Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lake Whatcom: Is TMDL a Waste of Time?

I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
- Niccolo Machiavelli

Some years ago the City engaged Drs. Hans & Ann-Marie Bleiker to conduct training sessions on how to achieve 'Systematic Development of Informed Consent' on major projects important to our community.
The method was time-intensive, but often much more effective than the usual fumbling efforts.
But, predictably, use of the Bleiker method was largely ignored, with few exceptions.

Too bad, but that's often the way that thoughtful and well-intended ideas go.
Witness, for example, protecting our drinking water source, cleaning up and re-building our waterfront, completing the County-wide Water Resource Inventory work [WRIA-1], and agreeing on a plan to efficiently expand and modernize the Bellingham Public Library.

The method's purpose is NOT necessarily to build consensus, but to build consent to understanding and accepting good solutions.
And, there is a big difference between the concepts of citizen participation and stakeholder involvement.

The 'Bleiker LIfe-Preserver' summarizes the four essential steps in the method:

(1) There is a serious problem, or opportunity – one that has to be addressed.

(2) Yours is the right entity to be addressing this problem; in fact it would be irresponsible of you, given the mission you have, if you did not address it.

(3) The way you are approaching the problem, the way you are addressing it is reasonable, sensible and responsible.

(4) You do listen. You do care. If you are proposing something that’s going to cause pain, it is not because you don’t care.


On page 27 [Worksheet 4-1] of this website is a simple generic checklist for evaluating the complexity of any TMDL process [Total Maximum Daily Load]:

It might be interesting to check this out just for comparison to what has happened to our previous Lake Whatcom protection efforts.
One question that must be answered truthfully and convincingly is whether this work really is a 'top priority'.
If it is, then a time frame, budget and staff must be assigned at levels that are reasonable to achieve the goals identified.

There are always many priorities, and often they cannot be all be accomplished at once.
Have you noticed?

If Lake Whatcom is to be one of our top priorities, it needs to be treated as one!
Talk is cheap.

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both. - Niccolo Machiavelli