The Slime Monster

Attack of the Slime Monster 111611

A Fringe Analysis of the Continuing Battle Against Evolution


This Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting featured an item of interest to those who use the waters of Sierra County. 


“Report from November 4, 2011 meeting in Truckee focused on a proposed regional ordinance to prevent the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species in the Little Truckee River watershed.”


Readers who don’t know what AIS are, please refer to “sitemap” at the top of the page and type in “Aquatic Invasive Species”.


The supervisors were almost gleeful with the chance to do easy good.  Who doesn’t love to hate creepy crawly things?  Furthermore, the worked over supes might have thought, this is a REGIONAL ordinance!  The bigger counties will do all the work!


The boys were warming up to do a conga line when some dissent deflated the happy moment.  County Council Jim Curtis pointed out that joining with other counties would mean that entity would legislate for Sierra County.  That dampened the fun a little bit, but then Supervisor Schlefstein pointed out the obvious: he and his kids could put an inflatable raft in the back side of some local lake and find themselves with a thousand dollar ticket. 


From the Fringe view, these meager complaints scarcely constituted a proper assault on the idea.  Criticism should follow along two lines, political and practical. 


Politically, we’re in a hard way.  The counties are being forced into regional entities by the state, in watershed restoration projects, in water monitoring, in all kinds of ways.  Creating a regional entity makes it easier for the state because entire watersheds can be controlled through one entity, instead of having to deal with increasingly unruly counties.  Occasionally, counties might act on behalf of their people, instead of what their betters consider to be the common good.  There is merit to the idea of a common good, but only when it’s commonly arrived at.  Is this a chance to arrive at a common good?   That depends on how common you want to get. 

The advantage for our little county, as we know, is that bigger counties will handle the details for us, freeing local staff time.  Further, when someone complains to a supervisor about how the lakes just got harder to enjoy, the supe can shrug helplessly and indicate those b******ds in Nevada County.  This could be one more thing we do with a big brother county. 


A “regional” water ordinance would have to occur in one of a couple of ways.  One would be to form a Joint Powers agreement.  A JPA would give the agency created the ability to pass ordinances, levy fines, and describe user groups, over the people of our county.  It’s a terrible idea for the Board to give away their authority.

A second way is for each county to pass the same ordinance separately, and find some legal legerdemain to set the requirements and fines and so on the same, a compact of sorts. 

A third way is for the Sierra County Board of Supervisors to show some loyalty to the county and the fisherfolk and such therein, and set up a fee structure to pay for a system of keeping the crud out.  That brings up the second reason not to put ourselves at the mercy of a “regional” entity: how susceptible is each lake?  To what AIS is it most vulnerable?  What are the topological and social features which allow or make impossible certain kinds of monitoring?  What will be the effect on one lake of making it harder to get into another lake?


To the credit of some supervisors, and to Ann Eldred, long time and venerable volunteer on a number of boards and commission, the last question was brought up.  What will happen to Gold Lake if we make it tough or expensive to get into other lakes?  Ms. Eldred pointed out that Plumas County has two near lakes which might impact our lakes.  I’ll suggest that it might impact something else: the willingness of people to go to, say, Gold Lake instead of Davis or Frenchman’s. 


Practically, an ordinance requires enforcement.  Enforcement requires that mother’s milk of all government bureaucrats, money.  A clever supervisor responded to my questions about enforcement with “well, maybe the ordinance wouldn’t be like that, maybe it would be something else.”  Like what? 

“Sierra County Ordinance 094320392:  Quagga Muscles, Asian Clams, Rock Snot, Weed, and Syphilis are forbidden in the waters of Sierra County, and if found will be imprisoned for a period of not less than three days before being deported back to Nevada County.”

There are only three ways the government knows to get money from people: steal it in the form of taxes, steal it in the form of user fees or steal it in the form of fines.  Chair Adams made a statement: I believe those who use a resource should pay for it.  Yet, earlier Chair Adams stated we must keep our lakes free of AIS because local businesses relied on them.  It takes gas money to get here, if it’s going to cost another $40 bucks to get in the lake, why not go somewhere $40 bucks closer?  Will levying a fee on tourists encourage those businesses which require tourism?  Given the choice, would people still rather use a lake with cooties in it for free, instead of paying for a lake which looks largely the same?  If it’s the number of users you’re worried about, what’s the best course?


If the ordinance is paid for as fines, Supervisor Schlefstein’s horror story of the thousand dollar blow up raft is likely.  Look at what the county/state haul in when some poor schmuck is hunting in the wrong area, or plinking on Department of Fish and Game “special” land.  Hundreds of bucks, and nothing would prevent really ridiculous fines.  After all, your ignorance endangered an entire watershed. 


If the county does pass an ordinance, and it’s serious about keeping the crud out instead of simply employing another cop, it will make it easy for people to follow the ordinance.  Signage will be clear, and all entrances will have appropriate inspection and cleaning stations.  That has to be paid for by someone.


In terms of practicality, there is no way to fund this effort that doesn’t impact some poor guy and his family.  It used to be that fishing was a cheap way for a guy to take the family for some fun and put a little protein on the table.  Increasing restrictions on fishing and a fee of nearly $45 (unless you’re old and poor or disabled) already put a crimp in that thrift. 


At some point in the board proceedings Don Russell, Editor of the Mountain Messenger, stood to take the mike to say that these AIS were just terrible, and our lakes were just wonderful, and we should essentially quarantine the lakes to protect them.  He didn’t indicate specifically how this would be done, or the impact it would have, he simply insisted we have to protect the virginity of our lakes at all costs.  The Prospect would like to extend a welcoming hand to all the vendors who rely on tourists and who are now advertising in the Mountain Messenger. 


Don Russell, addressing the board.  Often times, if help is sought early enough, hours of counseling and highly toxic psych meds can eventually allow people like Mr. Russell to function at near normal levels. 


Is the Fringe Editor suggesting we simply let the cooties in?  Well, no, even though the cooties are well-nigh inevitable.  Some system has to be worked out; someone has to pay to keep the happy hitchhikers out of the lake.  But the system needs to be fair, practical given reality, and above all, in the hands of local elected officials.



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