Letter to the editor: Misinformation or disinformation in Port of Edmonds race?

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Dear Editor:

Phil Lovell is correct in his opinion (Beacon, Oct. 26 Letter to Editor and My Edmonds News) that there has been a lot of misinformation during the current port election. However, I would describe it as “disinformation” (intentional misinformation).

Phil Lovell states: “The port as led by its current commissioners has always been and remains in support of plans and measures intended to improve the marsh environment.” If true, then why did the incumbent commissioners spend $84,000 of public money to block the Shoreline Master Program’s City Council-approved 125 feet of protection for the Edmonds Marsh?

Another example of disinformation is the two expensive, Port brochures that were mailed to citizens of Edmonds and Woodway. Those slick marketing pieces touted the Port’s awards and honors for their marina operations. The marsh was not even mentioned in either of those pro-port brochures. “Kudo’s” for anything and everything that’s been done to meet the legally required Clean Water Act rules and Department of Ecology requirements.  We should be grateful for that good work and for the hard-fought battles over decades to get those rules and regulations adopted into law.

I have another question related to disinformation: Does Port-appointed commissioner, and now candidate, Steve Johnston have a conflict of interest in that he worked for Landau Associates while he, according to Johnston himself, served as CEO of Landau for a period of time while Landau was contracted for work by the port? And how can Johnston claim that he is “relatively new at the port,” when he has been an employee of Landau as Landau was working on port issues related to setbacks and buffers? In the late 1990s Johnston was project manager on the port’s Ecology-required cleanup operation that left oil-contaminated soil at the marsh.

Many of us who support balanced, fiscally and environmentally healthy management of the port are asking these questions. Whatever the answers, we’ll be able to rely on good governance with Susan Paine, Lora Petso and Angela Harris at the helm. All three are problem solvers with exemplary credentials, experience, and knowledge to manage the port ethically and effectively.

Rebecca Wolfe

5 COMMENTS

  1. The “$84,000 of public money to block the Shoreline Master Program’s City Council-approved 125 feet of protection for the Edmonds Marsh” breaks down as follows:

    K&L Gates $72,022
    McCauley & Associates, LTD $ 1,575
    Landau Associates. $ 4,390
    Hart Crowser $ 6,208

    TOTAL $84,195

    Thanks, Rebecca, for adding more pertinent facts to the discussion to assist voters in making their decision.

  2. Since I have been mentioned by name in Ms. Wolfe’s letter, it is appropriate for me to respond. If I may, I will respond to Ms. Wolfe’s comments sequentially.

    1. The Port retained legal and environmental professionals to help navigate the issues arising around the City’s Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) deliberations, which in part established buffer/setback requirements for the Edmonds Marsh. The City was seeking to establish a substantially larger setback/buffer than that recommended by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The two highly qualified wetland scientists retained by the Port concluded that a buffer smaller than that proposed by the City was adequately effective in protecting the Marsh, with or without redevelopment of Harbor Square. By advocating for the larger buffer, the City was potentially foreclosing future redevelopment and building improvement plans at Harbor Square, a publicly owned property. By exploring our legal options, we were simply fulfilling our obligation to protect the value of a public asset—Harbor Square. If the City said that they needed to take part of your front yard, did not provide adequate justification for it, and offered you no compensation for taking it, I suspect you would have explored your legal options as well. The Port ultimately elected to take no legal action in this matter.

    2. The mailers were factual and well-received by the public. The Port’s 2016 Communication Plan calls for periodic mailers to inform the public about the Port’s mission, accomplishments on their behalf, and plans for the future. Many public ports, Public Utility Districts, special purpose districts, and other public entities produce similar mailers to keep the public informed of their activities.

    3. While meeting environmental requirements is expected, acknowledgement should also be given to public ports that not only meet, but exceed regulatory requirements. The Port of Edmonds is a documented leader among ports in environmental practices, having won environmental excellence awards and the highest environmental certifications available for our marina and boatyard.

    4. I have no conflict of interest in serving as a Commissioner because I retired from Landau Associates in 2013, three years before being appointed to the Commission. I was asked to submit my name because of my strong environmental, technical, and business management experience.

    5. I have been a Commissioner of the Port of Edmonds for less than 18 months. I would consider that “relatively new”. During my employment at Landau Associates, neither the firm nor I ever worked on Port issues related to setbacks and buffers. Landau Associates did provide consultation on setbacks and buffers for the Port in 2015 and 2016, after I retired from the firm.

    6. After the Harbor Square cleanup was completed in 2005, the only known contaminated soil left at the Harbor Square site was under two buildings, where it was inaccessible. The contamination was left in place because the Port demonstrated to Ecology’s satisfaction that there was no threat to human health and the environment. The contamination was fixed in place, the overlying buildings provided an effective cap, and indoor air quality was within acceptable levels. Final remediation reports prepared after the cleanup show that there is no contaminated soil at the site along the Marsh. I am not aware of any documentation of contamination in the Marsh that has been specifically linked to industrial activities at Harbor Square, which pre-dated the Port’s ownership. Ms. Wolfe, if you or others have any documentation to the contrary, please produce it. That is not to say that there may be documented contamination in the Marsh linked to storm water inflows.

    7. Many who support balanced, fiscally, and environmentally healthy management actually balance those factors. The public has had excellent governance at the Port for the past two decades, and it’s only getting better. Not only have the Commissioners managed the public’s investment well now and for the future, they have done it in a collaborative, professional, and progressive way that we all should be proud of. We try to lead by example.

    If anyone has any further questions regarding these issues, please email me at info@stevejohnstonforport.com.

    Steve Johnston

  3. Toxic waste is seeping into the marsh, toxic week killer is being used around it, lack of salt water flow is changing the marsh from a salt water estuary to a fresh water cattail pond. Yet the Port Commission incumbents keep telling us they are doing a great job. I’m not convinced and I’m voting for Harris, Paine and Petso for Port Commission.

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