Mr. Craig basically states in his letter of name calling and innuendoes that only his opinion makes the mark as “peer-reviewed science and vetted data.” While these words sound impressive and may give the impression to some that Mr. Craig is a valid authority on the proposed alternatives to the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, I can only hope that someone of higher caliber than Mr. Craig will actually be making the calculations and decisions in regards to this project. The physical laws of nature dictate that at least 49 percent of all engineers will be below average and I personally prefer working with the upper percentile on my own projects. 

To begin with, “peer-reviewed” in definition means that persons of equal standing have reviewed the proposal. It does not dictate that the peers be of high intelligence or low intelligence, just equal intelligence. I will leave it up to the readers to decide where Mr. Craig falls on the scale of “peers.” 

To qualify as “vetted data” requires careful examination or scrutiny, especially when it involves determining suitability for something utilized in the decision making process. Anyone that is “agenda driven” and/or has an axe to grind cannot meet these qualifications. 

 

Elected leaders united

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler’s letter requesting the defunding of this project not only includes her signature, but those of State Sen. Brian Hatfield, State Rep. Brian Blake, and State Rep. Dean Takko. Mr. Craig refers to these elected officials as “rookies” and using “false numbers,” “jumping to conclusions,” posturing for self benefit,” etc. He also states that the three Pacific County commissioners (Cuffel, Kaino and Ayers) are not the “sharpest knives in the drawer.” From these statements I can only assume that Mr. Craig must also feel the majority of citizens that elected these officials are “dull knives.” 

 

Numbers in question

The $15 million dike removal figure in the letter was provided in writing by none other than Peter Martin, III, civil engineer/facility specialist, Refuge Information Branch, Department of the Interior — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and not the Corps of Engineers. The exact amount quoted by Mr. Martin was $15,272,271 plus $5,000 each for the removal of a couple of footbridges. Mr. Martin does not elaborate on who made these calculations. 

I heard that the completed Nisqually NWR marine estuarine restoration project cost $19.5 million, which would make the $15 million price tag for the Willapa project appear to be in line and Mr. Craig’s estimate of $703,000 to remove these dikes sounds too good to be true. Even we “dull knives” understand the likely consequences of such good deals. 

The $30 million figure for the dike repair Mr. Craig refers to was provided to the USFWS by the Corps of Engineers but it was actually for the full removal and upgraded replacement of the dikes, not a “repair” as Mr. Craig states. This amount could not be defended or justified by Willapa NWR Manager Charlie Stenvall at the public hearing when Congresswoman Herrera Beutler and two members of the audience challenged it; hence the $30 million option was considered invalid. Mr. Stenvall also stated at this public hearing that no maintenance funds had been required to date on the 70-plus-year-old Willapa NWR dikes and it was my understanding that the same held true for the 100-year-old dikes at the Nisqually NWR prior to their removal. A cost estimate of $57,000 has since been provided for the future annual maintenance of the existing Willapa NWR dikes, but a breakdown or justification for this expenditure was not included with the estimate. 

Mr. Craig assures us that the failure of these dikes is imminent but he does not offer a timeframe for this failure to occur. He states that we have only two choices; remove the dikes for $703,000 or replace the dikes for $30 million and “doing nothing is not an option.” In my civil engineering school days, I was taught that all alternatives and cost/benefits should be evaluated to assure an objective result and doing nothing was always to be one of those options. 

As far as the “lack of support”  for Herrera Beutler and the other elected officials mentioned by Mr. Craig, I again point out that they were elected by a majority of citizens and they are obligated to serve the majority will of their constituents. Six members of the nine-member panel and all but one speaker in the audience at the March 13 public hearing in Ilwaco spoke in opposition the proposed restoration project. If you count the letters in opposition to the proposed restoration project from citizens and the likes of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the local Audubon Society, and a number of conservation organizations received by these elected officials, it is obvious they in fact do have the necessary support to request and expect defunding of this project. 

 

Hunters fund refuges

Mr. Craig states that these are “national refuges” for the benefit of all U.S. citizens and visitors and were paid for by your tax dollars. In fact, the National Wildlife Refuge System receives its primary funding from the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act. This conservation funding is voluntarily provided by duck stamp purchasers (mainly waterfowl and migratory bird hunters) not taxpayer dollars as Mr. Craig states. Proceeds from duck stamp funds have purchased more than 5 million acres for the refuge system (per 2005 USFWS statistics), and salmon enhancement is not included in the approved appropriations for these funds. Any alterations to our National Wildlife Refuges deemed detrimental to migratory waterfowl is prohibited per the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916. 

It appears to me that Mr. Craig should get his facts straight before accusing others such as the congresswoman for lack of understanding, jumping to conclusions, poor judgment, and of being dismissive. I feel if Mr. Craig has an axe to grind and a personal money-motivated agenda to push he should inflict it upon his peers instead of us “dull knives” and local goose hunters. 

Public disclosure: I won’t vouch for the accuracy of Mr. Craig’s numbers and statements due to the fact that they continue to evolve with time. I also felt Mr. Craig’s methodology deserves the same form of diplomacy he imposes on others, though it is not my standard writing practice and I am not well versed in the method. 

Jon McAninch 

Oakville 

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