Port of Lopez wants to help reform the county solid waste system

Signs for the Lopez solid waste facility

By Ed Kilduff

Kilduff is a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee

The Port of Lopez wants to help reform the county solid waste system.  Many county residents are aware that the County Council is investigating solutions to our solid waste conundrum, but did you know that the Port of Lopez has undertaken its own effort?

This past May, the Port of Lopez appointed a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to study the feasibility for the Port to manage the Lopez solid waste facility.  The CAC, which consists of five Lopezian volunteers, is due to present its report to the Port Commissioners within the coming week.  The concept of a Port-run solid waste facility has taken on the name “SWAP,” which officially stands for “Solid Waste Alternatives Project.”

SWAP is an outcome of the overwhelming public support and affection Lopezians have for their solid waste facility, coupled with a general malaise about solid waste operations being headed in the wrong direction.  With the invaluable help of community members, the CAC has been reaching out to Lopezians with surveys, meetings, and presentations in an effort to get broad-based input on moving the Lopez solid waste system in a new direction.  Through its efforts, especially the survey questionnaire ( HYPERLINK “http://www.lopezolidwaste.org/”www.lopezolidwaste.org), CAC is targeting to get responses from 50% or more of Lopezians, and it is closing in on that goal.

The CAC is seeking input about SWAP on critical topics such as payment schemes and local control and management.  The challenges confronting solid waste are very real and serious, but the motivating notion behind SWAP is that these issues are best worked out on a local level, and that real cost efficiencies cannot be achieved by a management structure residing in Friday Harbor.  We will soon know whether Lopezians agree, and importantly, we also will know Lopezian preferences for paying for SWAP.  Funding choices include membership fees, existing taxes, new taxes, or some combination.  In all cases, efficiencies through cost reduction and avoidance are critical.

Once the CAC report is completed, and if the Port decides to go forward with SWAP, the Port Commissioners still will have to negotiate an inter-local agreement with the County to take over management of the Lopez facility.  That may be no easy task, since the County has its own ideas for curing the solid waste system.  It is scheduled to put its plans to a vote with a November ballot measure.  Regardless of that outcome, at the very least the CAC hopes that Port management of SWAP can be structured as a pilot program within the County system.  Stay tuned.