Protect Lake Whatcom ---
---It's Our Drinking WaterThe Story of Lake Whatcom
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Bellingham, Whatcom County, Washington
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County Council Actions - as of July 2004
This council has done more to protect Lake Whatcom than any other council that has existed before us, city or county. I personally, have spent many hours of my life studying the issues that affect the Lake, and trying my best to devise solutions to address the negative impacts that result from these complex set of problems.
We have drafted development standards that are far more restrictive than the City of Bellingham's: we require phased clearing, tree retention (65% of the property must remain in trees), reduction of total impervious surface during remodels and impervious surface limitations.
Through zoning changes, density reduction incentives, and TDRs we've removed approximately 3,300 building lots. We engaged in the State's largest downzone to remove approximately 1,600 potential new residences in the watershed (it would have been larger if the city had sent a ltter concurring with the downzone in their UGA). We are continually looking at ways to reduce density in the watershed, currently we are considering dropping the impervious limits to 2,000 square feet and allowing people to add more if they consolidate lots or if they purchase development rights, so that we can build more incentive for folks to utilize our TDR program; which will have the net effect of far less homes in the Watershed. We have also assisted the Sudden Valley Community Association to reduce density in their community by purchasing development rights for those lots that have come-up as tax foreclosure sales (approximately 300 lots).
We created a TDR sending area and TDRs are now occurring, being transferred out of the Lake and into the county, not in Bellingham. This happened after the city had five years to create a receiving area but did not do so.
We also enacted some of these practices to proctect the Lake Samish watershed, and we will be looking at ways to protect the Drayton Harbor and Birch Bay watersheds, as well.
We were the first in the county to phase-out/ban two-stroke engines in the Lake Whatcom Watershed, a decision I firmly supported, inspite of being harassed on a daily basis for two weeks from the opponents of this measure. You have described this ban as cosmetic, I disagree. We reviewed the science and it was clear that two-stroke engines are the engines causing 95% of the Benzene pollution, and it was important to remove them. The timeline we adopted matched the timeframe put forward by the Lake Whatcom Advisory Committee.
Every decision or change that we make, we have to consider the legal ramifications of that act, and yes, we have to build our case so that it will be upheld in the courts, and that it will survive Pete Kremen's veto power, so at times our decisions may not go as far as some would like to see, but they are all based on sound science and rationale. That's the reality of working in the government, you have to work with others and sometimes compromises are involved, but through this approach much can be accomplished, as we have demonstrated over the past two and a half years.
Additionally we have authorized the purchase of a street sweeper/vacuum to run on the roads surrounding the Lake to keep sediments out of the Lake.
We also have lobbied the DNR excessively for reduced logging levels in the Lake Whatcom Watershed. I personally have gone to Olympia to speak to the DNR Board about this issue, insisting that they create a Landscape Plan that is sensitive to our reservoir.
This is not the end of our work to protect Lake Whatcom. The Lake is quickly degrading. Stopping future development doesn't solve the existing pollutions sources, and those will be addressed in the months ahead.
I was glad to read in your email that you believe that the City will be doing something in the future.
I look forward to working with them on stormwater and other issues.
Whatcom County Councilmember
The Initiative Group -- Whatcom
Our bottom-line principles are:
Protect the water supply in perpetuity -- maintain ecological viability of the lake for natural species -- distribute the financial burden fairly among those benefitting -- take immediate action if prudent -- take definitive action -- avoid actions which cut off future options.
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Bellingham, Washington 98226 --- The Fourth Corner of the USA