Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Stormwater on the Palouse - Time for an Ad Hominem Attack

Chuck Pezeshki had this rant published in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Stormwater on the Palouse — time for a positive vision

What’s really up with the storm-water situation in Pullman? According to the more conservative voices, it’s the fundamental unfairness of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s process for issuing a stormwater permit for the city of Pullman. Hillary Hamm, the Daily News reporter, dutifully states without reference that you won’t be able to wash your car in your driveway if you live in Pullman. Tom Forbes (Opinion, Nov. 15), avid Wal-Mart groupie, says that all this will be “bad for business” — his ultimate “kiss of death” for cleaning up the South Fork of the Palouse River. These regulations are supposed to be applied for the west side of Washington state, which cares about salmon. And since we don’t have salmon, we ought not be concerned with the fact that after every rainfall, we have a creek full of dirt and anti-freeze. Then, finally, we get the “since-the-other-guy-beats-his-wife,-it-should-be-fine-if-we-do,-too” line of reasoning. Moscow isn’t going to have to conform to any new stormwater regulations. Why should we worry?

First, a little background. Both Pullman and Moscow treat their residential and industrial sewage — the stuff that comes from houses and buildings. They conform to whatever the regulations are in their respective state. The treated effluent, which is pretty clean, goes into the creek. Fine.

But neither Pullman nor Moscow treat their stormwater, the water that flows down outside drains and gutters. That’s also typical for small communities. But as communities grow, and their industrial base expands, this also changes. Every city goes through a transition where storm-water becomes an issue and has to be treated. Spokane treats some of its storm- water. Typically, there are two lines into a stormwater treatment facility — one from the industrial base, and one from residential areas. In the case of a storm, the facility first manages the industrial run-off, because there is more bad stuff in it — toxics, motor oil, etc. They devote the remaining capacity to cleaning up the residential run-off.

In our case, it’s important to realize that the stakes involved with the South Fork of the Palouse are pretty high. It runs right through where we live. And we haven’t done a great job on the Palouse of having any creeks that aren’t open sewers at one time or another. Southeastern Washington has only one potential natural river environment — the Palouse River and a couple of tributaries. The fact that we’ve completely wrecked the entire basin is nothing to be proud of. We’ve wrecked it because we’ve allowed the agriculture industry, that employs only 1.6 percent to 3 percent of the population, at a $16,000-per-year wage to plow down to, and over the side creeks.

Instead of defending the status quo, why not engage all the stakeholders up and down the South Fork of the Palouse and its tributaries to clean up their act? Let’s collaborate with our upstream neighbor, Moscow, and get them to manage their stormwater. Let’s lead by building a storm-water facility of our own. Groups like PCEI, as well as agencies like the Soil and Water Conservation Service, have been working on fixing erosion in the upper watershed. Let’s tell our legislators that heavily subsidized agriculture must stop polluting our last local river, and demand larger buffer strips along the branches. As taxpayers, we are already paying out the nose to grow wheat that no one wants.

Finally, let’s dispense with the old canard that having a sewage ditch instead of a river in the middle of our community is somehow “good for business.” It’s not. People who will create the jobs are attracted here because of bike paths, river walks, and shady groves of trees along clean rivers. They aren’t drawn here by Wal-Mart Supercenters, and concrete rivers, and the freedom to dump your radiator fluid down the drain when it rains. And unlike days of old, it’s not a case of “jobs first, then people follow.” As documented heavily in the famous book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” by Richard Florida, it’s “talented people come, and jobs follow.”

A clean river running through our town also would say a lot about our family values — that we have a vision of our future for our kids that makes things like natural landscapes where we live a priority — not more parking lots. And the cost is not that great. Forbes’ Town Crier column said the cost would run $9/month per household. That’s three bags of potato chips. Aren’t our children’s future, our economic growth, and a more beautiful world worth it?
You would think that Pezeshki, a professor of mechanical and materials engineering and chairman of the WSU Faculty Senate, could come up with a more learned argument for stormwater regulations than calling me names and hyperbolic claims that our local waterways are open sewers.

Pezeshki's disdain isn't just reserved for me. He apparently loathes the "$16,000-per-year" farmers who have worked the land long before he and his carefully coiffed facial hair graced the Palouse. The farmers are apparently not members of the "creative class," as the good professor apparently fancies himself to be. Plus, I'm sure he blames those damn clodhoppers for voting Republican as well.

I guess I should be flattered that I annoy the local left-wing intelligentsia so much. I have become their all-purpose bogeyman as of late. But it's not just me that believes that the proposed DOE stormwater regulations are ridiculous. So does Mayor Johnson, the entire Pullman City Council and the director of Environmental Health and Safety at WSU. I'd rather have their approbation than the elitist Pezeshki's.

Pezeshki does not explain where the money to fund his grand vision will come from. It would be a hell of a lot more than a bag of chips, I can tell you that.

Finally, Pezeshki writes of legislative priorities. That's funny, because I didn't see him at the Town Hall meeting last month with our legislators advocating that point. It's easier to pontificate from his ivory tower I guess.


Barenjager said...

How typical of a self important faculty member. It's all about the process. The devil with outcome, it's the road you take that's paramount.

Not only is his logic faulty, his numbers are way off. $9 per month doesn't even come close. In addition to the amount Pullman is projecting it will cost, you must add that much again for WSU who will be captured and have to put forth just as great an effort.

Now, even if it were only "three bags of potatos a month", I suggest that this is still a runious amount for those on the lower end of the econdomic ladder. You know. The ones the good professor is supposed to be here serving. Which struggling student is going to have to deny his/her child those potatos if these people have their way?

Scotty said...

[music]na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAN![/music]

Tom Forbes said...

The $9 a month is the average statewide stormwater fee that would be added to a homeowner's utility bills. That doesn't even begin to cover the costs to businesses and the tax money that would need to be raised to cover sewage plant improvements.

Barenjager said...

Yeah, that $9 average is heavily weighted in favor of large municipal areas where they have higher population to drained area ratios. More importantly, it's biased by surrounding area land uses, topography and climate. Once again, factors that militate against us.

Chuck doesn't get the whole "relative effect" or "bang for the buck" thing. He also speaks out of both sides of his head when he notes that the municipalities operate under regulations then tries to rope in unregulated farmers. Who, in their right mind, is going to willingly give up his protection from stupid regulations? Professors! Geez. Most of them really shouldn't be allowed to speak in public forums. Most of them only confirm that educated doesn't mean smart.

Tom Forbes said...

Yes, it would seem a new requirement for tenure at WSU is to have had a letter or column attacking me published in a local newspaper.

The unasked question in all this, of course, is what do I get out of all this? I'm the "Wal-Mart groupie", the "Wal-Mart shill," and the "Wal-Mart advocate" and yet I'm not a developer and own no property (ther than my home) or business in Pullman. I stand to gain absolutely nothing from development in Pullman. I have never received one penny from Wal-Mart. I don't even own stock in the company. So why do I subject myself to the abuse of these academic flaptards? I'm beginning to wonder myself.

I'm a relative newcomer to Pullman (8 years). Bit it's becoming painfully obvious to me now why things are so backwards and underdeveloped in Pullman. A tiny tyranny of professors have been allowed to control how things go around here by attacking anyone that has the temerity to stand up and support anyhting that the brahmins oppose. 99.99999% of regular people do not want to sign up for the type of public namecalling and chastisement that I have been subjected to over the past year or so.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

I'm a relative newcomer to Pullman (8 years). Bit it's becoming painfully obvious to me now why things are so backwards and underdeveloped in Pullman. A tiny tyranny of professors have been allowed to control how things go around here by attacking anyone that has the temerity to stand up and support anyhting that the brahmins oppose. 99.99999% of regular people do not want to sign up for the type of public namecalling and chastisement that I have been subjected to over the past year or so.

True, but I think something of a Darwinian nature may work against these people in these respects. They've been preaching to and singing with their own choir for a while. They've been selecting amongst themselves for a while. I doubt that they're ready for competition...

Keep on keepin' on! They won't last.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

The picture in the paper was priceless. It clearly shows him looking down his whiskers at the rest of us.

April E. Coggins said...

Chuck has some sort of unexplained chip on his shoulder. He hates farmers and has gone out of his way to degrade them. Strange, considering he is working for a land grant university in the middle of farm country. Why would he locate here if he has such a strong dislike for the farm?
And how exactly does the anti-freeze work in? Okay, so we have mud that runs off when it rains. So does everywhere else in the world. What makes him think we have anti-freeze running off our fields and streets? How can Pullman have more anti-freeze running into the creeks than say, Tacoma? He also implies that we are inferior to western Washington, because they "care" about salmon and we don't "care" because we don't have any salmon to save. Apparently, we should pretend we have salmon to save, even if we don't. He has a very disconnected thought process.