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--- Protect the Lake Whatcom Reservoir ---
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It Is Not Being Preserved!     How Long -- Until We Pay Dearly?
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City Pablum! (mostly) Response!

(click) to read the letters we wrote both Councils and Administrations.

The City response on the Lake Whatcom Reservoir
When I get time, I'll dissect this......

Dear Marian,

    As you know from your years of concern for the health of Lake Whatcom, the City's drinking water reservoir, much has been accomplished and new programs are always being considered to better protect this valuable community asset.

    In order to provide a brief but accurate response to your inquiry the six pollution vectors bulleted in your letter to the Council have been consolidated into four by combining the three direct discharge and runoff vectors. Those four remaining headings are paraphrased below with highlights of past and current actions to protect the lake

    Direct Deposition into the water:

    The City prohibits carbureted two-stroke engines from use on the lake. Compliance with the Ordinance is believed to be fairly good. Some enforcement actions have been taken and staff is exploring additional enforcement options with the County. Educational information on safe boating practices includes warnings about the illegality of accidental spills due to refueling from docks or on the water. The County version of the carbureted two-stroke ban takes effect on January 1, 2009. Boat Notes also includes warnings to not dump garbage or human waste from boats, clean boats wiih non-toxic cleaners, and wake rules In 2006 and 2007 we undertook a multi-jurisdictional spill response exercise and subsequent analysis to determine spill response capabilities and improvements. Results are being incorporated into Spill Response Plans.

    Air Deposition into the water:

    No direct action to reduce air deposition of pollutants into Lake Whatcom is included in the 2008 Work Plan. However, there is a permanent outdoor burn-ban in effect for Beliingham and its Urban Growth Areas that prohibits burning of residential yard waste and materials from land clearing activities. Other'outdoor burning is subject to permit under conditions set forth in RCW 70.94.745. Wood stove use is also regulated by State and Federal rules.

    Regional sources of air deposition have been significantly reduced in the past two decades with the closure of industrial incinerators and the application of new Best Management Practices on the remaining incinerators.

    As stated in the letter we have no control over global sources or I would add, even known sources outside of our jurisdiction e.g. Centralia, Vancouver British Columbia, and Montana.

     Water Runoff:

    Prevention of the discharge of phosphorus and other pollutants into the Lake from stormwater drainage system outfalls, streams and overland runoff is the focus of most of our watershed programs.

    Land Preservation actions that purchase or otherwise protect watershed properties are based on the premise that reducing development potential will reduce runoff impacts from development. Maintenance and restoration projects on the acquired properties are also directed at reducing runoff into the lake.

    Stormwater facility retrofits, upgrades and new units all have the common purpose of reducing untreated runoff to the Lake.

    Planning and Land Use actions seek to reduce impacts to the lake by conditioning building permits with restrictions on impervious surfaces, construction timing, and vegetation removal. Another action taken by the City was the prohibition of additional Onsite Septic Systems in the City portion of the watershed. Combined with strict conditions on the extension of services to areas of the watershed outside of the City there is a significant potential to reduce pollutant sources in highly developed portions of the watershed.

    Educational programs are focusing on stewardship actions that can be accomplished by watershed residents. Many of those actions, such as infiltrating stormwater from existing residences, will reduce runoff from thousands of individual watershed properties.

    A Human and Environmental risk assessment was conducted to identify potential and existing sources of pollutant loading to the lake to assist prioritization of management actions.

    The City participated in the development of the Department of Natural Resources Lake Whatcom Landscape Management Plan and is now defending implementation of that plan. The City also provides contracted staff to the Interjurisdictional Committee to oversee DNR activities in the watershed.


    The City has not implemented any actions that directly impact the decomposition of objects in and under the water or in the bottom sediment. Our focus is on preventing organic matter and excess nutrients from reaching the lake. Several methods for interruption of the nutrient, organic matter growth and decay, and low dissolved oxygen cycle have been reviewed but none of those methods seem feasible and/or cost effective for large water bodies.

    As to the list of land use groupings referred to in an additional letter to the Council -undeveloped forest lands, land available for development, and developed land - the City is working in partnership with the County, LWWSD and Sudden Valley to implement actions on all three land types. Briefly these actions are:

    Forest Lands

    o Acquisition and restoration of watershed property,

    o Implementation of DNR Landscape Plan,

    o Support of DNR reconveyance of watershed property for minimal passive park use.

    Developable Land

    o Acquisition of development rights,

    o Restriction on extension of services,

    o Prohibition on new OSS,

    o Strict stormwater runoff standards,

    o Restrictions on extent of impervious surface,

    o Restrictions on timing of development.

    Developed Land

    o Restriction on use of Phosphorus lawn and garden products,

    o Implementation of stormwater infiltration program,

    o Retrofits and improvements to regional stormwater facilities,

    o Improvements to road based stormwater collection.

    In addition to this brief description of ongoing programs that address pollutant loading to Lake Whatcom we have a record of accomplishments, reported annually to the Joint Councils, available to you at your request. Also available is the Draft 2008 Work Plan and an issues paper presented to the Joint Councils for discussion and direction in the development of the final 2008 Work Plan.

    Thank you for your continued interest, support and advocacy on Lake Whatcom Reservoir issues.

(click) to read the letters we wrote

Here is a start on dissecting this City response on the Lake Whatcom Reservoir

I look for measurements and quantification. They are missing.

"Actions" are essential, I agree. But actions to make a plan or ask for something are not results.
The only results that really matter for the reservoir are demonstrated, measured, lower pollution in the water. There is no such result here.

Plans and enforcement are nice - and in fact generally essential. Score 5 points. Subtract 3 since we don't know how much enforcement was really done. Need 98 more.

OK, a wash. No City authority.

As well it must be.


So, how many building permits were denied, and never issued (not even mitigated)? But gain 2 points. 96 to go.

The "highly developed portions" are what % of the lands? (Maybe 2%) Gain 2 points. 94 to go.

That program flopped. No demo installations have been done, that we have been told of. Lose 2 points - 94 to go.

Necessary step - but it was also done 30 years ago, and again 16 years ago. (The 23 Goals!)

Hmmmmm, That was the Watered-down Option (#3?) that the DNR finally forced on everybody! And here goes DNR, with two logging sales on THEIR lands, right before they get shifted to Park use!!

So, nobody knows what hazards lie on the bottom silt? Just ignore it and it won't hurt anybody?

So, how did this land aquisition program get started. I seem to recall a Citizen Initiative to the City, in 1999, asking for a $12/month funding. A year later, the City did a $5/month program. Gain 5 points - 89 to go.

Another fuzzy non-plan that could go WAY sour, if not done right. Lose 3 points.

A string of desirable actions. How much phosphorus has been removed from the Reservoir, or held on upland parcels?

Almost the only place I hear the fertilizer thing spoken about, is BY the City. The people don't give it much attention. There has been NO enforcement, and the stores still sell the stuff.

WHAT "stormwater infiltration program"? The one in the SB neighborhood had about 8-10 volunteers - none have reported any action on the ground, beyond perhaps a visit by a staffer. One of those volunteers is a City Councilman, who got no action!

Wow! "You got Mail!" (Uhhhh - well, not yet, just an offer to send mail to answer the original questions -- how much? - where? - how was it done?) Score = 8 points - 92 to go.
Protect Lake Whatcom: This website is maintained by a concerned citizen, following from 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 Lake. Copyright 1999-2008 © c: [an error occurred while processing this directive] Updated 2008/01/07 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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