Sep, 10, 2008


Lake Whatcom park plan could increase development


We have all heard the old saying, "the three most important considerations in real estate are location, location, location." Well the old saw cuts two ways when we consider new development in the Lake Whatcom watershed. Even when considering the county's new park plan.

As we outfit the watershed around the reservoir with those wonderful amenities we all so enjoy, roads, trails, parks, picnic sites, boat ramps, campsites etc etc, it becomes a more and more attractive place to live. Who wouldn't want to live close to a nice park, walk or bike to its trails, and be able to launch a boat nearby and en-joy this spectacular lake and its shoreline?

After all the sewage spills and pollution from fertilizers and golf courses, anyone who still can not admit the ignorance of creating Sudden Valley on the southern shore of the lake is just too in denial. Anyone who can't make the connection between that and other blunders, and the drive to do the same on the north shore of the lake, must be just too invested to care.

The time is really long past for us to deal with this schizophrenia. Is Lake Whatcom a reservoir for almost half the county's residents, or is it going to be the "crown jewel" of our park system, attracting thousands and thousands to spend their recreational dollars playing in the watershed, boating on the lake, and building rambling estates around it, just a short walk to a marina?

Carefully disguised as a mild mannered forest preserve, the land reconveyance proposal to take some 8,000 acres of commercial forest land, managed under the most stringent regulations in the state, is not only unlikely to help correct already enormous problems created by too much human activity in the watershed, but to increase that activity and attract more.

Compare it to some other forest preserve? Again, location, location, location. This park is waterfront.

Faced with a mandate to not only halt pollution of the lake but actually put forward a plan that will reduce current pollution to some quarter of what it is today, we are proposing to increase activities that damage water quality and that will encourage other activities that have been identified as the primary cause of the lakes problems.

Faced with the cost of implementing a program that will reverse the effects of these years of development, and faced with ballooning budget deficits in city and county government, we are proposing to undertake some mil-lion dollars a year in new costs that will contribute nothing directly to the discharge of our duty to fix the lake; costs that can only be covered by new taxes or at the expense of present programs.

Worse yet is a disingenuous county administration that won't honestly tell us what these costs will actually be. Instead they soft pedal the numbers and turn a deaf ear to calls for independent financial analysis while having their house environmentalists talk it up with the faithful.

And most frustrating is that unrelenting chorus, "save the lake from those dirty rotten loggers." This attack on resource lands determined to have long term significance in the preservation of a critical industry, needs to be seen for what it is. As commercial forest land around the lake is converted, what will replace forestry? That's right, resorts, subdivisions and more of the same.

Forests are a renewable resource. Development is forever.

The only feasible way to protect the watershed is well managed, careful forestry. The Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan was a good start. But it only protects the lake from activity on public lands. Next, private land owners need to respect their duty not to impair or pollute the lake.

While they are remaining very quiet, waiting for this reconveyance to pave the way for them to realize enormous gains on their own lands, it's time to send out the message, "it's the reservoir, stupid."

Greg Kirsch is a Whatcom County activist. He lives in the Squalicum Valley just north of Lake Whatcom.