Who Will Be Paying For Lake Whatcom Pollution?

Permalink +

Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 10:02 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Lake Whatcom continues to degrade while the county engages in endless delays in updating land use regulations mandated by federal and state laws and the Growth Management Hearings Board. The Whatcom County Council’s primary concern is clearly not the health and safety of 100,000 county residents who rely upon Lake Whatcom's drinking water. Lake water fails to meet water quality standards, requiring the addition of increasing amounts of carcinogenic chemicals. 

Proposed Lake Whatcom watershed stormwater standards have stalled while the council reviews the cost of compliance for development of smaller lots, as well as the amount of phosphorus generated by small lots in the watershed. The council is considering an exemption from proposed stormwater standards for small lots (less than 10,000 sq. ft) because they believe it might be too financially burdensome for developers. Under the proposed standards, all new watershed development could "only” exceed natural forested conditions by 25%. Council has not expressed interest in revisiting the 25% allowance. In other words, under any scenerio, revised stormwater standards would still result in excess phosphorus loading.

However, the county is under a requirement from the Washington State Department of Ecology to restore the lake’s water quality. This requires reduction in the level of phosphorus run-off from existing development. Additional phosphorus run-off from future growth will need to be included in the county’s water clean up plan, increasing the overall deduction in phosphorus runoff  that must be achieved. Allowing additional phosphorus run-off in the future makes it more difficult and costly to meet water quality standards.

So the county is also examining “potential offsets from the additional phosphorus loading resulting from the potential exemption” of small lots. And remember, the county will also need to off-set the additional 25% excess phosphorus run-off level that is proposed for all other new watershed development. 

The Planning Commission has provided the council with its suggestion for a “potential offset” to increased levels of future water pollution. They recommend council create a Lake Whatcom Management District, and assess additional fees on watershed residents.  Exhibit D of Agenda Bill 2012-117. (I have heard rumor that this fee could be substantial for watershed residents.)  

As a watershed resident, I am disturbed by the suggestion that I pay more in assessed fees than other water users. I moved into my watershed home years after it was built, and years after other watershed development degraded the lake. I hardly think I should pay more than others who had an active hand in damaging the lake’s water quality. And those responsible can not be identified by current geographical location.

The county and city had a responsibility to protect Lake Whatcom from degradation. They were on notice for many years that development was the primary source of degradation, and they have failed to enact adequate land use regulations. They continue to allow recreational use of the lake, and to permit more residential docks, even after the discovery of aquatic invasive species. The general public is at least a little complicit by re-electing officials who failed to make good on campaign promises to restore the lake. The people who profited from lax regulations were the developers who initially built and then sold watershed homes, and those involved in recreational watercraft activities.

Under this potential “solution,” existing watershed residents will be required to subsidize private watershed development. Future residents will be allowed to add to harmful excess phosphorus run-off levels. This will increase Lake Whatcom's water pollution, but those who are polluting will not be held responsible. Rather, the cost will be passed along in the form of an assessed levy against current watershed residents. We do not need a “solution” that protects the profits of private development, knowingly increases degradation of an important public resource, and passes the costs along to a targeted sub-group of water users.

I pay property taxes for schools, although I have no children. I also pay for other municipal services I do not use.  I have never objected to this. As part of our government system, we all contribute to necessary government services and facilities. But the “potential offset” solution suggested by the Planning Commission changes the rules. If approved by council, it would reflect the most blatant attempt yet to subsidize the profits of private development with public funds. Of course, council could recognize this as a bad idea, particularly if they received public comment.

The council’s Natural Resource Committee is reviewing the proposed Lake Whatcom stormwater regulations and small lot exemption on Tuesday, November 20, 2012. Tell the council that new watershed developers who pollute should pay for it.. and nobody else. All new watershed development should be subject to a zero excess phosphorus run-off standard in order to protect the lake, and effective stormwater standards should be enacted without unnecessary delay. 

Dick Conoboy  //  Sat, Nov 17, 2012, 10:02 am


The idea of the public or common weal (good) for which commonwealths were born is, unfortunately, long out of fashion. 


David Camp  //  Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 1:36 pm

“Under this potential “solution,” existing watershed residents will be required to subsidize private watershed development. Future residents will be allowed to add to harmful excess phosphorus run-off levels. This will increase Lake Whatcom’s water pollution, but those who are polluting will not be held responsible. Rather, the cost will be passed along in the form of an assessed levy against current watershed residents. We do not need a “solution” that protects the profits of private development, knowingly increases degradation of an important public resource, and passes the costs along to a targeted sub-group of water users.”

Well, County Council has to protect the profits of developers and jobs for County staff, after all, and who will pay for these but the taxpayer?

An analogous situation is Bellingham’s solid gold new sewage treatment plant, required for fictitious people expected to live in Bellingham at some point in the future. WHo pays for it? The developers who will profit from building houses? Of course not! We current taxpayers, for whom the existing sewage treatment plant is more than sufficient, have to pay for it. How else can Bellingham continue to grow but by taxing current residents more?

This would only make sense to someone whose job depends on continued growth.

g.h.kirsch  //  Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 3:02 pm

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but how does one argue it’s unfair that “... those who are polluting will not be held responsible.” while complaining when watershed residents are expected to, “... pay more in assessed fees than other water users.”

Notwithstanding any distinction between “existing” and “future” watershed residents, just why shouldn’t those polluting, now and in the future, be responsible, and refrain from passing on the costs of remediation to water users who are not polluting?

What theory of damages would make the injured liable?  It seems sensible to make the cost of living in the watershed punitive. 

If we haven’t the courage to simply stop development, it would be nice (though unlikely) if we were to render it financially unattractive.

Wendy Harris  //  Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 11:33 pm

Greg, I think you are missing something.  Under this proposal, those who develop new watershed lots will be allowed to pollute, and those who live in the watershed may (under the PC recommendation) be expected to pay.  The County proposal does not address existing development or redevelopment, which is a substantial flaw.  But this is not an excuse to levy me to cover the externalized costs of new watershed growth.

It is much easier to address phosphorus run-off when property is being designed. You can use LID design, do soil-amendment, retain existing vegetation, keep a small footprint. Given what we know now, there is no reason to allow any phosphorus loading from new development.

The problem of existing development is more complex and expensive.  I live at the bottom of a hill.  I tried to deal with stormwater run-off onto my property with french drains, native vegetation and installation of a basement sump pump.  However, because of infill and redevelopment, I now have more run-off onto my property than ever before. I have no problem complying with a retrofit standard, if one was ever enacted,  because that would prevent uphill residents from flooding my property and I could effectively deal with the problem. (In fact, I really would like to see this happen. The soggy puddling condition of my yard in the winter triggers serious breathing problems.)

But not all of the TMDL efforts will involve on site retrofits. There will be construction and funding of expensive capital facilities/stormwater projects, water processing plants,etc. I have lived here for 5 years.  I do not think that I should pay for the costs of degradation that occurred on a wide scale years before I even lived here.  This type of fee should be paid by all the water users.


Wendy Harris  //  Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 11:43 pm

David, the difference between the two situations is that in the case of the sewage treatment plant, the cost of growth was paid for by all city residents. Under the Planning Commissions recommendation, the cost of new growth will be assessed against other watershed residents, rather than all city water users.  It is bad to make the public pay the externalized costs of increased development, but it is even worse to make a sub-group of the public accountable for these costs.

Update on Lincoln Street Student Housing Project

Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 5:41 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The student housing project for 648 individuals called NXNW (North by Northwest) on Lincoln Street is moving forward briskly. This is an update.

6 comments; last on Nov 27, 2015

Tax incentives proposed for Fairhaven apartments - Updated

Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 10:41 pm  //  John Servais

Council to allow three weeks for written comments on tax exemption proposal for high density buildings in quiet Fairhaven neighborhood

9 comments; last on Nov 19, 2015

Accessory Dwelling Units - There Is No Rush

Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 4:30 am  //  Dick Conoboy

There is no reason to rush an updated ordinance on ADUs when we do not even know what the current number is or where existing illegal units are…

8 comments; last on Nov 25, 2015

Bellingham Updating Accessory Dwelling Laws

Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 5:33 pm  //  Guest writer

By Shannon Maris. Detached ADUs - the 'mother in law' mini cottages - are being considered by the city of Bellingham. This impacts every home owner.

3 comments; last on Nov 19, 2015

Veterans Day and Thanking Veterans

Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 4:23 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Some personal thoughts on thanking our veterans for their service

1 comments; last on Nov 11, 2015

Whatcom Co.: Voting and Vote-Counting with Integrity

Sun, Nov 08, 2015, 9:25 pm  //  Guest writer

An overview of Whatcom County's method of processing ballots and counting votes.

2 comments; last on Nov 14, 2015

Final Election Returns: Jail Tax Rejected

Fri, Nov 06, 2015, 4:37 pm  //  John Servais

Satpal Sidhu wins council seat. Virtually all the ballots are now counted. Challenges and a few special are left.

1 comments; last on Nov 06, 2015

Thursday Voting Update

Thu, Nov 05, 2015, 9:17 pm  //  John Servais

Jail sales tax is being rejected - and the NO vote is increasing. Sidhu - Kerschner still undecided. Props 2, 3, 9 and 10 all should pass.

1 comments; last on Nov 06, 2015

Wednesday Vote Changes

Wed, Nov 04, 2015, 6:45 pm  //  John Servais

Second tally of 10,000 more ballots is in. Jail sales tax is now being rejected. Probably 15,000 or more ballots to go.

2 comments; last on Nov 05, 2015

Important Election Issues Undecided

Wed, Nov 04, 2015, 12:05 am  //  John Servais

The first returns - probably 60% of the final vote - shows contradictory propositions passing and most candidate races decided.

7 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015

Growing Veterans

Mon, Nov 02, 2015, 8:04 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Growing Veterans was created to empower military veterans to grow food, communities, and each other.

2 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015

More on Propositions 1 and 9

Sun, Nov 01, 2015, 9:31 am  //  John Servais

Where more substantial evidence is presented against proposition 9 - and why you should vote REJECTED on it.

24 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015

NWCitizen Publisher’s Voting Choices

Sat, Oct 31, 2015, 2:02 am  //  John Servais

As an independent citizen and political junkie, here is how I am voting - with brief reasons for my choices.

8 comments; last on Nov 03, 2015

NAMI Whatcom Opposes Prop 2015-1

Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 6:56 pm  //  Tip Johnson

The latest addition and the issue in review


Dwindling Information Makes Voters Susceptible to Spin

Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 11:39 pm  //  Whatcom Citizen

A perspective on the our changing news system, the consequences, and the challenges for the future. With a suggestion of the solution.

5 comments; last on Oct 28, 2015

Info Slowmo

Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 3:32 pm  //  Tip Johnson

When they feel you just don't need to know

4 comments; last on Oct 28, 2015

The Mysterious State of the Whatcom County Jail

Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 1:57 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the operative information is $$$ECRET

3 comments; last on Oct 29, 2015

Effort to Stop Bakken Oil Trains

Sat, Oct 24, 2015, 1:26 pm  //  John Servais

Whatcom group plans meeting workshop to submit comments to Washington Dept of Ecology against Skagit/Bakken oil trains.

6 comments; last on Oct 26, 2015

Fairhaven Pharmacy Closes Today - For Real

Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 2:53 pm  //  John Servais

After 126 years in business, Fairhaven Pharmacy closes for the last time at 6 p.m. today. Historic Fairhaven Association to do Halloween photos.

1 comments; last on Oct 20, 2015

Louws Regrets Jail Mailer

Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 9:25 am  //  John Servais

County Executive - and candidate for reelection -Jack Louws has written county officials with his regrets over jail mailer.

8 comments; last on Oct 24, 2015

Let’s not squander the next 30 years

Sun, Oct 18, 2015, 11:37 am  //  John Servais

The jail sales tax proposition is a road to perdition for our county. It is a waste and has been deceptively promoted.

4 comments; last on Oct 20, 2015

Making a Jail: Bamboozle!

Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 4:52 pm  //  Tip Johnson

With a smarmy October Surprise

9 comments; last on Oct 19, 2015

Court: No Radio Towers in Point Roberts

Thu, Oct 08, 2015, 7:14 am  //  John Lesow

A Canadian radio station is trying to install huge radio towers in Point Roberts for a Canadian audience. Citizen movement has fought them.


James King Resigns as Bellingham Parks Director

Sat, Oct 03, 2015, 2:47 pm  //  John Servais

James King to return to Alaska and take job with U.S. Forest Service. Mayor will appoint a new parks director.

1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2015

Just Say No - to the Incarceration-Industrial Complex

Fri, Oct 02, 2015, 10:48 am  //  David Camp

The "... new jail just doesn't pencil out", writes a well qualified accountant. A look at the future costs of the proposed jail.

11 comments; last on Oct 09, 2015

Alternative Jail Proposal for City Center

Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 4:54 pm  //  John Servais

There is a good alternative for a decent jail - but we first must vote down the jail sales tax proposal in November.

5 comments; last on Sep 24, 2015

Wendy DeFreest is Opening a ‘Burger Joint’

Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 3:37 pm  //  John Servais

Wendy DeFreest, of Avenue Bread, will open a new "burger joint" called The Filling Station by late October in Fairhaven. It will not be a sandwich cafe.


That Louwsy Jail Deal

Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 5:26 pm  //  Tip Johnson

FEMA camp or new county seat?

13 comments; last on Oct 15, 2015

A Learning Moment - Hopefully

Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 8:42 am  //  John Servais

Beware walking RR tracks on the Fairhaven waterfront in the event of unexpected encounter with a high speed train

2 comments; last on Sep 18, 2015

Second Water Main Break on Donovan in a Year

Mon, Sep 07, 2015, 8:06 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Mains a' bursting - Avast!


Homeowner to city: Please buy me out

Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 9:17 am  //  John Servais

Padden Creek daylighting project strays far from city promises to homeowner that his property would remain intact.

4 comments; last on Sep 05, 2015

How Our Community Can Welcome Our Troops Home

Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 4:11 am  //  Guest writer

Christopher Brown guest writes how traditional communal warrior reintegration practices could help our returning combat veterans.


Black Lives Matter, Occupy WS & Whatcom Jail

Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 6:55 pm  //  Whatcom Citizen

A Whatcom Citizen writes of protest movements and how our proposed county mega jail is related to them.

15 comments; last on Sep 04, 2015

$15/hr Minimum Wage - Seriously?

Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 4:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Moves to set the minimum wage to $15, even if successful, are woefully insufficient. And why aren't people speaking out about abusive work scheduling?

2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2015

Local retired librarian injured by police

Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 11:17 pm  //  Guest writer

Bruce Radtke, a retired Bellingham librarian, reported to be assaulted by police for handing out leaflets

5 comments; last on Aug 27, 2015

Predictive Policing Comes to Bellingham

Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 2:39 pm  //  Guest writer

Is the tail wagging the dog? Edward Alexander guest writes on why predictive software for our police needs basic questions answered before purchase.

1 comments; last on Aug 22, 2015

Gunfight at Cornwall Park on Wednesday

Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 10:29 am  //  John Servais

Nothing in the Herald this morning, so NWCitizen is informing citizens of shootout at Cornwall Park.

1 comments; last on Aug 13, 2015

Whatcom Conservation District Elections

Sun, Aug 09, 2015, 10:52 am  //  Guest writer

Barbara Perry has been researching the secretive election processes of the Whatcom Conservation District. Really secretive. Probably fraudulent.

1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Election Results - Aug 4 Primary

Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 7:09 pm  //  John Servais

9:52 - final post for tonight. A running blog about the election results on this August evening. Feel free to comment.

8 comments; last on Aug 06, 2015

The Hansen’s Giant Rental Megaplex - Part 2

Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 9:14 am  //  Dick Conoboy

While the city deals with permitting on the Hansen rental megaplexes, the council has asked for proposals from staff on design standards for historic areas.

9 comments; last on Aug 07, 2015

Whatcom Co.: 90 Million Gallons of Water a Day

Tue, Jul 21, 2015, 11:42 pm  //  Guest writer

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

10 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Electromagnetic Radiation: Who’s Looking Out for You?

Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 3:13 pm  //  John Lesow

The fight to keep Point Roberts from becoming a Radio Tower Farm is not over.

3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015

Kudos to Our Police

Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 4:38 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Bellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.

6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015

Lois Garlick was our hero

Thu, Jul 09, 2015, 7:27 am  //  John Servais

Lois Garlick has died. For many decades, she and George served as environmental stewards and leaders in preserving wildlife and nature.

2 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015

Whatcom County Council adds ballot measure

Wed, Jul 08, 2015, 8:27 am  //  John Servais

Last minute political maneuvering by liberal council seeks to counter conservative review commission ballot proposals.

1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Charter amendments approved

Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 8:13 am  //  John Servais

The Charter Review Commission made Monday evening's meeting their last - and forwarded 8 charter amendments to the County Council

3 comments; last on Jul 08, 2015

Family Home For Rent: $44,000/year

Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 4:34 am  //  Dick Conoboy

For Rent: York neighborhood, new, 7 bedroom single-family home, near WWU. Only $44,000 a year. City planning not paying attention.

6 comments; last on Jul 09, 2015

Charter Commission Tricks

Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 3:30 pm  //  John Servais

Two dirty tricks by the uber-conservative minority on the Charter Review Commission aimed to put their agenda before the council.

3 comments; last on Jul 07, 2015

Drought Tree Emergency!

Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 1:55 pm  //  David Camp

Trees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.


Fireworks and Clay Butler

Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 6:47 am  //  Dick Conoboy

If your 4th of July holiday is much more quiet this year, you can thank Clay Bulter who passed away at the end of May.


A Tale of Three Rezones

Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 4:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Samish Neighborhood Plan has been the subject of three undesired rezones in the last year. The city ignores its own guidelines to the detriment of all.


County prosecutor plays cruel games

Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 5:00 pm  //  John Servais

Updated at 6 pm. Our county justice system has spent 6 years trying to teach Luba Pekisheva that she should not defend herself. Justice denied and miscarried.

8 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015

Proposed New County Lockup - Financial Analysis

Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 4:00 pm  //  David Camp

A look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.

8 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015

Hansen-Iron Street Rental Megaplex Planned for York Neighborhood

Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 2:49 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Three extraordinarily large (7-bedroom) single family home rentals are proposed by developers Dave and Jon Hansen on Iron St. in the York Neighborhood.

7 comments; last on Jun 10, 2015

Chiara D’Angelo comes down from anchor chain

Mon, May 25, 2015, 7:17 pm  //  John Servais

Young Chiara spent 3 nights hanging from the anchor chain of Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger as a protest to arctic oil drilling.


Flash Mob Protests Arctic Drilling

Thu, May 21, 2015, 10:50 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we ponder the fate of humanity


Joy Gilfilen Declares for County Executive

Mon, May 18, 2015, 10:17 pm  //  John Servais

Joy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.

4 comments; last on May 20, 2015

85 County Single Candidate Elections

Fri, May 15, 2015, 5:10 pm  //  John Servais

Running update of who is filing for office in Whatcom County. Posts during day Friday and final update Friday evening.

4 comments; last on May 17, 2015

Updated:  Ski to Sea Tries to Bully Bellingham

Wed, May 13, 2015, 4:30 pm  //  John Servais

Updated | Ski to Sea race does not need to race through sensitive Chuckanut Community Forest Park for special mountain bike leg. City did not renege.

10 comments; last on May 15, 2015

County proposes free pass for vacation rentals

Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 1:05 pm  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley writes a second article on the increasing number of vacation rentals - and the County Council bill to let them expand dramatically.

4 comments; last on May 02, 2015


Election Info

Auditor Election page

State Results - Nov 3
Whatcom Results - Nov 3

Coal, Oil & Trains

Coal Stop

Community Wise Bham
Powder River Basin R. C.

Local Blogs & News

Bellingham Herald

Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
Cascadia Weekly
Ferndale Record
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Latte Republic
League of Women Voters
Lynden Tribune
Noisy Waters
Northern Light
Twilight Zoning
Western Front - WWU
Whatcom Watch

Local Causes

Chuckanut C. Forest

City Club of Bellingham
Conservation NW
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lake Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
RE Sources
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
Transition Whatcom
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice


- Whatcom County

Port of Bellingham
Skagit County
State Results - Nov 3
US House
US Senate
US Supreme Court
US The White House
WA State
Whatcom COG

NWCitizen 1995-2007

Early Northwest Citizen

Weather & Climate

Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Climate Audit
Nat Hurricane Center
NW Radar
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?


Adventures NW

Bellingham Wins
Edge of Sports
Entertainment NNW
Famous Internet Skiers
Recreation Northwest
Sailing Anarchy

Good Web Sites

Al-Jazeera online

Alaska Dispatch
Arab News
Asia Times
Atlantic, The
Change The Mascot
Common Dreams
Crosscut Seattle
Daily Kos
Daily Mirror
Drudge Report
Foreign Policy in Focus
Guardian Unlimited
Gulf News
Huffington Post
Innocence Project
Irish Times
James Fallows
Jerusalem Post
Joel Connelly
Juan Cole
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Le Diplo
Media Matters
Michael Moore
Middle East Times
Nation, The
New American Century
News Trust
Online Journal
Palestine Daily
Palestine News
Paul Krugman
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Progressive Review
Project Vote Smart
Sea Shepherd
Stand for the Troops
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
The Intercept
the Oatmeal
Tom Paine.com
War and Piece
Washington Votes

Quiet, Offline or Dead

Bellingham Register

Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Bob Sanders
Carl Weimer
Chuckanut Mountains
Citizen Ted
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
David Hackworth
Facebook Port Reform
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Jack Petree
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Northwest Review
Protect Bellingham Parks
Sweeney Politics
The American Telegraph
Wally Wonders