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February 2007 Ask the Angry Citizen

EDITORIAL

THE THREE FORKS IN THE ROAD

Have we reached a lose lose situation or is there another alternative?

On Tuesday, 10 a.m., February 27, 2007, at the County Public Works Building on Continental Place in Mt. Vernon, the Corps of Engineers will present their demands on Skagit County on what they think Skagit County has to do in order to move the current project, under study since 1993, forward towards completion by an estimated date of somewhere between 2009 and 2013.  The plus for following this course of action is that it would open the door for Congressional funding of the project.  The minus is that it could, because of the hydrology issues, as it always has in the past, produce a project that the locals cannot afford and the federal government won’t fund until after a major disaster as in looking at their 2008 budget it seems that the only projects funded are ones involving major disasters instead of ones that would prevent major disasters.  To continue the path of funding endless studies leading nowhere is to accomplish nothing more then keeping government employees employed.

Another path is to travel the road of the local special interest group known as the SRIP (Skagit River Impact Partnership), an exclusionary group composed of only local municipalities, who meets in secret closed door meetings even though elected officials are in attendance, and makes major decisions without the input of the public, environmental groups, tribal entities, or even its entire membership and to date has not addressed any of the “tough issues” (i.e. Are the taxpayers going to be able to vote on any proposed project; will the urban areas agree to stop annexing prime farmland for urban development; how are we going to pay for any proposed project), all issues that have to be addressed no matter what the project proposed.  Failure to plan is a plan to fail.  To follow this path is certain to end up in litigation for several years and even if they were successful would lead to the development of thousands of acres of the best farmland in the nation.  

The third fork in the road is to organize a flood control agency controlled by local elected officials that requires a unanimous vote to proceed on any or all components of any project put forth by the agency.  The agency’s first order of business would be to conduct a facilitated discussion with all the stakeholders (local, federal, state, tribal and local citizens) to determine exactly what kind of flood control project is acceptable to the general community.  (The Skagit Risk Management Working Group formed in mid-2000 did this and came up with the Swinomish Channel By-Pass concept which was later rejected due to the local cost involved.)

The next order of business would be a thorough discussion of how are we going to fund any proposed project.  Should we do it with the County-Wide Flood Control District concept which taxes all property in the county and clearly benefits the floodplain residents more then the hill residents (i.e. lower or no flood insurance, higher property values, more tax revenue income from more development for the cities, etc.); or should we raise money through an increase in the sales tax that would be dedicated to construction of flood control projects and not studies or government employee salaries.

If the sales tax revenue is the preferred plan then a vote of the people of Skagit County should be held (actually the people should be allowed to vote on any revenue generating proposal be it property or sales taxes as well as how the money should be spent).  This way the commercial base, that lets face it is what we are really interested in protecting, will be paying their own way and those who use the goods and services of the commercial establishments will be contributing towards protecting them.

All sales taxes generated would be turned over to the agency for construction purposes of any flood project proposed and approved by a unanimous vote of the agency board of directors.

Your choice, lose, lose, or let’s get started and do the job ourselves (See 1/5/22 Argus).  We must also accept the reality that it will probably take twice as long as we want it to and cost twice as much as we originally estimated it would.

May your fields be ripe and budding and your rivers full and flooding (because its the only time people pay attention).

 The Angry Citizen