Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 11. 2010 - Issue of the Week

Not much of a blog this week. I was invited a couple days ago to testify to a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives about pipeline safety on May 20th and 150 copies of my testimony needs to be delivered to them in DC by next Monday. I've pretty much got blinders on reviewing ten years of pipeline incident data, so with that and the 428 pages in my Council packet this week I have little time for this blog.

A few items on this week's Council agenda that are worth watching.

The same items I wrote about last time limiting the Council's ability to use banked capacity will be voted on this week. The vote was postponed last time because Council member Brenner had not read the proposals carefully enough and didn't realize that the proposals would become effective immediately instead of putting it on the ballot this fall for a vote. She asked for more time to consider it, and the majority of the council gave her two more weeks.

In the Natural Resources Committee meeting at 9:30 AM on Tuesday there will be a presentation by Farm Friends on their research into natural resource banking. This is an interesting concept that would work to save farmland by creating markets (kind of like carbon trading) that would create such protection. Hopefully Farm Friends have come up with some concrete ideas for implementing this idea, in the past it was quite unclear where the market (millions of dollars necessary) to protect the farmland would come from.

At 11 AM in the Finance Committee we will be talking about spending nearly $4 million on widening Lincoln Road out near Birch Bay. On the one hand this has been the top priority of the Birch Bay community for a long while and has been delayed multiple times. This project made more sense when it was part of a larger project that included a developer funded cnnnector road to shunt traffic from Birch Bay Village to Lincoln Road to reduce traffic on Birch Bay Drive. Unfortunately the developer funded portion of the project is on indefinite hold because the development has pretty much totally dried up. Without that part of the project this road widening is mainly to serve residents of Blaine that live in Semiahmoo and pay no taxes to the County for such road projects.

We will also be talking about applying for a $300,000 grant that if awarded would require the County to provide $300,000 of matching funds. The grant would be used to help acquire part of an old golf course along the Nooksack River in Ferndale for the development of Riverplace Park. I think this is a prime opportunity for a future park, but I do have some significant concerns about the funding sources to be used for the match. On the application it lists Conservation Futures funding as the source, yet the voter approved Conservation Futures fund has been seriously diverted into the General Fund to cover current holes in the budget. There is also mention of using Flood Funds for the match because the area is an "important area to preserve for off river storage capacity during flood events." The area is in the flood plain and can not be developed, so the storage capacity during floods will be there with or without the Flood Fund being used to help purchase it.

Finally, at 1 PM we will be talking about a draft ordinance to once again amend the Comprehensive Plan to expand the Urban Growth Areas around Sumas, Nooksack, Birch Bay and Ferndale. This is the current Council majority's plan to expand UGAs beyond what the County Executive's plan called for last year and what the previous Council approved.

Should be a full day.

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