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Only an Expert

Island Life

“Now, only an expert can deal with a problem. Because half of the problem is seeing the problem. And only an expert can deal with a problem…”       Laurie Anderson
Once again, we here at Island Life, Ink find ourselves head-banging up against the deadline with nary an idea to sit and scribble about. In truth, we have found ourselves distracted by the ongoing transcontinental battles over the Ray family fortune and having to wade through the various interrogatories and petitions and accountings and continuances that otherwise one would not have had to have been dealing with if laws had worked, trusts and wills had been adhered to, and a sibling had not emerged as a sociopathic, pecuniary omnivore. I guess that’s how life goes sometimes.    
But never fear. I just opened the other Island newspaper and found that, at least according to them and the state Department of Ecology, all is well (no pun intended) with the water up at VES fields because they are monitoring things and “water quantity is not an issue.”  At least that’s the reassuring message from the first couple of paragraphs in the article. If one skims over to the fifth column and the discussion of water recharge quantity  in acre feet, it seems to be stated quite clearly that: “that translates to the park district using twice the amount of water that typically falls as rain within its boundaries, but it draws from rain in nearby areas as well.” For some reason it seems appropriate that a collection of athletic fields that cost more than twice their original budget to build are also taking twice the water available to that area. Why we should expect that that rate of  water usage might be able to continue is anybody’s guess, and it seems that guess we will. Oh yes, and monitor we must.

Before we go any further, it should be pointed out that what we are hearing here is the old status quo argument- that everything is fine until it isn’t. In fact I find no solace or, indeed, solution in the last two lines from water expert and state hydrologist Doug Wood who is quoted in the article as saying: “It’s best to be prepared for the worst. We can prevent problems if it does occur.” Grammar aside, preventing problems generally starts with preventing problems, not to be redundant or anything. As one of the  two park commissioner candidates mentioned in the article who “have expressed concern about the amount of water the VES Fields require…”, I would say that all of the commissioners should both be concerned about this over usage of an Island resource, and should work to seek a solution before the worst of problems do occur. As it was, I had a conversation with a friend and retired Seattle Parks arborist right before the candidates forum about this very issue. We concurred that, rather than continuing to maintain the sand and fast drainage up there, a program should be instituted now to start working that field back to a higher degree of water-holding organic matter. As it is, sand based fields have a life span of around ten or so years before they need a total rehabilitation at the cost of a couple hundred thousand dollars. Adding organics to the fields now would both help to wean the fields off of their water guzzling ways and avoid a costly rebuild on something that already cost too much.

To hear another quote from the article- “The fields are located in one of the few watersheds on the Island where new permits are still allowed”- has echoes of the recent Shell Oil arctic exploratory missions and the concept of drilling there because we can and we supposedly need to. What all of this is also bringing to mind is an on Island recreation of sorts of Mike Judge’s film “Idiocracy”. In that film, set some 500 years in the future when human intelligence has been bred down to the level of moron, all fluids from drinking fountains and kitchen sinks are a Gatoraid-like substance known as Brawndo- the thirst mutilator. When the main character, who has been awakened from a hyper-extended sleep experiment, asks for water to drink, one of the future idiots asks him, “you mean like out the toilet?” In this VES article we read that “for irrigation at VES Fields, the park district draws all of its water from a well, relying on Heights Water for use only in the restroom at the site.” With drinking water going to the toilets, and a proposal to use treated gray water for backup irrigation there if all else fails, one might find some humor in the sick irony of it all, if it weren’t so totally not funny. On the other hand, perhaps we are half way to a solution in just seeing the problem, as Ms. Anderson had suggested back at the beginning of this. But to “prevent a problem if it does occur” is not just a contradiction, it is too late.