"State smoke law should be changedIn a land founded on basic principles of freedom, a guy or gal should be able to burn a small pile of brush without a permit. Would that it were so simple.It seems that Island County's population has crossed a threshold which invites more regulation by the Northwest Air Pollution Authority. Henceforth, all open fires in the county will require a permit, except for outdoor barbecues. In fact, burning in Island County is already sufficiently regulated. Any fire larger than four cubic feet requires a permit, and burn barrels were outlawed in 1999. There are also unenforced laws regulating the density of allowable smoke emanating from chimneys, and total burn bans are ordered when warranted by conditions. All the freedom that remains is for a person to rake some dry leaves or brush into a small pile and burn it. Since almost everyone in Island County living outside our three cities thinks he or she is living a rural lifestyle, this ability to burn on a very limited basis seems a small freedom worth protecting.As reported in this newspaper last week, neither the Island County Sheriff's Department nor Fire District 3 have any interest in issuing or enforcing permits for small fires. It's hard enough to maintain good public relations without going around and busting citizens for burning twigs.Whatever state law it is that requires further limits on burning in Island County should be identified and changed. The alternative is for the State Legislature to fund a bunch of Smoke Cops to enforce the laws that the local sheriff and fire chief don't want to enforce.If one of our elected state representatives can change this law, he or she will gain a great deal of public good will toward their next election effort.Small boaters deserve supportThe Island Rowing Association has made a sensible proposal to the Port District of South Whidbey Island. The group of rowing enthusiasts wants a simple small boat center built at Holmes Harbor. Racing shells, canoes, kayaks and sailing dinghies could be safely stored there in a location close to the water. Members of the IRA have submitted a professional design and cost estimate, proving that they're more than ready to do their part in seeing the idea become reality.It's up to the port commissioners to decide if they can afford this particular proposal at this particular time. But the concept is excellent and the price seems right. For an IRA-estimated cost of $50,000, the needs of dozens of boaters for water access could be met. Compare this to what it costs to give motorized boats access to the water and the price is minuscule indeed. Similar facilities could eventually be built elsewhere, perhaps at Double Bluff, Maxwelton and Langley.Whidbey Island is attractive to tourists and newcomers because of its surrounding water. Anything the port can do to make that water more accessible to all is a worthwhile project. "

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