Federal 303(d) listing as an "Impaired DrinkingWater Source"

CWA Calls for a Moratorium
1) Read the Letter here.
2) Sign the LakeWhatcom -- "PetitionOnLine"



Subject: Request for Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and Total Maximum Daily Loading Study for Lake Whatcom concurrent with a temporary development moratorium.
March, 2001

To Councilmembers and Executives,
Whatcom County
City of Bellingham

Dear (Council Person / Executive / Mayor),



Lake Whatcom is currently listed under the "impaired / failed waterways" 303(d) listing of the Clean Water Act. According to recent Federal District Court rulings, a Total Maximum Daily Loading (TMDL) study is required by the Washington State Department of Ecology. A comprehensive TMDL study takes up to five years, and indicates the health of a threatened and impaired water body, yielding specific data and recommendations with which to make decisions regarding the water body on the 303(d) list.

Lake Whatcom and several of its tributaries has been listed on the 303(d) list of the Clean Water Act, with no subsequent comprehensive TMDL to indicate how much pollution the lake can tolerate. The City of Bellingham and Whatcom County need that valuable data to drive decisions in the watershed such as development, use of motorized watercraft, and logging. In fact, development continues per status quo in the county portion of the Lake Whatcom watershed, and the city only just recently passed the Silver Beach Ordinance, limiting the amount of impervious surface in the Silver Beach neighborhood. While this ordinance limits the amount of impervious surface and building footprint, the Silver Beach neighborhood is continuing to be built-out and infilled, despite the lack of updated storm water systems. Furthermore, Silver Beach Creek has been listed on the 303(d) list of the Clean Water Act for fecal coliforms.

Lake Whatcom is the primary drinking water source for 65,000 city residents, with requests by the city of Lynden and the Lummi Nation for additional water from this water source. While the importance of Lake Whatcom as a drinking water source is generally acknowledged by all governing bodies within Whatcom County, a comprehensive Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the Lake Whatcom watershed has yet to be initiated. In essence, in spite of no other valid drinking source options, this federally listed impaired water body has not received the essential research evaluation needed in order to ascertain its ability to sustain its users for the future.

In light of the lack of comprehensive study to guide the present and future of Lake Whatcom, we are requesting the following immediate interventions:
  1. The City of Bellingham conduct an immediate comprehensive Environmental Impact Study on Lake Whatcom.
  2. An immediate comprehensive TMDL study on Lake Whatcom be conducted by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
  3. An immediate temporary moratorium on all development in the watershed until these two studies are completed and signed by the following responsible agencies: Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, Water District #10, the Lummi Nation, and the Nooksack Indian Tribe. The temporary moratorium shall be lifted when both the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County have enacted appropriate ordinances with adequate enforcement to handle all problems included in the EIS and TMDL studies.

We also request that the following actions be undertaken to address the concomitant pollutants in Lake Whatcom:
  1. Closure of Bloedel boat launch to internal combustion boating, with the Bloedel boat launch used solely for human-powered, sail or electric powered boats. At a minimum, restriction of all two-cycle engines, including jet skis from the Bloedel boat launch. A one-hour ride on a typical jet ski creates more pollution than a typical American car in one year, while two-stroke engines expel 25-30 percent of their fuel unburned into the water (see Earth Island Journal, Summer 1999).
  2. The City of Bellingham request that Whatcom County, Sudden Valley, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also place the same restrictions on their Lake Whatcom boat launches.
  3. The City of Bellingham conduct weekly tests for fecal coliforms in Lake Whatcom during the summer months (July and August). These tests should be made public and posted in The Bellingham Herald and in swimming areas.
  4. Support the grant application efforts for land acquisition in the Lake Whatcom Watershed by utilizing the part time city-funded grant writing position. The amount of land acquired via matching funds from state, federal, or private grants could be doubled or tripled using this mechanism. However, according to our elected representatives at the state level, Washington State officials are skeptical about supplemental funding of watershed land acquisition needs when motorized watercraft continue to operate on our drinking water source.
  5. Proactively support the study of issuing bonds for accelerated land acquisition within the Lake Whatcom watershed. For example, $30 million dollars in bonds issued in 2002 could acquire and protect more watershed land quickly. See http://www.epa.gov/bonds for more information.
Legal precedent supports the aforementioned actions. As recently as 1998, the Washington State Supreme Court explicitly found that protection of public health is a preeminent responsibility of government and may invalidate any vesting. The Supreme Court also concluded: "Thus, in consonance with our long-established law, the majority agrees public health or safety concerns may supersede vested rights to development."

Federal District Court Judge Molloy of Montana ruled that the State of Montana must develop TMDLs for the 1996 303(d) list, regardless of subsequent de-listing. Judge Molloy also clarified that neither the state nor the EPA can issue new or expanded point source permits for waters that are WQLS until a TMDL is developed. Thus, legal precedence exists to stop development in Lake Whatcom watershed until a TMDL study is completed. The land acquisition funding mechanism also provides financial relief for those property owners who will be disenfranchised as the result of a temporary moratorium.

Bellingham businesses and civic and community groups are now being asked to demonstrate their support for a temporary moratorium with the EIS/TMDL actions. Members of the Clean Water Alliance will be calling to meet with you if you have further questions regarding the EIS and TMDL study, or the requested temporary moratorium proposal. Together, we hope to create a proactive plan to secure the healthy future of Lake Whatcom and its watershed.


Sincerely,


The Clean Water Alliance, Inc.
PO Box 5325
Bellingham WA 98227

Sign the LakeWhatcom -- "PetitionOnLine"


These community organizations have endorsed this request:
Clean Water Alliance, Inc.
Community Food Coop,
North Cascades Audubon,
The Whatcom Watch,
Friends of Whatcom,
Puget Sound Gill Netters,
The Initiative Group, Inc. ("TIG"), which also provides the web-hosting space for this request.

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The Initiative Group -- Whatcom
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this is the CWA moratorium page:
http://lakewhatcom.org/cwa-mora.shtml

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edited  2001.03.20.16:   -- mgb --

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