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Protect the Lake Whatcom Drinking Water Reservoir

The Watershed Is Not Being Preserved!     The Consequences in Health and Cost!
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Troubles in the Reservoir:
Sewage Spilled, Again

Once again, there has been a spillage of untreated sanitary sewage into the waters which drain into our Lake Whatcom Drinking Water Reservoir. The LWWSD has a failure in the wee hours of Sunday Morning (Sept 7, 2008), according to The Bellingham Herald.

Things like this make the lake even more polluted. They happen because there is urbanization within the watershed - If there are no sewage pipes in an area, they will never break.

Existing urbanization is the major cause of the pollution which is detrimental to the water quality of the Reservoir. The best protection of the water is well-managed forests covering the watershed.

But, there are still watershed areas where
additional development is being done or planned, and that will make the lake even more polluted.

Phosphorus in the water is the main culprit - phosphorus consumes oxygen, and oxygen-starved water promotes blue-green algae. That phosphorus comes from many different urban activities, including the big one - fertilizer.

Phosphorus and other toxic chemicals travel from the constructed surfaces and the soil into the creeks with rainwater runoff, then down the creeks into the lake.

Flushing the Reservoir with Nooksack River water, as proposed by some, is not the answer!

First, flushing ignores the actual problem, new pollution. Next. it simply moves the pollution from one place to others - Whatcom Creek and the Puget Sound, which is itself now under a State program of protection very similar to what we propose for Whatcom. Also, the volumes do not check out. The diverted river flow, even at it's high rates, are a (pardon the pun) drop in the bucket, at about 4% of the lake volume. Current diversions are about half that, at 2%

See the flow-chart, in Excel. Thus, even if no new pollution entered, and the "flushing" were perfect, it would take 50 years to replace the water. Finally, it is one more example of allowing harmful actions to continue, and trying to ignore them here by trashing your neighbors "there".

Flushing? No Sale!

A discussion was ongoing on the YahooGroup about Goose-poop.

Is Goose-poop detrimental? Can the geese be shooed-away? Should they be captured - then what?

One member contributed a paper done by Rutgers Univ Extension Service ("Rutgers goose euthanization study") which only addresses the last question. download it here - (PDF 2 pages)

Further info told us that the best action is a division at the shoreline between the water, and the lawn. The geese don't like a wall or prickly plants, so they go elsewhere. (Your problem "solved" - passed down to the neighbor.)

A reader recently took a photo of a concrete boat-launch ramp in the Geneva area.

He asks, as should we all, how was this construction authorized?

new ramp
click for larger image

Information from another reader says that this ramp is NOT new.
But the newness is a small factor - the important thing is the impact on the water of everything constructed within the watershed. An impervious concrete surface running into the water, likely used by powered vehicles, is a prime channel for contaminants entering the reservoir. Perhaps this site would be an excellent volunteer demo installation, by the owner, for runoff-capture and treatment. (comments updated late Monday May 5th)

Trouble-Spots Links:
      (listed in north-south order
       - see map)


Agate Bay


North Shore Estates

Birch Street - Silver Beach

Sudden Valley

Southwest Sewerline & South Bay

Blue Canyon of September 2007

Watershed Trouble Spots Map

NEW LIMITS on Phosphorus

The State has issued new restrictions on detergents containing Phosphorus.

This is great, since Phosphorus is a big culprit in the degradation of the water quality in the Reservoir.

Guest Editorial by Susan Kane-Ronning

The Bellingham Herald today (May 30 2008) ran a Guest Editorial by local activist Susan Kane-Ronning.

Susan closes with: "...Preserving Lake Whatcom isnít a partisan issue, itís a financial issue. In the current culture of economical stress, taxpayers should be concerned that the rising stormwater retrofit costs could have been minimized had our elected officials taken proactive steps earlier. Effective governance takes hindsight, insight, and foresight. Instead, our governing bodies can beg forgiveness and issue rhetorical excuses while we pay the price...."

We believe that she is right, and we will add that the sooner and the better that real "wet-water" fixes are done, the cheaper and better it will be for 95,000 water-drinkers and all the affected taxpayers.

Read Editorial

The City Acts!

At the City Council meeting of May 19, 2008, the Council passed an Emergency Moratorium, establishing tight restrictions on building activities within the City's portion of the Watershed.

This means that within the watershed portion of the City (most of the Silver Beach Neighborhood), no permits will be granted unless the applications:
  1. Were complete prior to the effective date of this ordinance;
  2. Are for building permits for remodels or repairs of existing structures where no new or additional impervious surfaces are proposed; or
  3. Are for a property whose stormwater does not drain into Lake Whatcom.
Click for Full Text of the Ordinance, in RTF format

Also, review the discussion by some leading citizens, in the blog at NW Citizen:

Well, looking for positives:....

What score would you give Whatcom and Bellingham -- on this goal?...:

.... To develop and incorporate
mechanisms which provide opportunity
for public participation
in developing the management program
and policies for the lake; and utilize
enforcement actions as opportunities
for education and learning. (1)

0........50........100 ?

If you hear of something positive, please.....   e-mail to: webmaster .)


foto: Lynne Findley,
who likes to see a clean lake!

A new hope is the three new members of the City Council - Buchanan, Snapp and Weiss - who took office in January 2008, and Mayor Dan Pike, who started in November 2007.
See it from space!

Clearcut_on_Northshore.kml - Google-Earth "Place-file" download, save, double-click
(requires Google-Earth program)

Read about these at:
Where on Earth is it?
Discussion of Google-Earth "kml & kmz-files".

Current News:
click for old news
The Reconveyance Proposal

Information and questions may be seen here.

Sept. 23rd: County Council
Work Session on
Reconveyance Proposal
(decision will be delayed - the worksession will continue, Oct 7th)

(the public had 15 minutes)

Tuesday morning Sept 23rd, the Whatcom County Council's Natural Resources Committee reviewed the proposed reconveyance of land around Lake Whatcom. Below is the agenda for this work session. The agenda is very ambitious to allow for a variety of inputs, and to maximize the Council's ability to ask the questions of those present to help clarify this proposal to the Council before the Memorandum of Agreement with DNR is voted upon. This is not meant to be a public education session about reconveyance, but a council work session for the Council to gather the information they need to either make a decision or ask for more information.

The actual vote on the Memorandum of Agreement with the DNR has been removed from the agenda for the Council meeting on the 23rd. This was done because Council members Nelson and Crawford are going to be absent, and they have not yet had a chance to provide any input into this decision.

The Public was free to attend. Council said that if you have issues that are not adequately addressed by those who made presentations, there will be future opportunities.

(Information from: Carl Weimer, Chairman -
Natural Resources Committee
Whatcom County Council

Whatcom County Natural Resources Committee
Work Session on Reconveyance
9:30 - 11:00 AM Tuesday September 23rd
Whatcom County Courthouse, Council Chambers

  1. Michael McFarlane - Brief overview of the process, where we are at, costs & funding sources now and future - 10-15 minutes
  2. Stan Snapp - Bellingham City Council - Recommendations & thoughts from our reservoir protection partners - 5 minutes
  3. April Markiewicz - Overview of Advisory Committee process and recommendations - 5 minutes
  4. David Wallin - Water quality benefits of reconveyance - 5 minutes
  5. Rand Jack - The need for a conservation easement, how it would work, and costs - 5 minutes
  6. Russ Pfeiffer-Hoyt - Making junior taxing districts whole - 5 minutes
  7. Tom Westergreen - Impacts to the forest industry - 5 minutes
  8. Tom Pratum - Potential lake impacts of increased recreation and County management of forest land - 5 minutes
  9. The public for other points of view/concerns - 15 minutes
  10. Council questions and dialogue with presenters - 30 minutes

Public Commentary in Herald Guest Editorial:

By Greg Kirsch:

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. more....

Press Release:
From: "Joe Bates"
To: <>
Subject: Reconveyance Informational Meeting

On the Proposal to Transfer Forest Board Lands In and Around the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Watershed for Park Purposes

Whatcom County will be considering requesting the transfer of approximately 8,000 acres of DNR forest board lands in and around the Lake Whatcom Reservoir watershed for use as a park reserve. The proposed park would be developed and managed for passive recreation similar to other County Park areas like the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve, Chuckanut Recreational Area and the Canyon Lake Community Forest.

The public is invited to an open house at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM on Thursday evening, September 11th to learn more about the proposal. County Parks & Recreation staff and representatives of the Department of Natural Resources will be on hand and available to answer questions.

When: Thursday evening, September 11th, Open House 6:00 PM-8:00 PM
Where: Bellingham Senior Activity Center, 315 Halleck St., Bellingham

For more information contact the Whatcom County Parks & Recreation Department at 733-2900

Joe Bates, Whatcom County Communications & Information Coordinator
360-676-6707x 52510
cell 360-220-6654

Here is the White Chantrelle Timber Sale cut, showing the Lake below:

(click for full-size)

August City Club Program: Panel: What's the Matter with Lake Whatcom? (was Aug 27)

The Washington Dept. of Ecology has directed the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County to take drastic action to preserve the health of our water supply. A report by the Bellingham branch of Ecology says our community must reduce the impact of land development around Lake Whatcom by more than 70 percent. So far as public water supplies are concerned, a directive of this severity seems to be without precedent in our state.

Mayor Dan Pike and County Executive Pete Kremen discussed their options and answered questions posed by the audience, at the August 27th City Club Luncheon. The third member of the panel was the co-author of the controversial report, Steve Hood of the Dept. of Ecology. [news reporters did not ask public questons as had been announced. Someone (KVOS?) video-taped the program.]

We distributed a card with tickler keywords to the audience. Here it is:
Lake Whatcom Keywords:

reservoir - drinking water - health - the 21 Goals of 1992 - costs - algae - oxygen - bacteria - cancer agents - trihalomethanes - phosphorus - measurement - treatment - development - homes - roads - parks - motivation - enforcement - fear - lawsuits - development rights - transfer - purchase - flushing - dilution - diversion - wells - water-rights - exemptions - administration - studies - shelfart

Notes from the meeting will be posted here when available. Also, see the comments at NW-Citizen

NEWS: Ecology releases the TMDL Study-- click

Moratorium News !!

The Bellingham City Council held a Public Hearing on Monday July 14, 2008, 7:00PM to take public comment on the following:


Anyone wishing to comment on this topic was invited to attend. Written comments received before 10:00 AM, July 9 would be included in the agenda packet. Written comments received after that time will be distributed to Council but not included in the published meeting materials. Send comments to the Council Office, 210 Lottie St, or email to, or FAX to 778-8101.

More information on the Moratorium can be found at: or contact Kurt Nabbefeld at 778-8351 or at

Click for copy of Ordinance establishing the moratorium (PDF)

Very Big News - the TMDL Report

The State Dept of Ecology has finally issued the long-awaited TMDL Report.
Read the Abstract

The is the thousand ton hammer. It is time for some heavy lifting now, folks, on all four corners of the bedsheet the Lake's been sleeping on.

Bellingham Herald Headline Story

Click for Ecology's general info page on TMDL's (Lake Whatcom's item is not yet listed - since it is still in bureaucratic process.)

Appeal of Waterline Extension

The Squalicum Community Association has appealed the decision of Whatcom County's Hearing Examiner, which allowed Lake Whatcom Water & Sewer District to continue to expand water service. The Association states concern that this project would allow future urban level service within the watershed.

Click for Press Release

Protect Lake Whatcom: This website is maintained by a concerned citizen in honor of the spirit of Ruth, developed for a Citizens' Initiative brought forth in 1999, with the purpose of directing the City to implement Goal #2 of their own 21 Goals for the management and preservation of the Reservoir. Copyright 1999-2008 ©  updated Sept 8, 2008 c: [an error occurred while processing this directive] Our bottom-line principles are: Protect the water (supply & quality) 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.
     e-mail to: webmaster