maine. They are passionate about building a more engaged, sustainable, and equitable community. Lea enjoys plants, reading, crafting, and spending time with their perfect dog, Gertrude Stein. They are thrilled to join Friends of Clark County in making this place we all call home a better place to be!
Please reach out to Lea anytime for ways to get involved with FOCC:
Phone: (360) 836-0724
Stop the Whipple Creek Dirt Dump
Neighbors win on reconsideration, developers appeal – next stop Superior Court
Imagine a massive dirt dump proposed in your neighbor’s backyard. A dirt dump so big it could fill a football field 300 feet high. Now picture this dump on a steep slope along the banks of a salmon spawning stream that the county has spent millions of public dollars to restore. Then imagine the heavy truck traffic tearing up the country roads – some 34,000 loaded dump trucks in and 34,000 dump trucks out over the course of a year.
This is what developers Cano and Glavin have proposed on rural, prime agricultural land three miles west of the Fairgrounds on NW 179th. All that was required to allow for this dirt dump was a simple grading permit, noticed to only a few neighbors who could comment on whether or not an environmental study or possible mitigation should be required.
Initially, the county found there would be no significant environmental impact despite this being in a landslide hazard zone, with multiple listed species, in the Shoreline Management and Critical Lands area. The neighbors mobilized to appeal the county’s decision and provided a stellar presentation on the negative impacts. As often is the case, the hearings examiner sided with the developer and county.
Undaunted, the neighbors filed for a reconsideration of the hearings examiner’s decision, which is conducted by said hearings examiner. Zeroing in on traffic impacts, the appellants, remarkably, succeeded in convincing the examiner to reverse a portion of his decision to require the developers to conduct a traffic study along the entire haul route and to compensate the county for any road damage.
Long story short, the developers have appealed this decision and the issue will now go before Superior Court, which will be a long and expensive fight.
FOCC applauds the Sara neighborhood for sticking up for our environment. It is sad that we cannot count on the county to more vigorously protect these public trust resources -our streams and wildlife and rural neighborhoods.
They hired a consultant and a staff member to do this. Their proposal was presented on Nov 23. It was excellent. The Columbian covered it.
At a minimum, we need to stop making the problems worse. We make the problem worse by permitting new developments to be heated with fossil fuels such as fossil gas, and by allowing sprawl.
Readers are encouraged to receive Don’s free newsletter called Climate Action of Southwest Washington. Contact: Don Steinke crVancouverUSA@gmail.com
Salmon Recovery News
LEWIS RIVER DAM RELICENSINGIn 2004, PacifiCorp and Cowlitz Co. PUD signed a settlement agreement (SA) with the two Federal fish agencies, two tribes, WDFW, and about 20 local NGOs to provide fish passage at all three dams on the Lewis River as part of their relicensing. There was a clause in the agreement that after 15 years, the utilities could avoid fish passage on the two lower dams, and in-lieu, provide some habitat restoration funds. This would need the two Federal agencies’ approval. The utilities chose to invoke that clause, secretly flew upper management and attorneys to Washington D. C. and pressured NMFS and USF&WS management to give permission to void the settlement agreement. Local Federal fish staff in Lacy, WA did not support this decision made in D.C.
The Cowlitz Tribe and WDFW chose to intervene in this process along with four NGOs. Their argument is the science supporting the Federal decision is faulty, and the utilities have defaulted on their initial acceptance of the SA. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will make the final decision. The appellants have persuaded the two Federal agencies to take a 120-day delay to review and justify their decision-making. Plans for a public outreach project are on hold until local senate and congressional staff are fully appraised.
RIDGEFIELD PITS RESTORATION
In June 2018, the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (CELP) was awarded funds to attempt to correct habitat issues associated with the Storedahl gravel company abandoning their Ridgefield pits in the lower East Fork River. During summer East Fork flows drop (<30cfs) and water temperatures rise putting salmonid fish health at risk. CELP has been tasked with designing a means to augment flow and decrease temperature. A citizens advisory board of local residents and experts was convened to assist in this process.
After 2 3/4 years, initial alternatives were proposed but not all participants are in agreement as to the best method to accomplish this. Should the primary river flow be limited to one deep channel, or should it be diverted into three or more distinct channels to try and capture cool groundwater? Another meeting will be required before a final decision is proposed.
Follow along with what FOCC and your community is up to on our new Instagram and TikTok pages! Our TikTok videos will feature the beauty of Clark County—from the farms that keep us going to the parks that keeps us entertained. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts will remain active and informative with events and great ways to get involved.
Over this difficult year, many more people are turning to the internet to keep them informed and entertained. Follow these accounts and they are sure to do both!
FRIENDS OF CLARK COUNTY VISION
We envision a flourishing Clark County thriving with local farms, healthy forests, clean water, protected wildlife habitats and neighborhoods that are vibrant and diverse with parks and natural areas accessible to all.