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Emerson unhappy with Island County committee choices

The Island County commissioners’ normally mundane task of appointing people to voluntary boards became a little more action-packed Monday morning.

Commissioner Kelly Emerson, the sole Republican on the three-member board, was clamorously unhappy that she didn’t get to name anyone to the Water Resources Advisory Committee.

Emerson made a motion to reappoint North Whidbey resident Sherwood Minckler to the committee, but her motion died for lack of a second. Oddly, Minckler didn’t even submit his name to be reappointed.

So instead, commissioners Angie Homola and Helen Price Johnson voted 2-1 to appoint Oak Harbor resident Lori Clark, who is on the Shore Steward Committee and has both a professional and volunteer background in groundwater, stormwater and watershed management.

After the commissioners unanimously reappointed Grant Heiken, Emerson motioned to appoint Camano resident Ralph Ferguson to the committee. He’s leading a fight against Ducks Unlimited and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove a dike on Leque Island west of Stanwood; the state and Ducks Umlimited want to begin a chinook salmon and waterfowl habitat project there.

Ferguson convinced Emerson that the plans could endanger the aquifer on Camano Island; she, in turn, sent a controversial letter to a Snohomish County commissioner complaining about the project and suggesting that Island County could take legal action over the issue. Her fellow commissioners were not pleased.

So again, Emerson’s motion to appoint Ferguson to the board died for lack of a second. Instead, Price Johnson made a motion to reappoint Camano Island resident Barbara Brock, who has been active in salmon recovery efforts since the committee was formed in 1999 and was recognized this year as the “Coastal Volunteer of the Year” by the Island County Marine Resources Committee and WSU Extension.

Price Johnson and Homola voted to appoint her, while Emerson voted in opposition.

“You’re removing substantial diversity from the board,” Emerson complained, asking her fellow commissioners to reconsider the appointments. “It’s a very slanted board right now.”

Homola noted that she attends the committee meetings all the time.

“I haven’t seen you at any of the Water Resources Advisory Committee meetings so I don’t know where you get the idea that there’s no diversity,” she said to Emerson. “I think it’s important that we have the most qualified people on these committees.”

“I get my reports,” Emerson replied.

For the record, the majority of the members of the Water Resources Advisory Committee were first appointed by Republican commissioners.

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