Newsletters & Articles:
- Weatherwax at Mayoral Candidates Forum 10/31/11
- Weatherwas Update and Election 10/13/11
- MORE GOOD NEWS FOR WEATHERWAX 8/29/11
- WEATHERWAX UPDATE AUGUST 2011 8/10/11
- Weatherwax Wetland Banking (Guest editorial) 8/10/11
- Weatherwax Banking Approved! 7/1/11
- Vote Imminent - time for help is now! 6/7/11
Weatherwax at Mayoral Candidates Forum
In an update to our last newsletter, we have more information on candidates' positions on Weatherwax preservation and banking.
On Sunday October 23rd, the group Concerned Citizens hosted a question and answer forum for the three candidates for Mayor. Although no direct quotes were recorded, following is the general response received from each candidate when a question was asked about Weatherwax.
Repeated her position of supporting preservation, honoring the citizens' vote, and using wetland banking for revenue.
Wants the forest trails area west of Duck Lake preserved. Nobody walks on the East, Point, and area west of Pole Line Road. Therefore, the East and Point are worth money that could pay off some of our debts, and water wells should be drilled in the area west of Pole Line road.
Would like golf course holes moved to the West. Said we will not sell any wetland banking credits for 5-7 years. Did not know how we will pay the banking maintenance costs.
Based on discussions at the meeting, there is a lot of misinformation or lack of information among the citizens and candidates about the monetary issues involved with wetland banking. The following information has all been presented at City Council meetings and Study Sessions:
- The total cost of the Weatherwax wetland banking project is $113,300.
- Maintenance costs are included in the price when each credit is sold.
- The feasibility study for market demand for the next 1-3 years showed a Westport airport improvement project that will need 2 credits of mitigation, a Westport Commercial/Residential need for 1 credit, a Grayland south project need for 1/2 credit, plus up to 2 credits for potential smaller city and county projects.
- Price per credit is projected at $125,000. We only have to sell one credit to break even on the project.
- The number of credits in a bank is negotiated during the certification process. We are negotiating for 10-12 credits.
- Revenue from selling credits will be used to pay down the debt on the "Weatherwax bond" (which includes more than just the Weatherwax property)
- There are 11 active wetland banks in Washington. Three have been certified this year. There are five additional banks in the review process, including ours.
- Someone said we would have to build a fence around the Weatherwax property at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. No fence is required.
- Being certified as a bank would permanently preserve the property, honoring the citizens' vote.
Ocean Shores Citizens for Balanced Growth
Weatherwax Update and the Election
The Wetland Banking project is proceeding as planned. The consultants plan to submit their first draft of the Mitigation Banking Instrument (MBI) to the City Council by late October or early November. This means the new Mayor and Council members will be involved in the decision to proceed with banking and the permanent preservation of Weatherwax.
There are many vital issues to be considered when voting for Mayor and City Council this year. We are only reporting on what the candidates have stated as their position on Weatherwax preservation. The questions posed were:
1.) Do you support the preservation of the entire Weatherwax property?
2.) Do you support wetland banking as a means to preserve it?
They were also asked to expand on their yes/no answers if they wanted to provide more information. The questions were sent via email on September 28th, and again on October 5th to those candidates who had not yet responded. All responses are verbatim with no editorial comments. All candidates are listed in alphabetical order per position.
1.) "Since the citizens voted in their advisory ballot to preserve the entire property, I believe that the Mayor and Council must do their best to ensure that the voters’ wishes are carried out."
2.) "As a Council Member this past six months, I have consistently voted “yes” on Wetland banking. I believe it is the only method available to us to not only preserve the Weatherwax property but also to help pay off the debt."
"The questions posed are of extreme importance, but at this time it is premature to try to answer them. Without knowing all the facts and regulations that will or might be imposed, I cannot give an intelligent answer to these questions at this time. There are just too many unanswered questions that can only be answered hopefully when the report is received in the next few months. Until then I reserve the right to remain silent on the subject. Only when I receive the answers to the unanswered questions can I make a reasonable and intelligent decision. "
Did not respond
CITY COUNCIL POSITION 2
"I do support the preservation of the entire Weatherwax and the islands if allowed. Wetland banking is an easy win-win choice. I have worked hard to make this a reality and hope to leave this issue as part of my legacy to all of Ocean Shores."
Did not respond
CITY COUNCIL POSITION 3
1. "It would be wonderful to preserve the entire property but it appears that this is not economically feasible with the current debt and lack of resources. Therefore we should preserve the most pristine areas of this property and sell the "ordinary exterior lots". This would not detract from the hiking trails and wetland preserves."
2.)"The cost to be able to qualify for wetland banking and tax credits does not appear viable at this juncture in time. It would cost money that the city does not have and there is no guarantee that we could sell the credits, or if sold that they would generate the necessary funds."
2- "I have seen no better options as of yet."
CITY COUNCIL POSITION 4
1.) "I do support the preservation of the Weatherwax property."
2.) "I support the wetland banking as a means to preserve it and to use the money for those credits to pay down the debt owed on that property."
"I do believe that most of the Weatherwax should be preserved because that is what the voters said they wanted. I do not have very much knowledge about the wetlands banking, but from what I have heard from people who are somewhat informed, I do not believe this is a viable investment. It seems to me that the return still will not pay off the debt owed. In these fiscal times it doesn't appear to be a smart move."
CITY COUNCIL POSITION 6
2."One of the possible solutions."
Did not respond
CITY COUNCIL POSITION 7
1) "I have been a proponent of preserving the Weatherwax since the city purchased it. During the first round of Planning Commission hearings to determine its preferred uses, I served on the "Open Space" Committee with several other Weatherwax supporters. I voted to retain all of the Weatherwax and helped campaign for it when it finally went to a vote of the people."
2) "Wetland Banking is great solution to: 1) preserve the property in perpetuity, (2) reimburse the citizens who funded the purchase of the property, and 3) facilitate economic development on the North/South dunal marine areas."
Did not respond
Contact emails for all of the candidates are below:
Crystal Dingler <email@example.com>; Gordon Broadbent <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Bob Crumpacker <email@example.com>; Karen Carlisle <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Ed Engel <email@example.com>; Ginny Hill <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Randy Scott <email@example.com>; John Farra <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Daniel Overton <email@example.com>; Marion Boenheim <firstname.lastname@example.org>; John Schroeder <email@example.com>; Jim Jordan <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Bruce Leven <email@example.com>;
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT OF WEATHERWAX AND OCEAN SHORES CITIZENS FOR BALANCED GROWTH!
MORE GOOD NEWS FOR WEATHERWAX
As previously reported, in July the City Council voted 6-1 to allocate $113,300 from the Capital Budget for the Weatherwax Wetland Banking Project, approving $10,000 of that money to be spent on a feasibility study. On August 8th, Ecological Land Services (ELS), the banking science and consulting firm, presented a very promising feasibility study at the Council Study Session, with revenues projected at $1.2-$1.9 million. Last Monday the City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the next step in the mitigation banking project. They released $59,000 more of the previously allocated budget.
This money will be used for ELS to do scientific studies and wetland delineation. That information will then be used as input to the draft Mitigation Banking Instrument (MBI). This is the negotiated legal document that describes the bank, the number of credits it can sell, the service area, and the terms of maintaining and monitoring the property. (For more information on Wetland Banking, see www.weatherwax.info.)
On August 24, the ELS scientists were already at work in Weatherwax, gathering information needed to prove the ecological value of the property. A previous wetland delineation defined the high quality forested wetlands west of the pole line road, so ELS did not have to repeat that process. They did identify wetlands along the shorelines of the West, Point, and East portions of the property. They also identified West Weatherwax and East Weatherwax as STATE PRIORITY HABITATS. This is a designation set by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as a habitat type that the state considers a high priority to preserve. Wetlands and priority habitats are important factors in convincing the banking review team that the property has high ecological significance. (We all know that already, it just needs to be scientifically documented!)
The Point has less mature growth but is no longer the sandy landscape often shown on 2004-2005 aerial photographs. It is maturing nicely with native plants and trees and minimal invasive weeds. ELS plans to show that the Point is part of the overall Weatherwax ecosystem and should be included in the bank. Photos from the 1940s before Duck Lake was dredged reinforce this concept. These photos and initial scientific assessment also indicate what are now islands in Duck Lake are additional remnants of this historical ecosystem and ELS will negotiate the possibility of also preserving them as part of the bank, generating additional credits.
The next step with the City Council will be when the draft MBI is brought before them. We expect that in October or November. The Council, possibly including some newly elected Council members, will then decide whether to release the remaining budget to submit the MBI to the State and Army Corps of Engineers for the review process to begin. The review cycle takes several months. If the review team approves the MBI, the City must negotiate and pay for a conservation easement for the property, the final $10,000 cost of the project. This would preserve Weatherwax forever and could happen in the first quarter of 2012.
As you can see by the timeline, it is still an important question to ask City Council and Mayoral candidates if they support the preservation of Weatherwax, and if they will continue to support the wetland banking project that the present Council has set in motion. ($69,000 of the $113,300 has been released to date.)
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!
WEATHERWAX UPDATE AUGUST 2011
At the August 8th City Council Study Session, the wetland banking consultants, Ecological Land Services (ELS), presented their feasibility study for certifying Weatherwax as a wetland bank. After extensive research of upcoming development projects in the area, ELS indicated they saw a potential of 5.5 credits to sell at $125,000 each in the next three years. Worst, moderate, and best case scenarios were given that showed total revenue for the bank from $1.2 million to $1.9 million. This revenue could stay in the Capital Fund or be transferred to the General Fund to make the annual Weatherwax bond payments.
Other potential credit sales in the life of the bank come from telling permitting agencies at every level from the City of Ocean Shores to the US Army Corps of Engineers that we have a wetland bank available. The agencies will tell project applicants they have that option for mitigation, so it becomes an automatic marketing process. ELS explained how it is less costly and easier for a developer to use a mitigation bank than to mitigate on their own, buying land and restoring or creating wetlands. ELS plans to negotiate a service area from Moclips to Washaway Beach, so any project applicant in that area will have the option to use our bank.
The Council was very engaged, asked questions, and seemed positive. Unfortunately, the only candidates present at the Study Session were the incumbents: Bob Crumpacker, Karen Carlisle, Gordon Broadbent, and Crystal Dingler. No other candidates were in the audience, thus the incumbents are the only ones who will be up to speed on Weatherwax and wetland banking.
At the August 22nd City Council meeting, the Council will decide whether to proceed with the next steps necessary to certify Weatherwax as a wetland bank. Please plan to be there to support this project, which will ensure that Weatherwax will be preserved in perpetuity, in addition to providing much needed revenue for the City.
If you are still unclear about the wetland banking process, please see the article posted on www.weatherwax.info, a copy of the recent Guest Editorial in the North Coast News, which describes the entire wetland banking process. (The article will be posted within the next few days, along with this newsletter.)
Remember, the next important Weatherwax vote is August 22nd, 6PM at the Convention Center. Thank you for your continued support.
Weatherwax Wetland Banking (Guest editorial)
At recent City Council Study Sessions and Council meetings, in-depth discussions have taken place regarding Weatherwax Wetland Banking. At the June 27, 2011 Council meeting, the Council approved 6- 1 to move forward with the banking project. Some people are still unsure what wetland banking is about, so here is the background and process.
In November 2008, 66% of the citizens of Ocean Shores voted for the City to retain the Weatherwax property, not sell it for development. However, the City wanted to get some money for the property. Wetland banking is a way to both preserve Weatherwax and provide revenue. Resolution 610 was approved unanimously in March 2009 to proceed with creating a wetland bank, but no budget was provided. The request the Council just approved provides some of the money needed for the professional services that are required to create a bank.
Wetland banking preserves wetlands and their surrounding habitat, generating revenue by the selling of "credits". The number of credits generated by a bank is determined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Department of Ecology (Ecology) based on the ecological significance of the wetlands and habitat. Weatherwax contains high quality wetlands and habitat.
If a developer has a wetland on their property, and they cannot avoid that wetland or its required buffer for their project, they must get a permit from the Corps to impact that wetland or buffer, and mitigate for their impact somewhere else. "Somewhere else" can be (1) on another part of their property; (2) on another piece of property that they buy to create, restore, or enhance wetlands; or (3) in a wetland bank. The Corps created the wetland banking process because options 1 and 2 were not proving to be very successful. Option 3 is also easier for developers because they do not have to create or maintain new wetlands. Buying a credit in our bank gives a developer the right to clear or fill in smaller, lower quality wetlands by preserving our large, high quality wetlands and habitat. When a developer buys a credit, they are only buying that right; they are not buying a piece of the Weatherwax property.
The Council approved spending $10,000 from the Capital Budget for professional scientists and consultants to do a market study to estimate how much revenue the bank could generate, and when. Based on this study, the Council will decide whether to go ahead with the rest of the project at this time. We expect that report in August.
The next step is a full scientific assessment of the property, expected in September. Then the consultants enter into final negotiations with the Corps and Ecology over how many credits the bank will generate and what the service area will be. "Service area" is the geographical area in which development projects occur that would be eligible to buy credits from our bank. A larger area means more potential customers. The Mitigation Banking Instrument (MBI), the legal document that certifies the bank, is drafted while these assessments and negotiations are in progress. We expect the first draft MBI by October or November.
Once the MBI is drafted, a repetitive review process begins with the InterAgency Review Team (IRT.) This is a group of federal, state, and tribal agencies that review the MBI and make comments. The IRT has 30 days to make comments, at which time the City makes appropriate changes to the document and resubmits it. This process typically goes through two or three cycles, which would put us in the first quarter of 2012. Then a public review process and public hearing take place.
Once comments from the public are addressed, the MBI is approved by the IRT. At that point, the property must be legally preserved in perpetuity. This will be done by negotiating a conservation easement with a land trust organization. Then the IRT and the City sign the MBI and the bank is in business. Depending on the number of review cycles required, this is expected by March or April 2012.
The bank must also be monitored and maintained in perpetuity to ensure the quality of the property remains high. Since the Weatherwax wetlands and vegetation are already established, our maintenance will consist of removing invasive weeds, removing litter, and monitoring for encroachment and vandalism. We hope to create a volunteer corps of residents, Scouts, and school groups in collaboration with the Public Works Department to perform those tasks. The conservation easement holder also does an annual review of the property.
After all credits are sold, the bank is closed and remains preserved. Making the Weatherwax property a wetland bank will both preserve it forever and bring revenue into the City.
WEATHERWAX WETLAND BANKING PROJECT APPROVED!
At the June 27, 2011 City Council meeting, the Council voted 6-1 in favor (John Lynn opposed) to start the Weatherwax Wetland Banking project, including signing a contract with the chosen consulting firm immediately. This is a MAJOR VICTORY, and the next step towards the preservation of the entire Weatherwax property forever. Thank you to everyone who expressed support for this project by contacting City Council members and attending City Council meetings.
The project will move forward with a "kick-off meeting" and tour with the consultants and the Department of Ecology in July. The Council voted to allow an initial expenditure of approximately $10,000 of the $113,300 total project amount to determine the potential revenue stream to the City. Based on the results of this cost/benefit study, the City Council will decide whether or not to proceed with the project at this time.
This summer, you will be seeing people out in all areas of Weatherwax, off trail, flagging areas, taking measurements, digging small holes, boring trees, etc. Do not be concerned. These are the consultants that were contracted to do scientific studies on the property. Although they might be trimming vegetation to make their way further into the property, please stay on the established trails.
The wetland banking project and Weatherwax preservation will not be completed prior to electing a new Mayor and new City Council members this fall. There are many issues of concern in this campaign season, mostly financial. We urge you to also ask where the candidates stand on Weatherwax banking and preservation. Ocean Shores Citizens for Balanced Growth cannot endorse any candidates. We will only report what they say about Weatherwax and growth.
Once again, thank you for your continued support. Please consider contacting the Council members who voted for this project to thank them for their support.
City Council Contacts:
WEATHERWAX PRESERVATION VOTE IMMINENT
We sent out a notice about this two weeks ago that was a bit premature. We have included some additional information, so please read this message again. The time for your help is NOW.
WE ARE FACING A CRITICAL POINT IN THE PROCESS TO PRESERVE WEATHERWAX. We need you to call or email the City Council Members and attend an upcoming City Council meeting in support of Weatherwax preservation. Our city has serious budget problems, which is why we are asking you to be sure the Council members know the support level is high for the Weatherwax Wetland Banking preservation project. This project could bring in as much as $1.2 million dollars in revenue, over time, for a cost of $113,300, while preserving Weatherwax in perpetuity. The property is not legally preserved, thus still at risk, until wetland banking and/or a conservation easement is put in place. (A conservation easement alone will not bring in any revenue.)
You might think the citizens' November 2008 66% vote to Retain Weatherwax preserved the property as is. That is not the case. What that advisory ballot did was inform the City Council that we did not wish any part of the Weatherwax property to be sold. In January 2009, the City Council approved proceeding with a project to make Weatherwax a wetland mitigation bank. (For more information on Wetland Banking, see the July 2010 Update in the News section of our www.weatherwax.info website.) No budget was provided for the project in 2009. General Budget was requested in 2010 and rejected. A small Capital Budget was allocated in 2010 to do some in-house work. We now need a consultant and legal support to finish the project. We need the Council to approve our request for 2011/2012 Capital Budget for the Weatherwax banking project. Money is very tight and the Council is not in a spending mood so we have a tough battle on our hands.
WE ARE ASKING YOU TO CONTACT ALL OF THE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS IMMEDIATELY TO ASK THEM TO APPROVE THE BUDGET FOR THE WEATHERWAX WETLAND BANK. This is ***NOT*** the time to talk or write about how much you like and use the trails. It is time to talk about Preservation and Money. Some things you can talk or write about, in your own words: The voters want the property preserved in perpetuity and wetland banking is the best way to do that; the project will provide needed revenue to the City; this property brings in eco-tourism dollars; this project has gone unfunded for too long; it is important to fund it now so the scientists can do their studies this summer. If they suggest holding off on the project for a few years, keep in mind that Weatherwax is not legally protected until this project is complete.
The budget request will be discussed at the City Council Study Session June 9th at 1PM at the Convention Center. You can attend to listen to the Council discussion but cannot provide public comment. We have presented the formal request for budget approval to be put on the June 13th City Council meeting agenda. Whether or not it goes on the agenda is up to the Mayor Pro Tem, John Lynn. Please ask him to place this budget request on the June 13th agenda, and then please attend to provide public comment on the agenda item. If for some reason the item is not on the agenda, sign up for Public Comment at the beginning of the meeting and express your views.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! Contact information for City Council members is listed below.
City Council Contacts:
John Lynn firstname.lastname@example.org 289-9338
Bob Crumpacker email@example.com 289-3096
Crystal Dingler firstname.lastname@example.org 289-2010
Karen Carlisle email@example.com 289-2232
Jackie Farra firstname.lastname@example.org 289-0918
Dick Skewis email@example.com 289-0200
Gordon Broadbent firstname.lastname@example.org 289-3980
Please also call Marlene at 289-3393 if you can volunteer for a phone-tree calling effort prior to the Council meeting.
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