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Monday, May 03, 2010, 06:30 PM
Book: 64, Page: 1

Committee Meeting

Called To Order The meeting was called to order by Lake Whatcom Reservoir & Natural Resources Committee Chair, Michael Lilliquist.

Roll Call
    Stan Snapp, Council Member, Fourth Ward
    Michael Lilliquist, Council Member, Sixth Ward
    Barry Buchanan, Council Member, Third Ward




Presented by: Clare Fogelsong, Public Works Environmental Resources Manager
John Hutchings, Whatcom County Public Works
Steve Hood, Department Of Ecology
Kirk Christensen, Stormwater Engineering Manager
Kym Fedale, Public Works Environmental Educator
Kim Weil, Planning and Community Development Planner

Clare Fogelsong introduced the 2010 – 2014 Work Plan with a Q & A forum open to the public that will attempt to address questions concerning the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Program Work Plan and its process.

Public Comments and Questions:

Marian Beddill: Posed a question regarding information, or lack of information regarding pollution amounts in the upstream areas. What kind of a database registry does the City have to document the quantity of pollution that flows through the Lake?

Clare Fogelsong: Responded by stating that there is not parcel by parcel information. We (City Staff) do have generalities as to what kinds of pollution come off of the land use areas, and assumptions as to how much is coming off those parcels. This information is represented by the monitoring of the tributaries in the Watershed. Monitoring these tributaries can render a better idea of which tributaries contribute to the majority of pollution entering the Lake. There are only generalities.

John Hutchings: The information is captured to the extent where models were done in a gross sense; over two years of data collected by the Department of Ecology for the purpose of developing some concept of how loads are allocated among various sub-watersheds. What is recognized is that there is possible data in a number of these watersheds where extrapolations were made that need to be corrected. In other words, there’s additional information, as stated by Marian Beddill that needs to be collected. As we begin to figure out where to best spend public money for correcting some of these problems it’s going to be in the best interest to apply more focus on each of those sub-watersheds such that we can figure out and evaluate which land or which direct investment will result in the biggest bang for the buck. The reality is that there is not enough data. Ms. Beddill stated she "would accept city block scale".

Marian Beddill: Using my knowledge from being a past engineer and researcher, unless you have a source for raw data that can run through the steps of the model, your presumption for solution is based on a presumption of a likely beginning condition rather than a stronger sense of knowledge of a beginning condition. Closely related to that is the other set of data discussed in the past: soil and sub-soil conditions in the unplanned basins. Among the solutions is capturing and retaining the flow with its pollution content, and using sub-soil infiltration as a treatment technique to prevent the flow from going into the Lake. But in order to do this you have to know if you can effectively put the water underground, while respecting and understanding all the layers of the soil and their characteristics in terms of their capacity to absorb—knowing the sub-soil and sub-sub soil. So my question is, how much of that mapping data or documentation of that short term capacity has been done and is there room for improvement?

Clare Fogelsong: Bill Reilly and his group did some sub-sampling recently and will report results soon. Western Washington University is currently doing some sampling as well that should have results by the end of the quarter, June or July. What Marian Beddill described is actually the intent of the current infiltration program. To try to gain a better understanding to what the capacity of the soil is throughout the Watershed, and to tailor infiltration and projects to reflect that capacity. We won’t know that until we go through the first round of getting infiltration projects on the ground.

John Hutchings: It’s also important to note that every time you engineer an intervention like this requires some kind of infiltration engineering facility to do exactly what we’re talking about—retain infiltrate water, that kind of analysis is done as part of the engineering. If you are going to assist or incentivize the application on people’s private property you don't want to have to go out and invest in soil samples if you can have it done by the residents.

Kirk Christensen: That’s an issue that we have to deal with.

Kym Fedale: We surveyed nearly 100 sites in Bellingham to do the soil infiltration testing and phosphorus testing. Results are being tallied right now and will be available within the next couple of weeks to the public. The results from this survey and infiltration projects that we hopefully plan to do on residential sites will help us to know when to gauge what type of pollution that is coming off specific sites. We will be able to talk specifically to affected residents to see what type of behaviors are going on in each individual parcel. Right now we have roughly 5 pilot projects that we are beginning to discuss and hopefully, will be able to launch.

John Hutchings :The importance of getting that information right is clear now. It’s important that it’s correct so we can gauge how much water can be readily infiltrated into the soil and ultimately work its way through the Lake naturally, through natural sub-underground pathways without having a significant impact on other homeowners. It’s a fair-bit more complex than simply getting the water into the ground. That’s a really good point to make.

Mike Meyhee: Do all the years and years of dumping from all the mills, dead logs and saw dust get discounted or do they have anything to do with the degradation of the land? You see all the bubbling coming up from the Lake bed itself .

Clare Fogelsong: We understand that there’s a legacy load that is being caused that is from past practices around the Lake, for example like the decomposing of logs. The studies coming from the Institute for Washington Studies provide factors by Dr. Matthews that play into the phosphorus cycle of the Lake; how these sediments are being held and released. We don’t have program in place to address this because there is really nothing we can do about it, besides dredging the whole Lake. So our plan is focused on land use and growth issues in the Lake. But absolutely, there is that load in the Lake that is causing problems which adds to the overall phosphorus problem.

John Hutchings: The Lake has been operating for 100 to 150 years which has led to some substantial setbacks. For example, the sediments loaded throughout the bottom of the Lake high in nutrients—those nutrients are being cycled. Regardless of what we do today, there will still be potential for them to continue. So, the idea is that we have control over what comes into the lake today by making some progress in the right direction which may create a condition in the bottom of the Lake that minimizes the opportunity for impacts that Mr. Meyhee is talking about. And that has been shown not only in Lake Whatcom but in other lakes that feed that mechanism from present day loading and its influence on stuff at the bottom of the Lake is something that you can influence.

Shane Roth: The “status” column (of the report) doesn’t clearly state when the money will run out. Could you make it more clear what year would be the last year of funding? I would appreciate it, as a citizen, if you wouldn’t restrict the information for each item to one page, because some of the items have a number of details that require more than one page for explanation since they are profoundly complex. I’d like you to spend some money on an extra page or two. It’s worth taking the trouble to actually get into detail, and any citizen that is willing to drill in deeper will appreciate it. Aside from general facts that are invariable, when it comes to things like behavior I want to know where I can go to find more details regarding information on Stormwater facilities. Is there any funding that would give more detail?

Clare Fogelsong: To address your first comment/question, when you compare the “status” column with the “cost estimate” column there should be a connection. So if the status column says “active and hold” the cost estimate table should not have all the funding completed for the full 5 years. So there should be a break. So when you run out of funding it should be on hold unless we get more funding either through grants or budgets. Now to address your second comment/question—How can you make it clearer so that the public has access to the details? The sub-situation details aren’t there yet, even for staff. We have conceptualized the task and intend to have a more complete description of the task and a way to then manage that task over the years. We will publish the staff documents to the public once they are available. There will be information regarding a Stewardship program. The booklet is currently being produced.

Kim Fedale: The Watershed Homeowner’s Guide is being produced right now that includes information and articles relating to this subject matter.

Clare Fogelsong: It’s a part of the Community outreach task here.

Shane Roth: The public is starved for information and a way to find it.

Clare Fogelsong: Keeping in mind where we were last year, we have moved extremely forward as the public is coming along and starting to understand this issue in more depth.

Sarah Smith: When are the residents of these watershed areas going to be given information as to what they can do immediately to try to remedy the situation.

Clare Fogelsong: We’ve had 2 public meetings in the Silver Beach area. Those are our attempts to try to gather the residents in the communities so we can give them the information, especially as they relate to Stewardship projects. Staff has determined that our former outreach programs haven’t been 100% successful. So we’re figuring out a way to get direct communication with the people we want to talk to--the people who we want to change their land use habits and take up the Stewardship project. The problem won’t get solved unless those people participate.Outreach staff is trying hard to make those connections with people by having workshops for infiltration projects and landscaping projects. We’re going to test this concept and if fails then we’ll revert to handing out mailings and brochures. We’re confident that this concept will work better.

Sarah Smith: Is there anything that you can tell people to do right now that might have an immediate impact without them having to take their time to go to these seminars?

John Hutchings: Yes, there are a number of things that you can do immediately. The start of gardening season is upon us so by heeding the ordinances that restrict the use of phosphorus products on your lawn and garden will have an immediate impact.

Kim Weil: In addition to banning the use of phosphorus products on your lawn and garden you should go to a car wash site instead of washing your car at home to avoid soapy water entering into the storm drain system. For pet owners, pet waste needs to be disposed of properly and placed in its proper place (garbage can or landfill). Properly dispose yard waste. The Clean Green is now open for disposals. Making sure waste isn’t being distributed in the tributaries or on the side of the lake. With any other type of normal pollution, try to make sure it’s contained. The big focus is making sure that waste doesn’t run off of people’s property or off the areas around Lake Whatcom.

Sarah Smith: I’m talking about productive actions to make an improvement. Can we go beyond reduction into the positive? Is there anything that can be done that can help speed up the process?

John Hutchings: There is a lot that you can do on your own property that will reduce the load that enters the public Stormwater system that runs up in the Lake. It requires some investment on your part, not necessarily monetary, but certainly going beyond the preventative. For example, how you design your yard to handle the water before it goes down into the storm drain. There are a number of pamphlets and outreach opportunities out there that these folks [staff present in the meeting] has access to that they could help you get in touch with.

Kim Weil: We adopted a new ordinance last July in the Watershed which affects new development and redevelopment. On the regulatory side, we’re doing on the ground things now. As a way to support that, we’re investigating what are good mulches to use and to advise people about proper mulches. We’ve got the Retrofit Stormwater infiltration project that’s going to be launched by Bill Reilly. In addition to outreach, as outlined in section 4 of the Work Plan we are doing the regulatory things.

John Hutchings: Ultimately, in the end we need to be accountable. We need to be able to demonstrate to the community at large, the tax payers at large, (and in the county that means really large) that the money we’re spending is going towards those activities that have the biggest bang for our buck and that they are justified in terms of the reduction in phosphorus loading. Ultimately, this will result in how much benefit the community will receive from the investment made. If we can get this idea of stewardship to catch, and people do to their own part on their properties it makes the public investment that much less drastic.

Clare Fogelsong: Another suggestion one could make is to reduce auto traffic which will certainly help reduce some of the other pollutants from getting into the Lake.

Yoshi Revelle: I biked here tonight. I wipe my car down when it’s lightly sprinkling outside without the use of soap. I limit my showers to 2 to 3 minutes. When each of us does a little something to make things a little bit better it all adds up. I appreciate what others are doing to help resolve the problem.

Clare Fogelsong: For the people just coming in: This is question and answer part of the meeting to be followed by public comment period.

John Hutchings: Does anyone have any comments that they would like to formally get on the record? There’s a number of ways for formal comments to be processed and make sure they become a part of this document. 1) You can email Clare Fogelsong using the email address provided on the city website. 2) You can write formal comments to both participating legislative bodies—The City Council and The County Council. Those comments are welcome up until two weeks from tonight’s meeting. We are mid-way through the 30-days comment period. The idea was that by 2 weeks into this, everyone has had the opportunity to read or scan over the document and come with some questions to that will help with constructive discussions. The hope is that this conversation will help get the community to that end. So are there going to be any formal comments tonight?

Michael Lilliquist: Now, returning the conversation back over to the committee, would anyone like to comment?

Stan Snapp: I’ve got a couple pages of comments. I can submit it to ITC so that you can have some time to go over it and Council can schedule another committee meeting on it. Or we can figure out some way to process them from there.

Barry Buchanan: I just have a general question. Going through this, it occurred to me that the 4th column over labeled “other”, there isn’t a whole lot of clarification as to what those funds are for. Can we get more clarification in that column as to where those dollars are going to be spent?

Clare Fogelsong: Generally the “other” column that has figures in it are for consulting costs and material costs.

John Hutchings: A number of clarifications need to be made so that the people understand.

Barry Buchanan: That column should have a footnote.

Michael Lilliquist: Yes, I recommend that. What we really need is a restoration plan, and this doesn’t feel enough like a restoration plan. It doesn’t feel like there’s enough assets being devoted to those things which are most important to devote our energies and assets to. In part because we don’t have the resources yet to do so. Also, this is supposed to serve as a legal purpose of the beginning of the first large installment TMDL study, which tells us that we have too much phosphorus. To meet our legal requirements we need to reduce that inflow not by a little bit, but by a whole lot, 70-90% reduction. I don’t know if we’ll get there and it’s disappointing, but I think that the problem lies outside the plan. We’re going to spend $14 million of the $28 million on land acquisition and will need funds for managing already acquired properties. Controlling undeveloped properties are minor components to the contaminants getting to the Lake. We know the major component is from our developed properties. I would have 60% going to Stormwater control and residential infill. Stormwater management gets 20% and that’s not good enough. A better plan would have better emphasis on Stormwater management. There is continued residential Stormwater retrofit program that needs more investments. I wanted to register my disappointment with this product and indicate that the blame doesn’t lie with the people that were given this assignment. Nor does it indicate my lack of support for this product as it goes forward. We need to rebalance our efforts in order to achieve our goal.

Stan Snapp: Some comments on the format: On the “Header Table”, the phosphorus reduction box suggests there be something there to reference TMDL. I didn’t find any references to TMDL going through the document, so we need to reference them. Also noting, few of them reference direct phosphorus reduction and fecal contamination. There are lots of issues with funding. Regarding most of the tasks, the performance measures are just restatements of the actions above that. I went through this and listed which ones should have a reporting requirement or some kind of numerical summation for the tasks themselves.

Clare Fogelsong: Can you give me an example of what you mean? We tried pretty hard to create a performance measure that has a measurable metric. Something that says more than just ‘we did good’.

Stan Snapp: Task 2.4 on page 20, Stormwater Management: conduct inspections and assessments. A number of permit and number of correction notices would add a report of enforcement efforts, so that we know what we insisted on was done. The amount of money invested in enforcement is minuscule. Restoration of stream riparian area has 2.6. , which is just two pages over. There are two very different tasks from the task force recommendation together. One is vegetative riparian buffers and the other seems to be industry restoration. I would suggest that we add a sheet and break those apart, as the task force recommended. What they don’t have is any end of the year report.

John Hutchings: Under performance measure under task 2.6 lists the 4 measures that will be quantitatively shown in that report. Each of those performance measure has something quantitative that can be offered up as a tracking mechanism

Stan Snapp: Two of those were just added to the latest version. My version only has two, and now there are four.

Clare Fogelsong: Steve, can I address your comments about the TMDL motivation being more apparent? When we turned in initial TMDL response plan, you had to package it as it came. But will you weed out the ones that aren’t directed at the TMDL, or will you leave it intact? If you decide to leave it intact it may be more beneficial to have some kind of sign to identify it as a TMDL indicator.

Steve Hood (DOE) : What I envisioned was that there would be a summary of implementation strategy. There are more details involved. My plan was to take these documents and come up with a strategy, understand any actions that will be taken, and outline a plan. Those things that form the strategy will give the EPA and the Public the confidence that this will be done. How much is enough? That’s the first task that is assigned. For a strategy level, in this document we’ve covered many of these tasks. We have to take things one step at a time. If you’re staff, know that this was a step in the right direction. Until we know if this is the right way to go it’s hard to set a budget if we don’t know that we’re going in the right direction.

Stan Snapp: In my comment about direct, indirect, and none reduction, a lot of the indirect and none are good things to do. For example task 6.1 and 6.2 has nothing to do with reducing phosphorus but is a good thing to incorporate this plan in the overall plan that the city has. It’s certainly noted.

John Hutchings: The Lake Whatcom Management program is about more than the TMDL. It’s about a whole variety of pollutants. It’s about water quality in general. The focus on phosphorus comes directly from the Clean Water Act.

Stan Snapp: I think the one section that disappointed me was the transportation section. The two pages written are just soft statements about putting in new roads. We’re fortunate here in Bellingham because we have two traffic engineers who both have planning backgrounds. Transportation is a huge part of the Watershed in protecting our streets and gradually converting our streets from impervious to pervious. It’s a huge and expensive undertaking. Last year, the Taskforce addressed one of the major areas in residential and this plan doesn't have residential at all. Now, we have the capital and enthusiasm to tackle this.

Clare Fogelsong: We are pretty focused on the residential landscaping task.

Stan Snapp: Some of those things, we’re not actually doing. The Taskforce doesn’t discern between what’s being done and not done.

Michael Lilliquist: This time is extended to the public with the invitation for further comments.


Note: detailed minutes requested by staff.


There being no further testimony the meeting was adjourned at 7:29 p.m.

Michael Lilliquist, Chair Lake Whatcom Reservoir & Natural Resources Committee

ATTEST: J.Lynne Walker, Legislative Coordinator

This is a digital copy of an original document located at Bellingham's City Hall. The City of Bellingham specifically disclaims any responsibility or liability for the contents of this document. The City of Bellingham does not verify the correctness, accuracy, or validity of the information appearing in this document.