|Big bubble: all the freshwater on earth, including groundwater.||Little bubble: lakes and rivers. .|
The Board found that the County's rural planning has not protected water quality or water quantity.
Click here to read the decision. Skip to page 22 to get to the "deciding" part.
The Board's decision is thorough and well grounded in evidence. All of its conclusions are supported by citations to and quotes from objective sources.
A few excerpts from the decision:
"Ecology provides technical assistance and model regulations, but County land use plans and regulations are necessary to assure protection of rural character, including water resource protection."
"The Board also read reports on contaminated groundwater and drinking water; increase in shellfish contamination; an increase in exempt wells for single residential uses without required proof that the groundwater withdrawal will not impact stream flows; governing regulations from the last century (1985 state administrative regulations and a 1999 County Water Resource Plan); and the County's own resolution and Comprehensive Plan, stating its water resources are unknown and future water uses are uncertain.
"The Board finds the link between land development and water resources is well-established."
"[C]urrent science-based studies conclude that most water resource degradation in the Puget Sound region and Whatcom County in particular can be attributed to land use and land development practices."
"The proliferation of evidence in the record of continued water quality degradation resulting from land use and development activities underscores the need for protective measures for water resources."
"The Board has previously held that exemption for private wells does not exempt the County from complying with the GMA's mandate to protect critical aquifers. Similarly, the exemption does not exempt Whatcom County from complying with the GMA rural element requirements."
Along the way, the Board discusses a few of our local peculiarities, including "self-inspection" of septic tanks and the County's failure to limit impervious surfaces in rural areas.
"In sum, the County is left without Rural Element measures to protect rural character by ensuring land use and development patterns are consistent with protection of surface water and groundwater resources throughout its Rural Area.."