Whatcom Co.: 90 Million Gallons of Water a Day

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Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 12:42 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Eric Hirst is retired to Bellingham and enjoys using his professional abilities to benefit our community. He has a doctorate from Stanford and spent his professional career doing reports on energy issues. Deb Gaber edited Eric's 4,800 word report down to this 1,800 word article. You can read his full report via the link at the bottom of this article.  

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If someone had asked me two years ago about water problems in Whatcom County, I would have offered a three-word response, “Lake Whatcom pollution.” As far as I knew, that was the only serious water problem we faced.

In early 2014, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities began a small project, WaterWork, to address freshwater supply and quality issues. At about the same time, the League of Women Voters sponsored forums on local water issues. Suddenly, I began to understand that Whatcom County faces serious problems. These problems concern water pollution, new sources of supply, efficiency of water use, fish listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, antiquated and inadequately enforced state water laws, and so on.

Thus began a journey to understand these issues and possible solutions to our problems. The result, at this point in the journey, is the article you are (I hope!) about to read.  - Eric

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Clean, affordable, and sufficient water is essential. While it may seem that Whatcom County has plenty of water, remember that this year we lost both ski events in Ski-to-Sea and the road to Artist Point opened two months earlier than usual. Will this be the new normal? Because water affects everything on this planet in one way or another, we need to better understand our water systems and problems and then move to improve them.

This article outlines how we use water and proposes a partial solution: locational and time-sensitive water pricing.

How Much Water Do We Use?

In 2010, Whatcom County used almost 33 billion gallons of water, or 90 million gallons a day. Irrigation is by far the largest water demand, using 38% of our annual total. Industry accounts for 26%; residential use is 22%; livestock takes 4%; and aquaculture, mining and commercial uses account for the remaining 10%.

There are seasonal differences in water use, too. In the summer, July through September, water use is 3.6 times greater than in the winter, November through January. This seasonal difference is driven primarily by irrigation, but residential, commercial and industrial demands are also higher in the summer. And none of these numbers consider the amount of water that must be left in-stream for navigation, fish and wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, and waste assimilation.

Then there’s the issue of supply. A little more than half - 57% - is surface water, the rest comes as groundwater from wells, all of which comes from precipitation. Bellingham averages 4.9” of rain per month in the winter, but only 1.4” a month in the summer. So, summer supply is only 29% of winter supply, but demand in summer is 357% greater than in winter.

How Much Does it Cost?

A family of four uses about 200 gallons/day, which costs about $60/month. But in fact, nobody actually pays for “water.” We pay for the pumps, pipes, treatment plants, electricity, supplies, operation and maintenance. The water is free.

Industrial rates are much lower than residential rates, primarily because while the two oil refineries and the aluminum smelter at Cherry Point use much more water, it’s lower quality. So to compare, we pay 3 cents per gallon for residential city water while industrial users at Cherry Point pay 0.14 cents per gallon.

The Big Three: Demand, Quality, and Supply

Demand will continue to escalate due to population growth and climate change. Historical trends and official forecasts predict a Whatcom County population growth of 1.1% a year for the next 30 years, or almost 84,000 more people.

Air temperatures will continue to escalate due to greenhouse-gas emissions and that, in turn, will not only drive up water temperatures, but increase outdoor use as well. Increasing temperatures will also continue to shrink glaciers and reduce snowfall on Mt. Baker, reducing Nooksack River flows, diminishing fish runs and causing water shortages and droughts. U.S. Geological Survey measurements show a 27% reduction of summer flows in the Nooksack River between 1963 and 2003. Finally, as other areas in the U.S. experience less rainfall and more frequent drought, their residents will increasingly move to the Pacific Northwest, further driving population growth in our area.

In addition, if the proposed coal-export terminal at Cherry Point is built, water consumption could increase by 2 billion gallons a year, roughly 5% of our current total water use.

At the same time, Whatcom County’s water quality is deteriorating. Streams and bays are polluted with fecal coliform bacteria from failing septic tanks, livestock, and wild animals. Storm-water runoff contains toxic metals, petroleum, herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers from farms and homes. According to the Department of Ecology, the Sumas-Blaine aquifer has “some of the most widespread and elevated nitrate contamination in the state.” And increasing water use only worsens water-pollution problems.

Compounding the problems with demand and quality, our supply of water is over-extended, illegally used and mostly unmeasured.

“Most water in the Nooksack watershed is already legally spoken for,” according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. “Increasing demands for water from ongoing population growth, diminishing surface water supplies, declining groundwater levels in some areas during peak use periods, and the impacts of climate change limit Ecology’s ability to issue new water rights in this watershed.”

Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Indian Tribe also have legal claims to water. Treaty rights from 1855, perhaps to “time immemorial,” guarantee them the right to harvest salmon—which require clean, cool water. Yet summer flows in the Nooksack River and many of its tributaries are already below the minimum requirements set by Ecology: “From 1986 to 2009, flows in the Nooksack River failed to meet in-stream flow-rule requirements 72% of the time during the July-September flow period.”

Additionally, as much as 70% of agricultural water use in Whatcom County violates state law. Because agriculture accounts for 65% of summer use, bringing farmers into compliance is a major issue. A report for the Bertrand Watershed Improvement District in Lynden noted, “… non-permitted water use is one of the most pressing water resource management issues for the area.” Also, the city of Lynden uses more water than it has a legal right to use and “326 public water systems do not have water rights.” As Lynden grows, this problem will worsen.

One of the biggest complications is that much of the water in Whatcom County is not metered, recorded, or reported. Without reliable data on consumption, it will be challenging to resolve water-supply problems because, even with improvements, we won’t know if more efficient systems are working. According to Washington’s Department of Health, “Installing meters is the most important step you can take to establish an effective WUE [Water Use Efficiency] program.”

Possible Solutions

Water quality and use is controlled by federal, state, tribal, and local jurisdictions. State water laws identify problems and mandate solutions. County governments regulate land use and oversee public health issues of water quality and septic systems. Municipal governments and local water districts/associations operate water utilities. The courts are also certain to be involved, particularly regarding the 1855 Native American treaty rights.

Because these issues are complicated and longstanding, solutions will likely be expensive, controversial, and multifaceted. They may require new land use regulation as well as greater enforcement of water consumption and pollution laws. Below is a list of possible solutions.

  • The county’s growth-management regulations could restrict development in areas that have problems with water supply and/or quality, or require mitigation.
  • The county could improve its alignment of agricultural zoning with soil quality and water availability.
  • It could strengthen existing water-quality and land-use regulations by requiring professional inspections of septic-systems. It could ensure better control of fertilizers and manure by keeping livestock away from creeks and rivers.
  • Municipal governments and the county could improve storm-water management with stricter limits on impervious surfaces, and provide greater protection for critical areas such as flood zones, aquifer recharge areas, wetlands, and wildlife habitat and migration corridors.
  • Cities and water districts/associations could modify rates to encourage efficiency. The city of Lynden already has a $150 penalty for “waste of water.”
  • Cities could add surcharges to help pay for solutions. Bellingham charges every single-family home $12 a month to help buy land in the Lake Whatcom watershed.
  • Water utilities could offer residential, commercial, and industrial customers help becoming more efficient in the same way electric utilities have done for decades.
  • Because the public owns the water, it would be reasonable to tax its use to promote efficiency, raise revenue for water projects, improve data on consumption, and increase public awareness. A tax, and the discussion it will generate, will signal that water is critical, scarce and must be used wisely. And taxing water reduces the need for regulation because market forces spur efficiency.

A countywide charge of 0.01 cent per gallon during the summer—less than $3 a year for the typical Whatcom County family—would generate $1.5 million a year. It would be less than a 1% rate increase for large industrial customers. The agricultural sector would pay about $1 million a year, which is less than 1% of the value of our agricultural products.

The Benefits

Higher water prices will encourage users to make capital improvements and behavioral changes to increase efficiency and reduce pressure on supply. Low-flow toilets and front-loading washing machines are more expensive to buy but use one to two-thirds less water than their conventional counterparts.

Seasonal water pricing will encourage homeowners to conserve, watering their lawns less often, for shorter times, and before 10 a.m. or after 10 p.m., to encourage better water absorption.

Farmers, faced with price increases, will irrigate more efficiently. Watering will become more precise: timed and controlled to minimize evaporation and runoff and applied closer to the plants to maximize absorption by crops and soil.


Whatcom County has serious water supply and quality problems that are complicated, interactive, and long-term. As population grows and the supply of clean water continues to decline, in part because of global climate change, these problems will likely get worse. We cannot think of water as infinite and inexhaustible. Its supply is fixed and its quality must be protected and improved. This will require new policies, programs, and regulation from all levels of government as well as the keen awareness of every consumer. Taxing each gallon of water consumed would help resolve these problems.

A tax would signal that water is a scarce resource that must be used efficiently. It would provide important market signals regarding when and where to consume water and when and where to conserve. Metering use would provide valuable information on where, how, and when water is used in Whatcom County, allowing us to develop better policies and programs to not only preserve supply, but also improve quality. Finally, it would encourage greater efficiency during critical summer months, which is a value in its own right as a “resource” that could be used when Lummi and Nooksack rights to minimum in-stream flows are determined. It would facilitate formation of local water markets, and revenues collected could help solve local water problems.

Related Links:

-> Full original article with 4 appendixes
-> Appendix A - Water Use
-> Appendix B - Nooksack Summer Flows
-> Appendix C - Water Markets
-> Appendix D - Summer Water Tax

David Camp  //  Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 8:06 am

Very informative and thought-provoking article. Thank you!

Walter Haugen  //  Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 12:48 pm

I generally support Eric Hirst and the organizations he represents. However, I must take issue with some of his points. Those of you who read my public posts will find my arguments familiar.
1) The generally accepted number for per capita domestic use is 100 gallons per day, not 200 for a family of four. I don’t see Whatcom County as different and less water-wasteful than the rest of the US. There is a remarkable degree of homogeneity across the wide band of American activities.
2) The generally accepted number for groundwater consumption for agriculture in the US is 80%, although sometimes it is listed as “80%, with up to 90% in the western states.” Again, I don’t see Whatcom County as that much different from the rest of the US and the cooler temperatures in the western half of the state argue for 80% here, even though it might be 90% in Omak, Wenatchee, Walla Walla and the other areas with high irrigation use for orchards.
3) These two numbers that I just mentioned are how I calculate comparisons between my irrigation use and that of industrial agriculture. The method for industrial agriculture is simple. We cannot know, because of bad USDA statistics and downright lies, whether the US is a net importer or exporter of food. The safest assumption is that we are in the middle (reducing error on both ends), and we produce enough food in this country to feed all US residents. Therefore 100 gallons domestic use at 5% is 1/16th of agriculture at 80%. Thus my number for industrial agriculture is 1600 gallons per person per day. This is calculated for a whole year and thus evens out seasonal differences. Domestic use is also based on a whole year, with summer irrigation evened out and toilet use (the biggest waster) the same throughout the year.
4) My irrigation use is based on my own data and consists of 1800 gallons a day for 90 days (June, July, August). Since I grow enough food in a normal year to feed 2.5 people, based on kilocalorie yield, this calculates to:
1800 gal. x 90 days / 2.5 people per year / 365 days per year = 177.5 gallons per person per day
Rounding up to be conservative (a 12.5% error), let’s just call it 200 gallons per person per day.
5) As you can see there is a VAST difference between my small-scale farming model and industrial agriculture, by a factor of 8! This is one of the reasons I wrote two books on postmodern farming and solutions for collapse.
6) This is why I have been regularly lambasting Eric and Futurewise for lumping me and other small scale farmers in the same bag as industrial berry farmers, dairy farmers, chicken growers and the like. It is like comparing me to Sherman Polinder because I have an unregulated well WITHOUT holding Sherman reponsible for water waste, polluting streams and illegally taking water out of the Nooksack. It is like putting me in the same sack with Henry Bierlink.
7) I will not be satisfied until writers on water issues make a concerted effort to DIFFERENTIATE between small-scale, alternative farmers and industrial agriculture. When you talk about unregulated wells in the county as the same as taking water illegally out of the Nooksack, you do your own cause a great disservice.
8) Pitting the cityfolks against the countryfolks does no good. I work hard to develop alternatives and when I see the “cityfolk” displaying simplistic reasoning and lack of respect for the work I do in the soil every day, I will not support initiatives from these same disrespectful people.
9) There is QUITE a difference between “water quality and use controlled by federal, state, tribal and local jurisdictions,” and “Because the public owns the water, it would be reasonable to tax its use.” On the one hand, the federal/state/tribal/local jurisdictions “control” water because they can. They do this through institutionalized violence. When Eric wants to close down my well because it is unregulated, he doesn’t come out with a gun himself, he just uses the system to send out the sheriff.

Now, just because the state or county controls me does NOT mean that my water belongs to the public. It doesn’t. The state lays claim to water from my well because they have the guns and the will to use them. I am at their mercy, so I go along with it. That does NOT mean that I like it. It also means that I am not going to support a group or a person who conflates me with dairy and berry farmers who are despoiling the landscape and waterways while making lots of money. Meanwhile, I go on every day creating alternatives so your grandchildren can survive. A little respect is in order here.

Terry Wechsler  //  Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 4:40 pm

Please don’t confuse all of us “city folk.” Some of us understand the difference between agricultural (read: those growing the food we would want to eat and actually do eat) and industrial (read: that which is mass produced primarily for export) production. We can’t talk about responsible water use vis-a’-vis MIF without acknowledging the difference. Whatcom Watch has done our best to explain the issue. E.g., + Link We will continue to do so.

Sherilyn Wells  //  Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 6:13 pm

The passage of time has obviously not dampened the ardor with which this issue is debated.  There are some emerging solutions that bear investigating:  Paul Stamets, a Washington-based mycologist, may be revolutionizing the world of water quality.  In a wide-ranging talk on TED, he describes ongoing experiments using bundles of storm debris (inoculated with specific fungi) which are placed along streams, edges of lakes, etc., and which demonstrate a dramatic ability to clean up certain types of pollution, including eColi.  To watch his talk, go to + Link .  He begins describing the water quality experiment about Minute 9:45.

Here is how Paul describes what his fungi can do:  “Mycorestoration is the use of fungi to help repair or restore ecologically harmed and sensitive habitats. It encompasses the use of fungi for filtration of water (mycofiltration), the breakdown of toxic wastes (mycoremediation), empowering ecoforestry strategies (mycoforestry) and helping to influence and control pest insect populations (mycopesticides).

It’s time to invoke Einstein’s observation - “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” - and look into the cutting-edge discoveries that could begin the healing of our irreplaceable water resources..  If you agree, contact local government - city and county - and insist they investigate this new “technology.”  We may not be able to undo the bad, shortsighted decisions of the past, but we just might have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card with this new approach.

Walter Haugen  //  Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 6:59 pm

Terry - Yes we need to differentiate, all across the board. One quibble. Industrial agriculture is not just export-driven. It is defined by overuse of fossil fuels. Most so-called “family farms” are industrial ag.
Sherilyn - Yes, Paul Stamets’ work is important and a viable solution for cleanup at the Port to take care of GP’s mess. I believe an experiment was already done several years ago. Of course the only candidate for Port Commissioner who even considers these kinds of solutions is Lloyd Zimmerman.

Eric Hirst  //  Thu, Jul 23, 2015, 8:29 pm

I thank Walter Haugen for taking the time to write detailed and thoughtful comments on my local-water-issues article.

Some of Walter’s comments concern data. He and I likely agree that we lack data for two key sets of water users in Whatcom County: agriculture and exempt-well owners. The numbers I presented for agriculture cover the entire sector, both the small-scale farms that Walter favors and the larger, more industrial farms that dominate the industry. The numbers, all estimates, come from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and Whatcom Farm Friends. None of these sources disaggregates water use by agricultural subsector.

Some of Walter’s comments deal with policy, not necessarily related to what I covered in the article. Although I agree that we should refine our understanding, estimates, and data on different kinds of farms, I’m not sure how to do that. Perhaps Walter can enlighten us on that point.

Finally, some of Walter’s comments strike me as unfair and unproductive. I have no desire to “close down” Walter’s (or anybody else’s) well, nor have I ever suggested that exempt wells are “the same as taking water illegally.” Where, Walter did you dig up these incorrect statements?

Walter Haugen  //  Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 7:24 pm

Okay Eric, let’s Google “Futurewise exempt wells.” When I do this I get the following article as the first hit: + Link Settlement [Disclaimer: Google searches are tailored to your interests, so if you repeat this, you may get a different article as the lead, but you should be able to get in in the top 20, I should think.] This was a “landmark water rights settlement,” signed on May 15, 2014 by Futurewise, Kittitas County, the Washington State Department of Ecology, RIDGE, and the Kittitas County Conservation Association. It “mitigates impacts of over a century of development without considering whether the water is available to support the homes, farms, and businesses in the Kittitas County part of the Yakima Basin.” The article went on to say, “Futurewise is pleased with this landmark agreement, which leverages sound planning and promotes a strong future for the community, farmers, its economy and the environment,” said Hilary Franz, Executive Director of Futurewise. “Many other areas of our state – like Whatcom and Snohomish – face similar water allocation issues that threaten the long-term health of their communities.  The approach developed here should serve as a model for communities looking for creative solutions to water resource management.”

Okay, here we have a settlement that is based on “mitigation” and is to be used as a model in Whatcom County. This settlement brought together various parties such as the State Department of Ecology, Futurewise, RIDGE, the Kittitas Conservation Coalition, and the Kittitas County Farm Bureau. In other words it brought together various parties from across the political spectrum. If you are suspicious of anything to do with government, wary of misuse of mitigation (both in word and deed) and are leery of “models” that reify a term or concept so that it channels time, money and energy in the wrong direction, all of your red flags should have gone up.

First off, “mitigation” is a flawed concept because it is based on the “least bad” alternative. It assumes we cannot have a “good” or “positive” solution. Examples are geoengineering to battle climate change, salvage archaeology, and FEMA actions in disasters. Not only is the word poorly understood by most people, it focuses energy on short-term solutions instead of 1) preventing the problem, 2) integrating long-term and middle-range solutions into a proper response, and 3) dismisses adaptation. It also suffers from reification, treating an abstract concept as a thing, which then assumes a life of its own. Soon it becomes a catchword, like “markets” or “the invisible hand,” and other such nonsense. We might also want to consider why conservative power lobbies, like the Farm Bureau, are willing to get into bed with Futurewise on this issue. [Note: There is a good reason I spent considerable time on reification in my first book. It is a pernicious concept.]

Further digging provides the answer. This settlement solidifies an earlier concept that came out of Kitsap County called “hydraulic continuity.” Here is a link to an Issue Paper from 1997: + Link and the first paragraph:
“This issue paper examines Hydraulic Continuity, “the interconnection between ground water (aquifers) and surface water sources.” An aquifer is in hydraulic continuity with wetlands, lakes, streams, rivers or other surface water bodies whenever it is discharging to these water bodies. Continuity also exists when an aquifer is being recharged by surface water. Hydraulically connected ground water and surface water cannot be considered as independent resources. A withdrawal from one will have some effect on the other” (Draft Hydraulic Continuity Policy Paper, The Water Resources Forum). Under RCW 90.44, hydraulic continuity is described as any underground water that is “part of or tributary to the source of any stream or lake.” Any activities that impact recharge to ground water (e.g., changes to infiltration, evapotranspiration, or runoff), may have an impact on hydraulically connected surface water.”

The idea here is that the state owns all the water and they graciously allow us peasants to have some once in awhile. Of course, to control this resource, we have to have multiple layers of bureaucracy, which nickels and dimes people to death. Just pounding down a sand point and attaching a pitcher pump so you can have free water is not allowed. [The first time I did this was in 1971, by the way, when us dirty hippie commie pinkos were homesteading in northern Minnesota.]

Of course, Futurewise constantly asserts that we need “planning” because we don’t have enough water to go around. However, what they DON’T do is go after the real culprits here - senior water rights. In other words, Futurewise is complicit in a settlement that goes after new exempt wells while allowing senior water rights to continue - even though the senior water rights are the problem! Instead of going after the REAL criminals that are polluting the air, water, and soil, they focus on bit players like those who want to put down a straw into an aquifer on their own land so they can have a nice home life and maybe raise some food.

Of course, Eric and Futurewise will point to the grandfather clause that allows present users to keep their exempt wells (like myself), but the concept of hydraulic continuity shows how easily they can change course in the future. For those of you with a legal bent, this is the slippery slope argument, but Hey! if the Supreme Court can use it, so can I. To my mind it is a real worry.

In the long term, Eric and Futurewise suffer from some implicit assumptions that don’t hold up.
1) We need planning and so must submit to it. This is a false assumption because we can all see how “planning” is constantly corrupted by those with money to influence the process.
2) The state-level society we live in will continue forever and so we must submit to centralized political processes where the state owns basic resources. This is a false assumption, as the way of the world is breakdown of states, rise of the deep state all over the world, breakdown of states into clan-based regional polities (Libya, Syria), and a slow-moving collapse.
3) Holding the line with what we’ve got is NOT a solution. I don’t see Futurewise actually pressing for alternatives. If they were, they would be targeting the real criminals in Whatcom County - the dairy farmers who take water illegally and pollute the Nooksack and the neighboring aquifers and soil.

There are all kinds of problems with dairy. I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and we had 25 milkers and 10-15 head of youngstock on 173 acres. Contrast that sustainable model with a modern dairy farm in Whatcom with 400 head of milkers on 40 acres. In order to get the water they have to exceed their legal rights. In order to get rid of their toxic manure, they have to spread it all over the county and it makes its way into the watersheds. Futurewise would be better suited to target the 10 worst dairy farmers and drive them out of business. Muddying the waters by focusing on exempt wells is just adding insult to injury.

Walter Haugen  //  Sat, Jul 25, 2015, 10:50 am

Okay, for those of you who don’t want to wade through my response to Eric and the ongoing problem of contamination of streams, bays, and aquifers, let me make it REAL simple.

1) If you want to fix a problem, you have to first stop doing what created the problem.
2) Dairy farmers are polluting the Nooksack, the Bays and the aquifers with manure.
3) Dairy farmers are taking water illegally out of the Nooksack and the aquifers.
4) Senior water rights keep this bad old system in place.
5) Settlements and agreements that reinforce senior water rights are not solutions.

1) Stop all subsidies. This will drive most of the dairy farmers out of business.
2) Require all manure to stay on the farm where it was produced. This will drive the rest of the dairy farmers out of business.
3) Require polluting industries to pay for ALL costs of cleanup and treatment.
4) Stop ALL agricultural property tax exemptions. (Our tax bill will increase too but it is for the greater good.)
5) Stop ALL dairy exports to China and the rest of the world.

Ya get it? The main solution is to STOP the negative business practices.

One more thing. If an environmentalist tells you that you can have a cleaner world without a major depression that makes the Great Depression look like the Roaring Twenties, he/she is lying to you. YOU the consumer will have to take a major hit to your cushy, wasteful lifestyle if you want a clean world. No matter how many liberals and progressives tell you we can all have a comfortable lifestyle and still get off fossil fuels, they are LYING. This is known as astroturfing - appearing to be green and natural when just the opposite is the case.

Terry Wechsler  //  Sat, Jul 25, 2015, 1:20 pm

I agree with Walter. I don’t understand all the details to the extent that he does, but everything that I have learned supports his conclusions.

Whatcom Co.: 90 Million Gallons of Water a Day

Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 12:42 am  //  Guest writer

Eric Hirst provides us all with a well researched report on Whatcom County water issues - rights, Lake Whatcom, ground water and more.

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The difference between a threat and a promise

5 comments; last on Apr 03, 2015

Port Gives Away Our Bellingham Waterfront

Wed, Apr 01, 2015, 12:20 am  //  John Servais

Port of Bellingham today sold out our public waterfront to a foreign shell company formed 6 days ago. Sold it cheap and with a screwy arrangement.

32 comments; last on Apr 05, 2015

The Last Lessons of Dr. David T. Mason

Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:16 am  //  Guest writer

Kamalla Kaur worked with David Mason on his biographical materials and offers this tribute to his illustrious life.

2 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015

County Meth Ordinance Sent Back to Committee

Fri, Mar 13, 2015, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Whatcom County Council has sent discussion on changing the meth ordinance back to the Public Works, Health and Safety Committee


Robyn du Pre` Has Passed On

Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:06 pm  //  John Servais

Add your thoughts and remembrances. Robyn du Pre` was a stalwart and true environmental advocate for Bellingham and Whatcom County. She died this week.

9 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015

How the Party Treats Jeb and Hillary Tells You Everything

Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 10:39 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley shares some insight into the national political parties

5 comments; last on Mar 09, 2015

Dealing with Meth Contamination - A Race to the Bottom in Whatcom County

Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 6:31 am  //  Dick Conoboy

In a hearing, possibly on 3 March, the Whatcom County Council will consider an ordinance changing the rules for contaminated meth use sites.

1 comments; last on Feb 27, 2015

Rent-to-Own Scam on Tenants

Mon, Feb 09, 2015, 6:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Not all rent-to-own propositions are an unwise method to buy a home but some are schemes to rip off the unsuspecting tenant.


The Hidden Election

Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 9:34 am  //  Guest writer

No ballot mailed to you. You must request a ballot for voting in the Whatcom Conservation District election. Deadline to apply is Feb 9. By Barbara Perry


Little Hong Kong by the Bay

Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:56 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein Bellingham's billion dollar boondoggle is revisited

4 comments; last on Mar 03, 2015

A Call to Action to Support the Lummi Nation

Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 9:55 am  //  Terry Wechsler

The Lummi requested on Jan. 5, 2015, that the federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, honor Art. V of the Treaty of Point Elliott and deny…

1 comments; last on Feb 04, 2015

The Pickett House Museum

Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 12:32 pm  //  Guest writer

Adventures of George Pickett in the Pacific Northwest Wilderness

5 comments; last on Jan 28, 2015

Call to Action—Shell Anacortes Crude by Rail Proposal

Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 3:15 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

The fourth area refinery crude by rail infrastructure project to receive permits without benefit of environmental review is being appealed, and provides an opportunity to make precedent.


Riley Sweeney to Receive Paul deArmond Award

Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 12:13 am  //  John Servais

The second annual award for Citizen Journalism will be to The Political Junkie himself who runs the Sweeney Politics blog, Riley Sweeney.

2 comments; last on Jan 24, 2015

The Annexation Games

Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 3:07 am  //  Guest writer

Guest article by Sandra Alfers. Water and sewer connections drive unwanted annexation. Trickle Creek homeowners are muzzled by a "no protest zone."

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2015

A Walk With Hope

Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 10:14 pm  //  Guest writer

Ellen Murphy gives us a poem for this Martin Luther King day of remembrance.

2 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015

Dead or Alive: How do you like your herring?

Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 9:15 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the ridiculous is ridiculed

5 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015

Lodging Goals for Whatcom County

Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley guest writes about the vacation rentals situation and presents goals for the county council to consider for improving our rural neighborhoods.

1 comments; last on Jan 10, 2015

Water is Valuable

Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 1:16 am  //  Guest writer

Duuhhh! Try doing without it. Marian Beddill provides an overview of our rural Whatcom County water situation and the efforts to find fair solutions.

3 comments; last on Jan 08, 2015

Riley’s Top 5 Whatcom Political Stories of 2014

Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 1:23 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

The Herald gave us their top 10 stories, Riley gives you his top 5


Coal Ship Collisions Study Is Released

Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 5:04 pm  //  John Servais

One part of the environmental study for the proposed Cherry Point mega coal terminal has been completed and released. It deals with ship collisions - they call it…

2 comments; last on Dec 22, 2014

Twas the Week Before Christmas…

Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 12:26 pm  //  John Servais

Bellingham Public Works shows how tone deaf they can be to business concerns. They insisted on street work that takes away up to 80 parking spaces in Fairhaven…


Bellingham City Council Approves Rental Inspections

Tue, Dec 16, 2014, 3:51 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

7-0! City Council Unanimous. Rentals Will Be Inspected in Bellingham. Thanks go to WWU students for speaking out to city council.

5 comments; last on May 02, 2015

Council Moving Rapidly on Rental Registration and Inspections

Thu, Dec 11, 2014, 5:05 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Bellingham City Council has added an inspection component to the registration-only rental ordinance proposal of Councilmember Murphy

4 comments; last on Dec 16, 2014

New Year’s Eve and Consumer Fireworks - Ban in Effect

Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 6:37 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The ban on consumer fireworks that took effect last summer is valid all year, even New Year's Eve

1 comments; last on Dec 11, 2014

Ship Breaks Loose at Port of Bellingham

Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 1:31 pm  //  John Servais

The Horizon Lines ship - the many year resident of the Port of Bellingham - broke loose this morning due to failure of some system. A few photos.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2014

Whatcom County and the New Sharing Economy

Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 2:25 am  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley writes of how unregulated vacation rentals are invading the Lake Whatcom watershed. She urges action before the Planning Commission meeting on 11 December.

4 comments; last on Jan 03, 2015

War and Peace

Wed, Dec 03, 2014, 2:20 pm  //  Richard Lewis

Poet Richard Lewis reflects on Elizabeth Warren

3 comments; last on Dec 07, 2014

Prosecutor McEachran Calls Racism Charge “Preposterous”

Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 4:27 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein Whatcom's Klan heritage may be oozing from some cracks

8 comments; last on Dec 06, 2014

Where are the persuadable voters in the 42nd District?

Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 3:48 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley dives into the data with precinct maps and historical perspectives


Campus View Apartment Project Officially Defunct

Thu, Nov 20, 2014, 9:15 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Campus Crest Communities, Inc. has officially offered for sale the Lincoln St. property that was to be a student apartment development.

2 comments; last on Nov 23, 2014

Howard Harris Dies - More Testimonials Added

Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 1:51 pm  //  John Servais

Updated Nov 12. Howard Harris, the founder of the Bellingham silent peace vigil at the Federal Building in Bellingham, has died. He and Rosemary were leaders in our…


A Veterans Day Note

Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 2:34 pm  //  John Servais

On this Veterans Day, a note about how vets need our government to step up - as has never been done. And a personal note on the power…

3 comments; last on Nov 13, 2014

Lincoln Street Apartment Development May Be Abandoned

Thu, Nov 06, 2014, 6:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Campus Crest apartment complex may be the "victim" of a corporate restructuring plan.

3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2014

Doug Ericksen’s Tax Lien

Tue, Nov 04, 2014, 12:28 pm  //  John Servais

While smearing Seth Fleetwood over a common tax arrangement, we discover Doug Ericksen also has a benign tax lien - one he denied.

6 comments; last on Nov 11, 2014

A Recent GOP History in Not-So-Terse-Verse

Mon, Nov 03, 2014, 8:14 pm  //  Richard Lewis

Poet Richard Lewis weighs in on the Tea Party values



Sat, Nov 01, 2014, 12:29 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Or why to vote for Nyima, the dog, for County Prosecutor

4 comments; last on Nov 03, 2014

Election Recommendations

Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 2:18 am  //  John Servais

A link to Riley's Political Junkie for excellent recommendations - and a few thoughts of my own.

1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2014


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