>Citizens Forum Report&Wetland Responses – 6/29/08

>Update Contents. This update covers the recently held Citizens Forum and also several comments that have come in regarding the questioning of why we should be concerned about wetlands.

Citizens from Around the County Met. Citizens from around the county met to get a better understanding of Federal, State, County, and city legal issues on Saturday afternoon 6/28/08 at the library on Sylvan Way. They came from Hansville to Manchester and places in between spending a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon to learn about statutes and to discuss their common problems.

The Common Thread. The common thread was a frustration citizens have when dealing with city and county officials with respect to land use practices.

Attorney Presentation. Land use attorney Ryan Vancil went through an ambitious agenda explaining legal issues and what works and what doesn’t. He urged groups to understand the legal issues and to be proactive and not wait until the notice of application and 14 day comment period begins. He said among many other things that citizens groups are at a general disadvantage in the process. Representatives from Poulsbo gave an example that just the filing fee for an appeal which includes SEPA is $3000. Other representatives said just trying to get complete project files can be difficult as there are often different files associated with a project not to mention planners who often have documents that are not in the official file.

Connectivity Proposed. One of the citizen groups in attendance proposed a citizens website or something similar and has volunteered to be the connection point for the rest of the groups so they can learn from and help each other.

Wetland Responses. We shared an email we received last week that stated: “What is wrong with digging out a wetland area if it provides another building site and that great black soil is used elsewhere? Aren’t people more important than a few displaced ducks? …….. Please tell us why we should be concerned.” We asked that other community members respond and here are two responses.

Wetland Website. “You might send this link to the individual questioning wetlands.” www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/awm/ Our comment: This is a great site and should answer the questions at the federal level. As for the state or county levels we hope there might be something available there.

Regarding the “great black soil” Statement. We received the following rather lengthy response from a resident who seems to know something about the subject, which is quoted in its entirety after our sign off.

Jim Aho

The question “What is wrong with digging out a wetland area if it provides another building site and that great black soil is used elsewhere?” intrigues me.

Lets just consider the part about the “great black soil is used elsewhere?”

OK, so these developers have a black wet soil to translocate. They dig out say, 1 cubic meter blocks with an excavator, transport them to the new site, and maybe even insert into pre dug holes. What can go wrong?

1. The soils may have not been well drained. Reinstate them in a site subject to rising groundwater and your not so well drained soils stay seasonally wet. This means that the translocated habitat will either be killed or will slowly change into something wholly different and probably with reduced biodiversity and certainly failure of the most soil sensitive plants.

2. The soils may have been poorly drained and was seasonally waterlogged. Translocate this to a well drained site and again the basic soil parameters will have changed and the habitat translocation will fail or new plants will try to adjust to the new conditions leading to habitat change and deterioration.

3. Translocate an acidic habitat to a circum-neutral or alkaline area and you will upset the chemistry of the translocated soils and again the habitat will respond by changing and invariably cause a reduction in biodiversity at the very least.

Slowly permeable receiving soils with clayey horizons will wet up at the surface with rainfall in the winter, the water in the soil being perched over the clayey layers (surface water soils). Such soils will be seasonally waterlogged or may be permanently waterlogged!

The dirt et-al, used to replace the permeable soils that were moved, may be affected by winter rising groundwater where water rises up to the surface, the soils may become so wet as to allow peat to form at the surface as plant material decays and accumulates. This would surely affect a structure built on this ground.

Wetlands come in many guises, wet woodland, alkaline fens, acidic mires, reed swamp, marshes and other. Can you excavate a certain depth of soil and lift it without draining it. Many wetland soils are fluid and simply flow as you lift them up. They are wholly dependent on water. That water may be alkaline, circum-neutral or acidic and may be rich or poor in major nutrients and rich or poor in dissolved micronutrients. The water may be sourced from vertically rising groundwater, from subsurface seepage water, or most often – a combination of these. Wetland soils may have thin acidic layers (often a few mm only) over alkaline layers and vice versa. Translocate a wetland habitat to a site with dissimilar hydrological, hydrochemical and hydrogeological conditions and you are in for trouble. Did these developers check the hydrological conditions of the soil they re-located and the soil that received the transferred soil?

Did they check to see if the soil water regimes and hydrology of the receptor site were identical to the donor site? Soils are so variable that it is virtually impossible to find a similar site. Dry heathlands are difficult enough, try it now with a combination of humid and wet heathlands, with a bit acidic mire thrown in for good measure and your problems are increased by several magnitudes. If soil analysis has shown that the upper soil layers are rich in phosphorus, and that the pH and calcium carbonate levels are excessively high (phosphorus should be minimal and pH less than 5). What will that do?

Perhaps the removal of the “black soil” would not be so beneficial to the area where it was received.