Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Aquinuts Everywhere

As we do live in the People's Republic of Washington, it should come as no surprise that Aquinuts are not restricted to Moscow.

According to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News yesterday, "concerned resident" Scotty Cornelius is against the new Palouse Ridge Golf Course at WSU because water will be withdrawn from the aquifers to keep the grass green. Cornelius is part of an 11th hour legal appeal to reverse the DOE's approval for WSU to use its water rights to irrigate the golf course.

Again, I shake my head in dismay at how the reporter for the Daily News could have engaged in 60 seconds of Googling to see that Mr. Cornelius is hardly a mere "citizen." Cornelius is a professional water activist cut from the same cloth as King Solomon, with ties to all sorts of left-wing environmental organizations in Washington. Speaking of Solomon, his Palouse Water Conservation Network is a party to Cornelius' appeal of the golf course irrigation rights, so that makes TWO developments in Whitman County that the King is now opposing versus none in Latah County.

For example, Cornelius is a long-time foe of development in the corridor.

Cornelius is also party to another lawsuit challenging a 2003 State of Washington law allowing municipalities rights to pump from rivers and streams, along with Earthjustice and the Washington Environmental Council. In the press release, he is listed as a "Pullman land owner" who has a well that is "threatened" by the golf course.

Cornelius is a member of the Center for Environmenal Law and Policy (CELP), which has a "fact sheet" on the golf course. The Columbia Institute for Water Policy, which seems to be the same organization as CELP, has a big write-up on the golf course issue. Be sure to check out the part about how the golf course construction has "destroyed" the "historic" Carriage Road between Pullman and Moscow. What in the world that has to with the aquifers, I don't know, but it is awfully reminiscent of PARD and the City Cemetery.

There has been very little coverage of the golf course appeal here, other than a few articles in the Evergreen a couple of years ago. Not suprisingly, by the way, Citizen Hosick was also against this project, calling it "an inexcusable waste of our precious natural water resource.” I have to give Cornelius credit for having balls, though. Cornelius is employed by WSU as a Geology Lab Manager. Hosick, whose husband is a professor at WSU, and the other professors of PARD are apparently too gutless to bite the hand that feeds them, preferring the safer snobbery against Wal-Mart instead.

Nevertheless, according to yesterday's Seattle PI, "environmentalists" are trying to halt WSU's new golf course. Nevermind that all the objections are coming from outside of Pullman.

All this really shows is that water is an excuse for zero/negative growth. Until we find a way to recharge the aquifers, they will continue to be depleted. That's where conservation comes in. The WSU golf course is applying state-of-the-art water conservation techniques. The only way to completely preserve the aquifers is to stop withdrawing from them. And the only way to do that is to move every man, woman, and child out of Whitman and Latah Counties. Because it is people, not golf courses or Wal-Marts, that are the biggest users of water. For example, CERP wildly claims that the WSU Golf Course will use 100 million gallons of water every year. Well, that is how much water the employees of Schweitzer Engineering and their families consume every year. Should we get rid of SEL as well?

As for Mr. Cornelius' chances, I think the advanced state of construction of the Palouse Ridge Golf Course gives some idea of how the state views them.
Resident irked by golf course water plan

Cornelius says Palouse Ridge Golf Course not in line with area's conservation efforts

Scotty Cornelius applauds Washington State University's efforts to conserve water on the Pullman campus, for the most part.

He said an updated water conservation program that still is in draft form is a proactive approach for the university to become more efficient with water - with one glaring exception.

At a public forum Monday afternoon at the WSU Food Services Building, Cornelius expressed his disdain for the 18-hole Palouse Ridge Golf Course being constructed by WSU. The WSU employee was the only concerned resident at a table of consultants and university staff who gathered for the forum.

Cornelius, who has appealed a state water rights decision that would allow WSU to irrigate the golf course, said the university is not taking the strides necessary to conserve when it comes to the course. The Palouse Water Conservation Network and Palouse Group Sierra Club also have appealed the state's decision.

Cornelius said a trial to resolve the matter is scheduled to start Nov. 27 in Pullman.

"It just doesn't make sense to me that we're not paying more attention to the golf course," Cornelius said. "We're conserving in one area ... and in another component we're letting the horses run."

Cornelius isn't surprised he was the only resident present Monday. He said the university didn't advertise the meeting well and had the forum in an obscure building at a time when the campus population is at a minimum.

Still, he said, residents across the Palouse should be concerned with the golf course's irrigation plan.

"Ideally, I'd want to stop the golf course today but that's probably not going to happen," he said. Area residents "should be concerned about water conservation across the Palouse. We all draw from the same water source."

WSU Director of Construction Services and Quality Assurance Keith Bloom said the new course will use an estimated 55 million gallons of water per year to irrigate approximately 110 acres. The university's old nine-hole course used 32.7 million gallons per year to irrigate 35 acres.

"It's a far better system than ever existed on the previous course," he said.

Bloom said the 18-hole course, which will incorporate the university's old course and is slated for completion in 2008, will be equipped with modern technology to conserve as much water as possible. Technology includes computerized controls and moisture measurers that detect wind and sun angles to gauge which areas need water. The irrigation system being installed also can be used for water reclamation projects down the line.

The conservation plan is one chapter in a 2008 Water System Plan for WSU, a final draft copy of which is due to the Washington State Department of Health in December. The required document illustrates existing WSU conservation efforts and outlines a $2.7 million plan the university will enact to save 14.2 million gallons per year from 2008 to 2013.

WSU's water is pumped from seven domestic wells that draw from the Grande Ronde aquifer.

The water system plan includes the university's efforts to install efficient plumbing fixtures on campus, use front-loading clothes washers that conserve water, and to reuse water used to cool laboratory machines and air conditioners.

The drafted document also highlights attempts to put meters on all campus water sources, such as residence halls and new facilities, by 2017. The meters will help pinpoint the university's main water users and make it easier to identify leaks.

Kelly O'Rourke, a water resources planner for the firm HDR, is drafting the university's six-year water conservation plan. She said the new 18-hole golf course will use more water than the nine-hole course because it will take up a larger portion of land.

O'Rourke addressed the golf course briefly in the conservation plan, noting that the 18-hole course will be more efficient than the previous course because of its design, turf choices and maintenance practices.

Cornelius said the golf course irrigation plan should have been better addressed in the conservation plan than the vague paragraph it received.

"It seems to me that this report doesn't pay attention to that," he said. "We have a perfect water source here. It's a shame to waste it."

Bloom said he appreciates Cornelius' desire and passion concerning water conservation, but that Cornelius has it all wrong when it comes to the golf course.

"I very strongly believe in this watchdog mentality that holds people accountable. We have to be responsible in our application of irrigation water, and we have," Bloom said. "Nobody within this organization is taking irrigation and water conservation lightly. This is not a topic that we're turning a blind eye to.

"As we look at all of our irrigation, we are looking at not just the golf course but at different locations throughout the campus."

Bloom said that since 1989, the university has reduced its overall annual water consumption by 110 million gallons per year.

Cornelius said it may take the court case to find compromise on the golf course irrigation issue.

"I'm optimistic that we're going to achieve something (in court), but I don't know what," he said.


April E. Coggins said...

To be consistent, they must also oppose any new grassy areas, including parks, cemeteries, school yards and of course, ball fields.

Jeff said...

"For example, CERP wildly claims that the WSU Golf Course will use 100 million gallons of water every year. Well, that is how much water the employees of Schweitzer Engineering and their families consume every year. Should we get rid of SEL as well?"

Come now, Mr. Forbes, straw man arguments are beneath you. Rather than addressing the issue, you've cited these activists' qualifications and history of opposition to economic growth. You have not, however, shown that they're position is wrong. Surely our position is strong enough that you can address positions with which we disagree by using reason and fact, rather than logical fallacy. How have these activists altered the facts? Why are they wrong in decrying construction on Carriage Road? Surrounding a claim in quotation marks does not refute it.

Tom Forbes said...

Jeff, the figures cited by your employer in the Daily News article refute the water activists claims well enough without me having to argue them again.

When writing opinion pieces, such as mine, one uses all sorts of arguments. For example, reductio ad absurdum. The only logical conclusion to the activists arguments, since they do not accept conservation efforts, is that the only way to stop aquifer delpletion is to halt, if not reverse, all growth.

My point about Carriage Road was a simple one. What does it have to do with aquifer depletion?

April E. Coggins said...

It seems reasonable to believe Washington State University officials. They have a pretty good history. The "environmentalist" groups and Scotty Cornelius in particular, have a history of distorting facts to accomodate their political beliefs. They are not believable. And what in the world does Carriage Road have to do with water usage?

April E. Coggins said...

Sorry, Tom. I guess we were thinking the same thing.

Tom Forbes said...

If you want logical fallacies, the water activists constantly engage in Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc.

So little is known about the Wanapum and Grande Ronde aquifers that environmentalists can blithely present contradictory arguments to further their agenda. For example, Mark Solomon claims the aquifers are not connected, so the Hawkins water rights transfer is illegal. But according to Cornelius and CERP, the WSU golf course will drain both aquifers. Some say the aquifers can't be recharged and so we must stop all growth. But another argument goes that aquifers CAN be recharhed on buttes, so we can't develop on ridgelines.

You get the idea. The one central theme is opposition to development. The Carriage Road comment was not random. It demonstrated very clearly the leftists disdain for capitalism more than the conservationists concern about water.

You want some facts, okay here are some.

According to data from the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee, Pullman and WSU met their voluntary pumping goals every year from 1992 to 2005. Despite a 9.3% population growth during that period, Pullman only pumped 14 million (1.6%) more gallons in 2005 than it did in 1992. WSU pumped 89 million gallons LESS in 2005 than it did in 1992.

PBAC further reported, "Water level data for the period show no consistent trend, with some wells experiencing a decline in static water level, others remaining relatively stable, and yet others indicating a possible increase in static water level."

I'm not seeing any cause for panic or extreme measures, do you?

Tom Forbes said...

Let me conclude with some points that were made in a Daily News op-ed last year by Larry Kirkland, technical advisor to PBAC.

1. The region does not have a water crisis.
2. There is time for sound planning to deal with aquifer decline in a rational, economical manner.
3. We are not a water limited area. Sufficient water falls on the area as rain and snow to handle all foreseeable development
4. Conservation “creates” water for additional domestic use without increasing the total supply of available water.
5. Growth and development will eventually require supplemental water supplies.
6. Funds and manpower are in far too short supply to dissipate in needless controversy.

"Needless controversy" is exactly what Mr. Cornelius is engaging in with his frivilous lawsuit. It's nothing more than dilettantish grandstanding meant to try to appear relevant. He's not part of the solution, so he's part of the problem.

April E. Coggins said...

I've been waiting, but I guess "Jeff" is still typing out his response. There is no point waiting, so can someone alert me when he finds the time to respond? I kinda suspect he is a lazy bomb thower and we won't get one, but just in case.....

Jeff said...

Geez, April, such vitriol. I agree with Mr. Forbes completely, and favor economic development in the region, but I felt this opinion piece did a disservice to our common, pro-growth position. The additional information you've posted has been very helpful, just the sort of response I had hoped for. And for the record, my employer is Washington State University; I have no connection to any of the involved parties. I'm just an undergrad interested in good debate--no bomb-thrower at all.

Tom Forbes said...

Thanks Jeff, and welcome.

April E. Coggins said...

Yes, welcome Jeff. I have nothing against you, I was only hoping to draw you out. Hey, it worked! Again, welcome. Please share your ideas, we will enjoy reading and debating them. I do apologize for my abrasive post.