The Natural Resource Advisory Council meeting Nov. 8 regarding total minimum daily load requirements dealing with water pollutants represented an unamusing standoff.
On one side sat 20 or 30 citizens (including representatives from the advisory council, Farm Bureau, Soil and Water Conservation districts, South Suburban Sanitary District, the city of Klamath Falls and the Klamath County commissioners). On the other side sat two individuals, who were genuinely sincere in fulfilling the obligation to “ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.”
For these two individuals, there can be no doubt about their respective duty to the bureaucracies that pay their salaries. Their duty wasn’t to our community, our human population, the tribes, industry or agriculture.
They mentioned their obligation in several different ways, at several times, but with very little room for misinterpretation, or misunderstanding.
Their goal was “to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.” Then, just to emphasize their own willingness to work with the gathered entities, they added another comforting phrase to their endless mantra — “If you don’t work with us at the California and Oregon state level, the feds will impose their own version of TMDL implementation within 30 days.”
In other words, “We’re willing to encourage you to abide by our draconian measures, only because we don’t think you’ll enjoy getting bamboo jammed under your fingernails when the feds arrive.”
Now that’s what I call comforting.
The entire room of polite citizens was held at bay by their own moral and ethical senses. These citizens were stymied by their own values — their respect for the rule of law, adherence to order, and a natural desire for co-operation.
Meanwhile, the TMDL bureaucrats operated on an entirely different plane. They, after all, were just doing their jobs. They were earning their salaries. They were blindly following the rules, regulations and paragraph references for “ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act.”
In fact, all of the objections raised by the different attendees were of little consequence. Any civic, socio-economic, cost/ benefit or modeling disputes wouldn’t “ensure compliance” with the one-size-fits-all legislation.
In a meeting like this, it pays to remember that the EPA’s goal is well-focused and unmistakable — “ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.”
Remember, ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act necessarily means that this regulatory agency is confident in the data, knowledge and scientific analysis and will proceed with its agenda.
So, while some may dispute the science, and others defend the modeling data, the socioeconomic impact has not even been considered. There is no cost/benefit analysis. There are a handful of shirtsleeve estimates, but I’m referring to a complete economic impact study. It doesn’t exist. In fact, the money required to pay for this doesn’t exist, either.
Currently, California faces a five- to 10-year economic drought with enormous deficits forecast for it’s tumultuous future. Oregon is weathering the same economic storm.
Our state’s long-term sustainability resembles a ship approaching the point of capsizing. Once the ship’s center of gravity moves past the tipping point, the roll accelerates and the vessel quickly capsizes. Yet, prudent economic questions are not part of the scope for implementing TMDLs. In other words, “That’s not in our employee manual. Our job is to ‘ensure compliance with the CWA.’”
This is the nature of bureaucracies. They are not future oriented. They are oriented toward the past.
To earn their keep, bureaucrats, by law, do everything by the book — a book written in the past in a galaxy far, far away. Their goals are always oriented towards “restoring” things to an imagined state of pristine grandeur without regard for real world constraints like money, time or human populations.
Therefore, I think Klamath County ought to pursue legal action. These federal and state policies are arbitrary, unreasonable, and irrational. Our federal and state authorities must recognize that our consent, to be governed, provides limited scope and power to “ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” not “compliance with the Clean Water Act.”
Additionally, regulatory agencies need to recognize that law and order applies to human populations for the benefit of those populations, not for their demise. It’s time for our county to unite and stand firm with principles, common sense and our traditional stewardship values without becoming victims of errant bureaucracies.