After the very successful promulgation of the Sheridan County Long Range Plan which was very open and included comments, additions and improvement from the public, I heard talks about the need to better manage riparian areas for the betterment of the environment.
I thought: “This is nice. No one wants to live on a polluted dung heap.” There didn’t seem to be any real pollution or other environmental degradation right now, but planning for the future is a good idea. The current stewards have done pretty well. After a couple of years the current proposal appears with its arbitrary, capricious and contradictory reasoning plus strict, rigid penalties. This caused concern.
The commissioners’ office and the county planner were very open and helpful in providing the information I requested as well as allowed examination of the extensive notes of the steering committee. Any numbers below come from these documents. I have also read the documents on the county website: the poll, the survey and the Riparian County Code Project with its enclosures.
I noted the effort taken by others stating their many objections found in the newspaper and a number of letters written by concerned citizens.
I will deal here with but one of the many contentious issues: Exclusion. Is it well known that 98.7 percent of all the land adjoining the first-, second- and third-class streams is excluded from the proposal? That leaves 1.3 percent. What of the streams that go through cities and towns? They are excluded. What of the agricultural lands? They are excluded. What of the class-four streams that include irrigation ditches, their associated and created wetlands and tributaries? They are excluded. What of lakes and ponds? They are excluded.
“Riparian” is a big subject. The exclusions are sometimes for good reasons sometimes questionable. The proposal is a masterpiece of exclusion yielding a blunt, harsh and rigid instrument to batter the last 1.3 percent of the 20,000 acres or so even of the “designated” lands.
The steering committee, the members of which are excluded from the document’s terrors, also excluded the comments of their condemners. Is this a wise use of taxpayer dollars? Apparently the steering committee has come upon a non-solution to a non-problem. One would have to be from another planet to find this proposal logical. It might be a tough sell in other venues.
At the least, if this is passed, I recommend forbearance in application and some grandfathering (which was excluded) to aid in transition if not complete rewriting. The document may be legal, but is unfair.
I am not indicating the virtue of one side or the other or necessarily advocating any of the possible changes to the document. I am noting, stating a military analogy: If one side has all the tanks, artillery and airplanes, the other side may be treated as irrelevant.
Planning is no place for zealots advocating either change or no change. But, if you like setting a precedent for over regulation of your everyday life, this should be a gold mine!
“Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.” — Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790).
Robert Charles lives in Ranchester. He has a PhD in geology and geochemistry, a Master of Arts in organizational management and a bachelor’s in physics. He worked as the chairman of the External Advisory Group for the Los Alamos Laboratory Hydrogeologic Work Plan from 1998-2005.