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LWW Lands Reconveyance

The Whatcom County Executive has convened a Citizens' Panel to make an analysis of the proposed lands Reconveyance, and give its recommendations back to him, by the end of June 2008.

The owner of this website was appointed to this Panel.

Here is the "charge" given to the Panel:
  • Assess the impact of the proposal on the Lake Whatcom Reservoir, watershed, and natural resources;
  • Consistency with the landscape and recreational plans;
  • Assess the fiscal impact and costs
  • Make a recommendation for action to the County Executive.
Our first considerations should include a number of items, proper for the protection of the water quality of this drinking-water Reservoir. Read these considerations, here.

The panel held its first meeting on Monday, April 10th, 2008, and heard a general report on the Lands Reconveyance proposal, presented by County Parks and Rec Director Mike McFarlane.

A piece from 2007 which contributes to the story.

An article by Christina Maginnis, WWU Huxley grad, and now a staffer of the local office of the DoE, and Chair of the LWW WAB: (see it in the Whatcom Indy, issue of November 21-28, 2007), speaks favorably of the proposed Reconveyance. She concludes:
"We encourage you to provide the county with ideas for managing these parklands in a manner that will balance public access and use while ensuring the best protection for our drinking water source now and for future generations."
And we agree -- and we add that ALL the other lands within the watershed must also not be forgotten - fixing the current problems from urbanization and logging must rank right there with avoiding future problems.

More information - March 13th, 2008

Some answers are coming, but uncertainties remain! Feb=March 2008 - DRAFT Deal

New Documents - do they answer YOUR questions?
(Some quotes from these files):
  • DNR & County joint Press Release
    "....Kremen also proposed a 60-day public process to examine the merits of the proposal. He said, "We think that this is a winning strategy to offer long-term continued protection of our local drinking water, and new parkland opportunities for our fast-growing population. Now we will take the proposal to the community and listen to their ideas and concerns."..."

    "...The agreement lays out a process for trading State Forest trust lands with other state trust lands in the watershed to block up each for long-term management. The newly blocked up State Forest trust lands then would be re-conveyed for a county park (see maps....{below}"

    The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) has these sections or chapters (in this draft, sections are not numbered):...

    • Purpose of the Proposed Transaction
    • Summary of the Agreement
      "This Memorandum of Agreement specifies the scope, rationale, procedural steps and understandings, subsequent management considerations, and timeline for the proposed transaction."
    • Background and Context
    • Scope of the Land Transactions
    • Rationale for the Inter-grant Exchange
    • Inter-grant Exchange Process
    • Inter-grant Exchange Steps
          incl: "..Advertise and conduct at least one public hearing, jointly with the County..."
    • Rationale for the Re-conveyance
    • Re-conveyance Process
    • Re-conveyance Steps
    • Management Issues to be Addressed by County and DNR
    • Management Issues for Retained Trust Lands
          "...This proposal would result in three blocks of trust ownership that will continue to be managed by DNR for trust beneficiaries. These are the Olson Creek block in the northeast part of the planning area, and the Park Road and Anderson Mountain blocks in the southeast part of the planning area...."
          This Section does not say, but we hear from other sources, that these lands will continue to be logged. We believe that they should not be harvested - except perhaps for tightly-constrained single-tree and hazard removals.
    • Communication and Dispute Resolution
    • Staffing
    • Proposed Timeline - Jan 2008 - Jan 2010
    • Who has the Authority?

      Peter Kremen,
      County Executive

      Doug Sutherland,
      Commissioner of Public Lands

  • MAPS: See small images below - these files are large PDF's:

  • and a useful FAQ -- by Conservation NW. But we notice that it does not name the body of water the "Reservoir", though it does acknowledge that it is the drinking-water source. Also, this paper - even in it's title: ..the.. "Forest Preserve", (without "Proposed") - implies that the transfer "is" a done deal, although within the text, it is called Proposed.

as at February 26th, 2008

The County and the DNR gave a presentation to the Whatcom County Council at the regular meeting on February 26th, (and to a committee meeting earlier that day.)

Tuesday night Feb 26th, the County Council heard about the Lake Whatcom Reservoir watershed lands reconveyance plan from Executive Pete Kremen, State Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, Parks Director McFarlane, and a few of the members of the public at the Open Comment period.

There were few details given, and all numbers were couched as preliminary, as they say the activity is still in the planning stage.

The Bellingham Herald ran a story this morning on the topic: .

The article mentions the agreement between the County and the State in two places and cites some of the content of the agreement. But the article never used the important word "Reservoir", though it did include "drinking water source".

A copy of the DRAFT agreement document may be downloaded here - (Word Doc 302KB).

Map: State Trust Lands -- "Before"

Map: State Trust Lands -- "After"

When this started: late September, 2007

A proposal for lands reconveyance within the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Watershed, has just appeared on the major public screen.

It appears that this is land once owned privately, acquired by the County long ago for failure to pay taxes, then conveyed to the State for management as forest lands, with logging revenue going mostly to school districts. The state DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has managed these lands and the logging on them, for many decades.

Some of these lands are within the sensitive watershed of the Lake Whatcom Reservoir.

We-the-public need more information to either approve, disapprove, or modify any such proposal to reconvey them to County control.

The pieces, as they are unfolding:.......
Bellingham Herald Article
The Bellingham Herald ran a story on this topic on Sept 22nd, just three days before the public presentation. Read a copy of that Herald story here.

A handout, by whom?
A two-page handout was distributed at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole of the Whatcom County Council, about 6:30PM on September 25th 2007. (note: the text was distributed by County Employees, on plain paper, not attributed to any agency, office or person. OCR scanned by Beddill)

I asked for official attribution of this strange anonymous document, and I did get an answer from Michael McFarlane This still does not explain WHY this page was "anonymous"!

The people named as involved are:

County Executive Pete Kremen,
Deputy Administrator Dewey Desler,
Michael McFarlane ("initiated most of the discussions over the past year") ,
Kaleen Cottingham and Miguel Perez-Gibson ("our" {County?} consultants located in Olympia),

"Council Member McShane was not involved in the meeting with the DNR or WSAC." (but this does not exclude the possibility that McShane was "involved in the meeting with" Kremen or others.)

"discussions with the County Council during development of the budget",

== WA DNR ==
Doug Sutherland,
Bonnie Bunning and Craig Partridge, DNR staff in Olympia.

== ? ? ==
Craig Partridge, (agency/role?)
Bruce Macky, (agency/role?)
Bill Wallace, (agency/role?)

== WSAC ==
Staff (not named) from the Washington State Association of Counties;

== others ==
"nor have we facilitated talks with any local group, landowner or organization regarding a proposal."

So, I see we still have more questions......

Reasonable Questions
Just for starters, there are some other reasonable questions we would ask about ANY such proposal:
click for 20-questions

First analysis of this situation by a member of the North Cascades Audubon

click map for larger image - subject-lands in red:

  • And.more questions will follow......
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