As Bonner County Property Rights Council member Tom Cleveland explained, the whole idea behind drinking water protection in Bonner County was “with the blessing of the EPA” which he called a “Gestapo agency” and “out of control.” He followed with an ominous non-sequitur, warning that “people should start thinking about where their food is coming from.” And when his tirade was completed, the PRC unanimously* voted down the proposed watershed protection ordinance on Monday evening.
Even setting aside Cleveland’s obscene Gestapo comment, and setting aside the fact that the EPA really has nothing to do with this proposed ordinance, logic and legal acumen was not exactly on display at the PRC Monday night. Incorrect interpretations of law, straw men, and appeals to utterly absurd alternatives ruled the night.
Indeed, common sense drinking water protection never had a chance with the PRC. The PRC started with the presumption that ALL regulations are arbitrary, and then they refused to acknowledge when their presumption was clearly rebutted by detailed testimony. Submissions from Idaho DEQ, the Idaho Rural Water Association, Idaho Conservation League, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, and Bonner County’s own planning staff were essentially ignored. (Knowing a kangaroo court when we see one, KEA has declined to participate in the PRC’s nonsense.)
The catch-all solutions to drinking water protection, according to the PRC, would be “voluntary best management practices” and filtration systems for people whose drinking water might become contaminated. As Tom Cleveland explained, “Nothing can’t be filtered.” Indeed, Chairman Clark lamented that there weren’t more government grant opportunities to support filtration systems — the irony clearly lost on him.
What happens next isn’t clear. The statutory authority to pass on Bonner County land use ordinances is left to the Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Bonner County Commissioners. (The Bonner County Planning Commission has already approved the ordinance.) Despite delusions of grandeur, the PRC has no legal role.
*(Noted: PRC member Roger Daar, a member of Bonner County’s Planning and Zoning Commission, abstained from voting. Two PRC members were not present.)