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Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

IMG_2996 Next week the City Council will start talking about what they want to do with the Suzuki property. There are four proposals on the table, ranging from transferring the land for free to the Parks Department, to selling it for as much as $2.6 million for higher-density development that includes at least some affordable housing. The process has generated strong opinion, because our community (and our Comprehensive Plan) place so much value on the seemingly contradictory goals of environmental stewardship and affordable housing.  In a recent interview with Bainbridge Island Broadcasting, the City’s Interim Planning Director, Joe Tovar, hit the nail on the head when he said, “So you’ve got those two things that, in the abstract, are very high rank order public policy priorities for people here on the island.”

In the abstract. Yes, of course.

People come down on the side of either pro-housing or pro-preservation (sometimes trying to split the baby by saying, “I do believe in affordable housing, just not here,” though the specific location of Not Here remains elusive). We collect data and studies about ecological value, species counts, aquifer recharge and the significance of trees, wetlands and pond. The other side counters with data and studies about housing costs, the benefits to kids from lower-income homes when they live in more affluent communities, and the heavier traffic from people who work on Bainbridge Island but must commute from off-island. A third view talks about missing middles, and the need for a wholesome refuge for island kids.

Data, careful study and analysis are important as a foundation for our decision-making, but we can’t stop there. We would do well to remember that data and studies are abstractions, in the sense that Tovar observed. Abstractions do not pull us together, but further apart, into the solitary confines of our own mental chatter, beliefs and preoccupations. They often confirm what we already believe. The realities in our community become symbols–abstractions—for global problems. We hunker down to fight the good fight, and solutions get lost in the fight.

When one abstraction collides with another in a seemingly intractable way, a good plan might be to go out into the real world, into the good air, where we know our surroundings bodily, with our eyes, and ears, our skin, our hands and feet.

There, we sense the wholeness and mystery of this Earth. There is no part of the Earth that is not touched by humans. There is no part of the human that is not touched by the Earth. We are already in profoundly consequential relationship with our home, our Mother. We are a crowded planet. Beautiful places that are good places to live become more crowded by the year. We don’t know how to protect our good, beautiful places, where people want to live. We don’t know how to provide decent housing for all people. Like every species, we engage in the daily struggle for survival, and now we face the added challenge of adapting to a changing world not of our own making, and almost entirely outside of our individual control. We are facing the unknown. Old strategies and structures no longer point the way forward.

Neither do questions that pose a false dichotomy: Environment or people? Homes for people of modest means, or homes for non-human species? Development or land preservation? Act now or delay? It is neither possible nor reality-based to try to choose between the natural environment and the fundamental needs of human beings.

For me, a more helpful question might be this: how do we have a relationship of integrity with the Earth and all her creatures, including human creatures, in this place, at this time?

It is not an easy inquiry. It requires a willingness to leave the comfort of already-formed answers. It reminds us that “community” includes all life forms — animals, moss, birds, trees, human beings–and that, as a community, we are accountable to our land, our neighborhoods and to each other. It takes us out of abstraction, and into actual, concrete experience. (more…)

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Last night the four proposals for the Suzuki property debuted before the Council and a good sized crowd at City Hall. The written proposals have been available on the City’s website for weeks, but this was the first of the scheduled three public meetings to review the proposals. Each applicant had a half-hour for an oral presentation, followed by questions from Council members. At times the presentations sounded like oral term papers, where presenters made sure to highlight all the required elements of the assignment: Mixed housing, green construction, affordability, open space, community gardens, buffers, connectivity, safe routes to school, compatibility with neighborhood character, experienced development team. Check, check and check.

Oh yes, and a decent offering price. Presenters did not talk much about their offers for the land, other than to note that the price might have to be adjusted if significant traffic mitigation or other plan modification was required by the City. Offers ranged from zero to $2.6 million.

First up was the Bainbridge Parks Department. Board president Tom Swolgaard devoted less than ten minutes to the very simple proposal: if the City gives the land to the Parks Department, the use of the land will be determined by a community planning process, similar to that being used for the recently acquired Sakai property. Swolgaard said Parks’ interest in the property arose because the department had been asked by various members of the community to submit a proposal. But, he said, they are “not proposing any specific use at this time.”

The Parks Department is offering only a transfer of the property, with no payment, on the theory that the same taxpayers fund both the City and the Parks Department.

The Parks proposal is here.

Next was a presentation by Blue Architecture. Theirs was the only proposal that provided for permanent affordability for all housing on the property. The Blue plan calls for clustered housing, surrounding a grassy courtyard, on the flatter portion of the property, on the north-eastern side. The presenter, architect Bob Guyt, said Blue’s proposal had the smallest footprint of any of the housing proposals. Much of the property would be left in its natural state, perhaps with a system of trails running through it, which could be deeded back to the City or the school district. Only a third of the site would be developed, and 75% of the land would be open space. The pond would be undisturbed, as would the old growth trees on site. (more…)

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Press release from the City of Bainbridge Island today:

Consumer Fireworks Will Not be Permitted on Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island, Wash., (June, 2015) The Bainbridge Island Fire Department, with the support of the City of Bainbridge Island and the Bainbridge Island Police Department, announced today that consumer fireworks will not be permitted this Fourth of July.

The ban is due to the regions tinder-dry conditions, and concern that current conditions combined with hot and dry weather in the forecast make the island extremely susceptible to wildfires. At this time the community Grand Old Fourth firework show is scheduled to proceed.

In addition to being liable for any property damage that would result from an errant firework, those that choose to discharge fireworks in spite of the ban could be cited with a civil infraction and subject to a monetary penalty and default amount of $500 plus statutory assessments. A second violation would constitute a misdemeanor and could carry a fine up to $1000, or imprisonment in jail for a term not exceeding 90 days.

City Manager Doug Schulze emphasized the importance of the ban as a precautionary measure during this extremely dry fire season, “The City fully supports the Bainbridge Island Fire Department’s institution of the ban on fireworks for this season, and encourages Bainbridge Island residents to do their part to protect our island environment and public and private property by complying with the ban, and choosing to enjoy the public fireworks display instead.”

According to the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Chapter 8.28, the Bainbridge Island Fire Department is authorized during periods of extreme fire danger to prohibit all fireworks. For more information on the ban, please contact Bainbridge Island Fire Department Chief Hank Teran at 206.842.7686. To report the discharge of fireworks, please call 911.

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IMG_1563The National Climate Assessment issued this week doesn’t have much good news about solutions to our climate problem. The report says natural processes remove about half the carbon dioxide currently being emitted due to human activities. As a result, mitigation efforts that merely keep emissions from increasing are not enough to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but will only limit their rate of increase.

To meet the lower emissions rate used by the report (the “B1 scenario”) in its climate change predictions and assessment–which would still result in significant changes—the world would have to limit global carbon dioxide emissions to 44 billion tons per year for the next 25 years and decline thereafter.

In 2011, global carbon emissions were 34 billion tons per year, and have been rising by .9 billion tons per year for the last decade. We are on track to exceed the 44 billion tons per year within the decade, assuming the rate of emissions does not increase.

Carbon storage in land ecosystems in the U.S. (carbon “sinks”) offset 17% of annual fossil fuel emissions annually, but scientists believe the positive effect of these carbon sinks may not be sustainable.

Between 2008 and 2012, there was a decline in the U.S. in annual emissions of carbon dioxide due to energy use, due to changes in our economy and improvements in government policies and development of alternative energy sources.

In spite of the slight improvements in recent years, the report warns that we need “aggressive and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions by the U.S. and other countries” in order to achieve the B1 scenario that is described in the report.

The report suggests national policy that is urgently needed to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, with a mix of new energy technology for wind, solar and bio-energy, stricter emissions regulation, additional research, and market solutions. The report emphasizes that even if such policies were adopted today the task would be hard, “but delay by any of the major emitters makes meeting any such target even more difficult and may rule out some of the more ambitious goals.”

City, state and regional mitigation actions

The country’s most ambitious state activity is California’s “Global Warming Solutions Act” which sets a state goal of reaching 1990 greenhouse gas emissions rates by 2020. The statute uses a cap and trade mechanism (a cap on emissions and a market-based system of trading emissions credits), as well as a number of regulatory actions.  (more…)

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The National Climate Assessment, reported in my last post, highlights regional impacts of climate change, as well as national consequences.

storm11The section that details impacts on the Northwest was written by Northwest scientists, including convening lead authors Philip Mote from Oregon State University and Amy K. Snover from the University of Washington.

Key findings include:

1. Changes in streamflow relating to changes in snow melt have already been observed and will continue, reducing water supply for competing users and causing “far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences.”

2. In coastal zones (such as Bainbridge Island), the effects of sea level rise, erosion, inundation, threats to infrastructure and habitat, and increasing ocean acidity collectively pose a major threat.

3. Increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks, and tree diseases are already causing widespread tree die-off and are “virtually certain” to cause long-term forest landscape transformation by 2040.

4. While technology may be able to adapt some of the changing conditions and consequences to agriculture, there remain “critical concerns for agriculture” in terms of high costs, development of responsive technology and water availability.

Water and flooding

River-related flooding is expected to increase in basins with mixed winter rain and snowmelt runoff and remain largely unchanged in snow dominant basins. Climate models project an increase of up to 20% of extreme daily precipitation (wettest days of the year), and heavy downpours, which in turn increase the risk of flooding.

Decreased summer waterflows in rivers and streams threaten several species of freshwater fish, particularly salmon, steelhead and trout.

Coastal vulnerabilities

storm6Global sea levels have risen about 8 inches since 1880, and are expected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. Much of the coastline in the Northwest is rising due to tectonic uplift, which currently mitigates some of the impacts of rising sea levels. A major earthquake in the region, expected in the next few hundred years, could immediately reverse the trend and, based on historical evidence, increase relative sea level by 40 inches or more.

Even taking coastal uplift into account, the report says that more than 140,000 acres of coastal land in Washington and Oregon, including parts of Seattle, will be underwater during high tide by the end of the century. Flooding will be exacerbated by storm surges.  (more…)

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The Kitsap Sun reported on Friday that the Parks Department has picked a 2.5 acre parcel at Strawberry Park for the island’s long-awaited dog park. The subject of dog parks, leashed dogs, park policy and island trails has been debated off and on for years, and heated up over the last year as the Parks Department considered the dog park options.

IMG_4170Although dog owners have supported the idea of a fenced dog park, many have also advocated for the ability to unleash their dogs on some of the Parks trails. The Parks Department maintains more than 1400 acres of developed and undeveloped parkland and 23 miles of trails.

People have suggested that communities like Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. have designated off-leash trails as well as dog parks. A so-called “shared use” was proposed, where a few of the island’s many trails would be available for off-leash recreation during well-publicized, limited times. That way people who want to walk without encountering an unleashed dog could avoid the trail at the off-leash time.

Parks Commissioner Kirk Robinson told the Sun that he wouldn’t be interested in looking at the shared use option until there is compliance with current Parks policy, which requires dogs on Parks property to be leashed at all times. Given the island’s history of lack of compliance with leash policy on Parks trails, his comment seems to rule out a shared use option altogether. (more…)

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potMy freshman roommate grew a spindly pot plant named Wilbur, which yielded exactly one harsh joint. Every college dorm had its down-low pot growers. People would come by the room, smoke some cheap pot from Mexico (pre-Paraquat), listen to a little Allman Brothers and stare at a wilting plant with its two or three leaf palms. Growing pot was more about the cool than the mellow. These days I know someone who has a medical marijuana-growing business, a long way from the dorm. He has this thing down to a precise science, the seeds, amount of light, nutrients and water, measuring everything so he can produce a smoke in any strength, any medicinal quality, all in a super-energized greenhouse. Growing pot is still not about the mellow.

According to a new article in Mother Jones, the 1970’s hippie, growing marijuana for personal use, has been replaced by big business that’s anything but green. Outdoor grows in California use pesticides, fertilizer and rat poison that harm protected wildlife and consume 50% more water than the city of San Francisco.

Although the article focuses on the massive outdoor grow business in California of the kind Washington has tried to limit, it gives a few startling facts about the environmental impacts of pot growing:

–Four plants growing indoors under lights sucks as much energy as 29 refrigerators.

–Nationwide, electricity used by indoor marijuana grows is enough to power 1.7 million homes. That’s equal to the output of 7 large power plants.

–The energy needed to produce a single joint is equal to the amount needed to produce 18 pints of beer.

–For every pound of pot grown indoors, 4600 pounds of CO2 goes into the atmosphere. (more…)

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