|Sumas River. Photograph by Lee First.|
In fact, we responded to two sets of Tea Party talking points: those posted on the Tea Party web site and those posted on Ms. Halterman’s KGMI web site. Our response is here.
And now I’d like to ask the Tea Party to respond to the information below, all of which is based on state agency reports and the County’s planning documents.
The only responses I’ve heard so far are (1) bad city people want to warehouse rural people in concrete jungles, to live like rats in mazes, and (2) the County should spend millions of dollars to hire Tea Party-approved scientists to redo the work of agencies, in order to reach Tea Party-approved results.
Argument (1), promoted by state Senator Doug Ericksen on Ms. Halterman’s radio show, is an effort to create animosity and division in order to divert attention from the facts. It does not, of course, address Whatcom County’s situation.
Argument (2) assumes that Whatcom County’s desire to assuage the Tea Party knows no temporal, monetary, or legal limits. While the County’s actions over the past four years do support this assumption, the voters who elected the Council majority appear to hope that the County will someday start to base its policies on facts and law.
If the Tea Party is willing to go beyond these two arguments, and to engage in the solution of the issues identified below based on fact and law, I’d be very interested to hear its proposals.
From http://whatcomteaparty.org/attention-local-land-owners-and-well-owners/ (the Tea Party talking points are in italics, and our responses are in plain type):
“This case, and the issue generally, raises numerous important concerns:
- The WRIA 1 State of the Watershed report shows year-round or seasonally closed watersheds account for a large part of the County. Ecology has found that average minimum instream flows in the mainstem and middle fork Nooksack River are not met an average of 100 days a year.
- Ecology’s Focus on Watershed Availability report states “Most water in the Nooksack watershed is already legally spoken for.” Instream flows for WRIA 1 were established in 1985 and codified at WAC 173-501. As a result of instream flow requirements, some of the water sources are closed year round to additional withdrawals and some are closed part of the year.
- In its 1999 Water Resource Plan, the County reported that a proliferation of rural residential exempt wells already created “difficulties for effective water resource management” by drawing down underlying aquifers and reducing groundwater recharge of streams. Since the report was issued, more than 1,000 additional wells have been drilled in closed basins.
- The link between stream flows and groundwater withdrawals in the shallow Whatcom aquifers is well documented. A number of studies indicate that shallow aquifers of the County are responsible for approximately 70% of base stream flow.
- The Sumas-Blaine aquifer is the only readily available drinking water source for 27,000 rural residents of Whatcom County. Nitrate contamination in the aquifer has been documented for over 40 years. In a 2012 study, 29% of sampled wells failed to meet drinking water standards for nitrates, and 14% of wells had double the maximum allowed nitrate levels.
- A 2012 Washington State Health Department study on fecal coliform pollution in Puget Sound ranked Drayton Harbor as the second-highest contaminated shellfish bed in Puget Sound.
- Whatcom County has 77 impaired water bodies under the Clean Water Act’s Section 303(d) standard. Of these, only 6 water bodies have been analyzed and have had standards established for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).
- The County’s own Comprehensive Plan states: “Surface and groundwater quality problems can be found in many areas of Whatcom County. . .There are significant legal limitation in obtaining water. Management actions between and within jurisdictions are not always well coordinated or consistent. . .These problems and issues have already led to many impacts. . .includ[ing] health concerns associated with drinking contaminated water; fisheries depletion and closure of shellfish harvesting areas and other instream problems; a lack of adequate water storage and delivery systems to meet the requirements of growth and development; concerns with the availability of water to meet existing agricultural and public water supply demands; potential difficulties and additional costs associated with obtaining building permits and subdivision approvals; and other related increasing financial costs to the community. Long-term resolution of the numerous, complex and changing water issues requires actions in many areas.”
This evidence, and much more, was cited in the Growth Management Hearings Board’s decision."