The Initiative Group

Lake Whatcom Reservoir Protection Program Proposal

Summary Statement
as read at City Council meeting on Sept. 14th, 1998

We are The Initiative Group (http://www.nas.com/tig), three Whatcom County citizens whose motivation is the civic good -- permanently and fairly, for protection of the safety of our drinking-water supply -- and doing so at the most reasonable cost.

The water supply for the City of Bellingham and much of the county is polluted, and is at risk of severe contamination --- and the City of Bellingham is and will be held liable because they own the capture, treatment and delivery facilities. They don't own or control the water storage Reservoir facility -- and that's a problem and the factor which puts the city at risk, both real-risk and judicial-risk. Within the Reservoir and its watersheds, we must stop the continuing destruction of forests, and the continuing subdivision of properties and building of roads, houses, industries and shops in places where runoff contaminates the reservoir.

How can this be done? By a marketplace deal -- a willing seller and a willing buyer -- and where the buyer and owner of watershed properties (who holds the ability to develop) is committed and bound by a public covenant to hold these lands in forest, ecologically well-managed.

Where are these lands? The rainfall catchment basin in the upper Middle Fork of the Nooksack River, and the rainfall catchment basin of Lake Whatcom Water Reservoir itself.
Some of that land already has adequate protection.
Some is in Federal and State forestry.
Some is County Parks and Open Space.
Some has already been bought by the City of Bellingham for water-supply protection.
Some is held by trusts and civic organizations.
Some is owned by caring, dedicated owners, individuals and businesses.
Some is in residential lots, in Sudden Valley and elsewhere.
And some is in the hands of developers and speculators, whose motive is profit.

We believe that it is right that the people who drink the water should be those who most profit from activities, management and care of the watershed lands. Those who drink from the Whatcom Water Reservoir and the treatment plant are who are at risk, and who stand to gain or lose the most if this critical resource is well-managed or becomes seriously contaminated. Every water consumer in the City of Bellingham and those in the County whose water supply is piped in from the City system, and those who drink directly from Lake Whatcom, now and for the next century or more, are the honestly-affected population. Anyone else who has a financial position has chosen to be involved, not obliged, and may chose to opt out. The water-users are stuck -- and we believe they will be willing to contribute to the necessary and fair funding of the permanent protection of the Whatcom Water Reservoir, the only one we will ever have.

When should this be done? Now! Actually it's about a century late, but that does not excuse any further delay in guaranteeing the safety of our water supply. Buying early is a better money-deal for the public than waiting. Cleaning up a few pollution sites, now, is a better money-deal for the public than creating more of them which will have to be cleaned up later. Waiting to protect our water-supply will increase the tax-bill of consolidated buy-up and clean-up, and pawn off that cost to future generations - our kids and grandkids.

What to do? Follow the lead of major US Cities whose water supply does not come from an in-city river -- buy the watershed. Seattle started it a hundred years ago -- and just finished. Bellingham started thirty-six years ago, then balked -- shouldn't it continue the program?

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The Initiative Group -- Whatcom
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edited November 3rd , 1998 -- mgb
Bellingham, Washington 98226 --- The Fourth Corner of the USA
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