Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Other Face of Beautiful Lake Whatcom

The Lake Whatcom “reconveyance” makes sense on many levels, as explained in this compelling Bellingham Herald opinion column. 

And once the reconveyance has been achieved, as we can hope that it will be soon, what will we have? 

A polluted drinking water source that faces the prospect of additional pollution from residential development. 

At the beginning of 2012, the Growth Management Hearings Board concluded that Whatcom County’s planning for residential development had not protected the water quality of Lake Whatcom: 

The County‘s unsupported assertion that its regulations are adequate to provide the needed protection rings hollow. The County provides no information about the [development regulations] that allegedly address these issues, but the current report on Lake Whatcom water quality demonstrates that the existing regulations have not protected Lake Whatcom and that the problems are actual and proven, not speculative. 

At the beginning of 2013, the Hearings Board found that the County still had not protected Lake Whatcom.  Although around 1,700 lots can be developed in the portion of the Lake Whatcom watershed that the County has designated as “Rural,” the Hearings Board concluded, “[t]he stricter stormwater recommendations advocated by Ecology and promised by the former County Executive. . . have not been adopted.” 

The County Council’s response?  
Use taxpayer funds to hire a Seattle law firm to appeal this decision in Skagit County Superior Court.  That appeal was filed on February 1st.

Yes, we are all paying for the County’s multiyear fight against protecting Lake Whatcom.   

Council member Carl Weimer voted against both the plan and the expenditure of funds for the Seattle law firm.  If anybody cares about Lake Whatcom water quality, you might ask the rest of the County Council members, and the County Executive: 

When will the County get to work to protect Lake Whatcom?


  1. My limited understanding of the matter is that the Best Law Firm Ever is employing the daring "Nuh-uh" defense of the County's Not-So-Benign Neglect of the lake.

    1. Now, Shane, I think that you're glossing over the subtleties here. I'd go so far as to characterize it as the "You Can't Make Me" defense.

  2. This is frustrating and disheartening. I did not know about the appeal that was filed. It's almost unbelievable, (or at least I wish it was, because then it wouldn't be true). What next? What advice do you have for those of us who want to help but don't know exactly what to do?

    1. Thank you for your concern, CM. What comes to mind:

      Write to the County Council, asking it to make sure that development in the watershed will not result in more phosphorus pollution than forested conditions;

      Contribute to Futurewise Whatcom, which provides the persistent leadership that we need to provide a healthy, clean environment in the long term;

      Vote in the fall election, and talk to your friends about the issues and the candidates; and

      Wish me good luck, when I go up against the Seattle law firm in court.

    2. Thanks! I can do all of those things! And I most definitely wish you good luck--(and how lucky for the rest of us that you are doing what you do.)