Friday, June 01, 2007

Wetland buffers defended

The following article appeared in the June 1, 2007 Jefferson County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.

Wetland buffers defended
Ecology specialist outlines how much perimeter state wants

By Evan Cael

Peninsula Daily News

PORT HADLOCKRepresentatives from the state Department of Ecology laid out the agency's policy protecting critical wetlands at Wednesday's Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting.

"Buffering is necessary," said RIck Mraz, Ecology wetlands and shoreline specialist.

He spoke to the nine planning commissioners and an audience of 60 at the Washington State University Learning Center in Port Hadlock.

Few have debated that point since a controversy ballooned last June over the increased buffer widths in a proposed critical areas ordinance.

The question that has been ringing repeatedly and loudly ever since remained the same Wednesday night:

What is the necessary buffer width to protect water quality and wildlife habitats?

Ecology's policy is that between 25 feet and 300 feet of buffer is necessary, depending on the type of wetalnd and activity adjacent to it.

Agreeing with that policy are three citizens on an 18-member critical area ordinance committee that was formed last August to recommend revisions.

An opposing opinion is held by the remaining citizens on the critical areas ordinance committee — spearheaded by Kenneth Brooks, a wetlands scientist who is also a committee member.

They believe the buffer widths should fall between 7.5 feet and 180 feet, with a voluntary additional buffer width for wildlife habitats.

But althought only part of Brooks' recommendations involve voluntary buffers, Mraz said, "Voluntary measures do not adequately address all types of development impacts.

"Prescriptive requirements are sometimes necessary."

Of Ecology's recommendations, "We're giving up some of the simplicity and offering flexibility," Mraz said.

Throughout the question and answer period in which only planning commissioners coupld pose inquiries, Mraz repeatedly said that Ecology's recommendations have not incorporated Jefferson County's unique geological and topographical characteristics.

During the public comment period, Jim Hagen, former Planning Commission chairman and critical areas ordinance subcommittee member said, "I'm leery of regulations that have nothing to do with our area."

But some audience members did agree with Mraz.

Jefferson County resident Frank Hoffman said, "I think a lot of what you said is common sense."

Reporter Evan Cael can be reached at 360-385-2335 or


At 1:19 PM, Blogger 8string said...

While Dr. Brooks obviously has a long history of peer reviewed science documents, has he ever published for peer reveiw, a scientific document on buffer science? I looked through his resume and could not find one. Thanks in advance.

At 8:50 PM, Blogger olyfarm said...

Determination of buffer widths is a multidisciplinary task. Peer reviewed articles report the results of studies that address specific elements of the problem. Those elements may involve the movement of contaminant from adjacent anthropogenic activities into wetlands; amphibian, bird, mammal or other specific species use of wetlands and the adjacent landscape, etc. Dr. Brooks has published two three lengthy papers describing the spatial distribution of anthropogenic contaminants in wetlands and their effects on aquatic invertebrates. These papers address one of the many dimensions that influence the need for buffers. The following peer reviewed reports are based on studies conducted for and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They were published by the Forest Products Journal following formal peer review:

Brooks, K.M. 2000. Assessment of the environmental effects associated with wooden bridges preserved with creosote, pentachlorophenol or chromated-copper-arsenate (CCA-C). U.S. Department of Agriculture – Res. Pap. FPL-RP-587. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, 100 pp.

Brooks, K.M. 2000. Environmental effects associated with the use of CCA-C, ACZA and ACQ-B pressure treated wood used to construct boardwalks in wetland areas. U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Products Laboratory, Research Paper FPL-RP-582. 126 pp. plus appendices.

Brooks, K.M. 2004. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Migration From Creosote-Treated Railway Ties Into Ballast and Adjacent Wetlands. Res. Pap. FPL-RP-617. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 53 pp.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger 8string said...

these don't seem to have anything to do with wetland buffers. Help me understand why this is considered "peer review science"? As I understand it, peer review means that you publish your scientific theory and have it "peer reviewed" to establish a scientific baseline of other scientists who agree (or disagree) with your theory. These articles you mention do not meet that criteria. They are articles done about creosote, not about wetlands buffers. Am I wrong?

At 11:05 AM, Blogger olyfarm said...

I'm sorry, but you are incorrect. Each of these peer reviewed studies have to do with placing chemically treated structures in or near wetlands. They included studies of buffer effectiveness and requirements in preventing water contamination from the products used to treat the wood.

Formal peer review involves the review by (usually three) scientists with expertise in the field covered by a report. The peer reviewers are chosen by an independent editor, not by a study's authors, as was done in the case of the Department of Ecology's best available science for wetlands. The reviewers assess the quality of the work and note areas of disagreement, editorial comments, etc. They also make recommendations with respect to publication of the paper. The author(s) respond to the editor who acts as an independent referee and makes the decision with respect to publication. All of the papers cited above went through this formal process.

With respect to determining buffers. A rigorous process takes into account all of the functions and values of wetlands or surface waters. This includes the transport and fate of contaminants into wetlands from adjacent upland areas and the effects these contaminants have on the wetland's biota. These types of studies address the water quality function of wetlands. The three papers cited deal with these issues.

Peer review, as described above, deals with far more than the stating of theories. Science of all kinds represents a continually evolving understanding of everything around us. Peer review is generally applied prior to any publication of research. The open question here is whether or not the Department of Ecology's best available science would withstand the test of a fully independent peer review, which it has not yet received.


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