Today (April 21, 2008) the Squalicum Community Association appealed the decision of Whatcom County's Hearing Examiner that will allow Lake Whatcom Water & Sewer District to continue to expand water service to new development in the watershed of the Lake Whatcom reservoir.
After the rehearing of the water district's proposal ordered by the Whatcom County Superior Court, no material changes to the earlier decision were made inspite of new evidence exposing the real plans of the water district to oversize a new service to the Lake Whatcom Residential Treatment Center as necessary to allow hookups to hundreds of new residences in the watershed.
According to Virginia Watson, Squalicum President, the decision of the county is nothing more than a rationalization of their determination to develop the watershed, and hardly a result based on a hearing of the evidence and application of the appropriate laws.
The Hearing Examiner was unmoved by the water district's clear misrepresentations to the county that resulted in a determination that this project would have no significant environmental impacts.
Watson pointed out that the Hearing Examiner also chose to ignore the law that generally prohibits such an expansion of water service, and the state Supreme Court rulings, instead basing his decision on a misinterpretation of the county fire code.
She asked, "How can the installation of a fire hydrant, that is not legally necessary in a rural area, make it necessary to extend an urban level of water service there?"
Watson pointed out that, before the record was closed, even the fire marshal wrote that an additional 30,000 gallon reservoir was all that was required to meet the claimed need for fire protection at the Treatment Center.
The addition of an 8" water main and fire hydrant, in conjunction with the installation of a 105,000 gallon reservoir is only necessary to support other developments outlined in the water district's own feasibility study, funded by one of those prospective developers.
"Lake Whatcom Water & Sewer District, without opposition from the county, has already extended urban water service to nearby Opal Terrace. A small line, and a small supplemental reservoir, would have been sufficient to serve the Treatment Center's needs.
This is just a scheme to install facilities at the Treatment Center that the water district will then use to encourage new development and new hookups to help pay for their grandiose vision of themselves.
The county and the water district can see the prospective taxes and fees that will flow from more development, but who is looking at the costs?
Watson said she has not discussed Squalicum's decision with the city of Bellingham, but hopes that the city will continue to oppose the conversion of undeveloped land in the watershed to sprawling suburban development.
"I don't believe the city joined us originally just to make sure they would get better notice from the water district of its activities. I am sure they understand that the water district's activities are in direct opposition to their own efforts to acquire undeveloped land in the watershed in order to protect the lake."