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Public Process - Lots of it (kind of),

or I lied (sort of!)

In the previous post I complained that the biggest rip-off in Whatcom County history was happening without even being discussed or making it into the news. Well, I lied. Today it is in the news, sort of:

The state Department of Ecology has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday on the draft cleanup study and environment impact reports for the Whatcom Waterway site. At the hearing, people can provide oral and written comments. The hearing is scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C St. The public is encouraged to review the documents and comment to the department by Dec. 9.

We emphatically thank the Herald! Why? Because you probably wouldn’t otherwise know about the hearing or the December 9th deadline for written comment.

We went to the website for “New Whatcom”. The following information can be found there:

Two Department of Ecology public meetings to hear public comment on the plan to clean up the Whatcom Waterway: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Thursday, November 30th at Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street

They curiously mention two meetings, but list only one. Also, it is well known to denizens of the political cesspool that “meetings” do not a “public hearing” make. Public hearings are designed to accept testimony and create a public record. Meetings are merely a chance for citizens to vent while officials pretend to listen. They do not create a legal record for a public proceeding as does a public hearing.

We looked into the link on the New Whatcom site for “Public Involvement”, but found only a recitation of all the meetings they have already had. Regardless of whether the public has the information they need to actually participate in the process, officials will at least be able to say they had a lot of meetings.

Incredibly, we found another link to “calendar” lower down in the body of the text. With amazement, we found one of two public meetings listed, but no information on the public hearing or the December 9th deadline. Hmmm.

Undaunted, considering ourselves resourceful as all get-out, we followed links from that page to the Port’s website. After all, it’s really their project. On the homepage, we found a link to “Latest Development News”. Here there was, once again, nothing on the public hearing, nothing on the public meeting and nothing on the December 9th deadline. However, there is a tremendous volume of materials regarding the successful lawsuit against the citizen-sponsored “Healthy Bay Initiative”. Port officials seem proud of their ability to thwart the public’s will by preventing them from voting on it. Oh boy, that’s democratic!

Even more remarkably, there was a link to a Department of Ecology document with information on one of the public meetings mentioned at the New Whatcom website, a sidebar with the December 9th deadline, but nothing on the public hearing.

Without discouragement, we found another link, under “Waterfront Redevelopment” that pointed to “Whatcom Waterway”. Since that is the subject of the hearing, we must have struck paydirt by now!

Nope! Here there is even more about suing citizens, including copies of the legal complaints, the summons, responses from the Port and declarations by their Environmental Director. The public hearing and meetings would be long over by the time you finished reading it all!

Now, feeling as if we must be doing something wrong, we looked very closely. Aha! Once again, lower down in the bottom of the text, it says, “To learn more about master planning efforts for this area, click here.” In typical government run-around style, this merely takes us back to the New Whatcom site whence we came.

Now we are feeling a little put out. We’ve spent quite a bit of time without even starting to read the relevant documents (plus this post is getting longer than I like). We’ve run out of options - except the Department of Ecology (sometimes referred to as the Department of Apology for their habit of issuing permits to pollute - like G.P.‘s mercury cell facility - and their usual failure to require compliance with regulations - like G.P. taking a hike at the public’s expense).

Finally, paydirt!

The following information is posted there:

PUBLIC HEARING TIME and LOCATION
Tuesday, November 28, 2006; 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM (Public Hearing), Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street, Bellingham, WA

DOCUMENTS FOR PUBLIC REVIEW
The draft Supplemental RI/FS and draft Supplemental EIS are available for review at the following locations:
* Bellingham Public Library, Main Branch, 210 Central Ave., (360) 676-6860, Bellingham
* WA Department of Ecology, Bellingham Field Office, 1204 Railroad Ave. #200, (360) 738- 6250, Bellingham
* WA Department of Ecology, Northwest Regional Office, 3190 160th Ave. SE, (425) 649-7000, Bellevue, WA 98008
* Ecology’s web site: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites/whatcom/ww.htm


Taking the above link to Ecology’s website, we finally found reference to both public meetings mentioned on the New Whatcom site. One of them passed on October 26th. The other is scheduled for:

November 30th, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street, Bellingham, WA

It’s a bit remarkable that none of it is available on either local project website. Almost like they really don’t want folks to come. But, finally, here is where you can find all the information you need to make a sensible comment! But you better get busy, because - look - there’s quite a bit to consider!

If it is starting to look like a snow job, or aptly for our weather, a veritable blizzard, remember, this is how our government employees legitimize their fine salaries and benefits. What’s missing is how we assure that the taxes we spend are working for us - ask the thousands of citizens that wanted to vote on whether to clean it up vs covering it up. Oh well, here comes the snowstorm:

* Fact Sheet
* Site Map
* Draft Supplemental Remedial Investigation (large file ~ 4mb)
Note: the following sections have been separated for your convenience in downloading the document:
o Table of Contents
o Chapter 1-3
o Chapter 3a (continued)
o Chapters 4-5
o Chapter 5a (continued)
o Chapters 6-9
o Draft Supplemental Remedial Investigation Appendices
+ Due to size limitations, the appendices are only available at the repositories (listed in the Fact Sheet). The appendices are also available on CD from Ecology. For a copy, please e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or telephone her at 425.649.7272.

o Draft Supplemental Feasibility Study (large file ~ 5mb)
Note: the following sections have been separated for your convenience in downloading the document:
+ Table of Contents
+ Chapter 1
+ Chapter 2
+ Chapters 3-4
+ Chapters 5-6
+ Chapter 6a (continued)
+ Chapters 7-10
+ Draft Supplemental Feasibility Study Appendices:
# Due to size limitations, the appendices are only available at the repositories (listed in the Fact Sheet). The appendices are also available on CD from Ecology. For a copy, please e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or telephone her at 425.649.7272.

o Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (large file ~4mb)
Note: the following sections have been separated for your convenience in downloading the document:
+ Cover Letter
+ Fact Sheet
+ Table of Contents
+ Chapter 1
+ Chapter 1 (continued)
+ Chapters 2-3
+ Chapter 3a (continued)
+ Chapter 3b (continued)
+ Chapter 4
+ Chapters 5-6
+ Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Appendices:
# Due to size limitations, the appendices are only available at the repositories (listed in the Fact Sheet). The appendices are also available on CD from Ecology. For a copy, please e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or telephone her at 425.649.7272.

Pleasant reading!

About Tip Johnson

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 11, 2008

Tip Johnson is a longtime citizen interest advocate with a record of public achievement projects for good government and the environment. A lifelong student of government, Tip served two terms [...]