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City Council Chambers
Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 06:30 PM
Book: 65, Page: 1

Special Meeting

Called To Order The meeting was called to order by Council President Stan Snapp at 6:32 PM

Roll Call
    Jack Weiss, Council Member, First Ward
    Gene Knutson, Council Member, Second Ward
    Barry Buchanan, Council Member, Third Ward
    Stan Snapp, Council Member, Fourth Ward
    Terry Bornemann, Council Member, Fifth Ward
    Michael Lilliquist, Council Member, Sixth Ward
    Seth Fleetwood, Council Member, At Large


Lake Whatcom Joint Councils and Commission Meeting

County Council members present: Sam Crawford, Carl Weimer, Tony Larson, Barbara Brenner, Bill Knutzen, Ken Mann

Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District members present: Leslie McRoberts, Laura Weide, Ian Millar

Staff: Clare Fogelsong, City of Bellingham; Jon Hutchings, Mike McFarland, Whatcom County

Jon Hutchings provided a history of the watershed and the Lake Whatcom Management Program and its goals. The Lake was a working lake for over 100 years. Currently the Lake suffers from low oxygen and high fecal coliform. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) allocates phosphorus loading to different sources. This is an extension of the Federal Clean Water Act and the process is administered locally by the Department of Ecology (DoE). The focus of cleanup is both phosphorus and fecal coliform. Meeting the TMDL standards is tied to receiving needed state permits, and failure could result in fines and 3rd party litigation. Hutchings presented a timeline of the TMDL process. In 2008-2010, the local agencies focused on getting a work plan for 2010-2014 that serves as the local response to the TMDL. Next, a detailed implantation planning process will begin.

Hutchings reviewed 2000-2010 program history and accomplishments. In 2010 the Silver Beach Pilot project was initiated, including capital projects, homeowner incentives and stewardship, and local monitoring for changes in phosphorus and fecal coliform. This drainage area contributes the most pollution to the Lake. Hutchings reviewed capital projects and programs including: HIP, rain barrels, outreach, and monitoring. Projects completed by Sudden Valley and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District were also reviewed. Hutchings also reviewed planned 2011 Silver Beach Creek improvements including county stormwater projects. One looming issue is how to pay for maintenance of all these capital projects.

Clare Fogelsong continued the presentation focusing on upcoming activities. An invasive Species Plan will be before the Councils in 2011. By 2014 about one-third of the residential units in the City portion of the watershed will be retrofitted. The HIP program is also being extended to the County.

Fogelsong reviewed the City’s cost-benefit study, which will be done by a consultant and will result in a report on phosphorus reduction per unit of spending for a number of types of projects. The Lake Whatcom Policy Group will be used to help finalize the projects to be reviewed. It is scheduled to be completed in Summer 2011. Regarding forest practices, the state Forest Practices Board is updating standards and may amend some of the harvesting rules. There will also be a local meeting convened with landowners to discuss bringing private forestry into compatibility with the Landscape Plan.

Mike McFarland reviewed the reconveyance of lands administered by the state Department of Natural Resources to the County. There will be about 8000 acres reconveyed. The state is blocking up the trust lands, which makes them easier for DNR to manage and creates lands for reconveyance that are contiguous with existing County parks and preserves. The reconveyance will allow removal of about 9 miles of roads and eliminate the need for building an additional 20 miles. The lands going to the County would cover two of the three primary streams entering into the lake. The forest cover when mature will reduce potential for mass wasting, and 1 mile of shoreline will be transferred to the County.

Barbara Brenner. The Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan will prevent logging on steep slopes.

Mike McFarland. The state gets lands more conducive to harvesting while the County gets lands closer to the lake.

McFarlane reviewed recent history of the reconveyance process. The timber appraisals have been completed. In May a public meeting will be held and a reconveyance resolution will be drafted.

Michael Lilliquist asked what happened the previous night at the County Finance Committee when the budget item for work already completed on the reconveyance was pulled out of the budget.

Sam Crawford. It was more of a question of timing. The administration will bring it back.

Ken Mann. I believe there was strong reluctance on the part of some County Council members to continue with the reconveyance.

Barbara Brenner. The Landscape Plan provides protection. It is better to provide funds for lot retrofits.

Mike McFarlane. Active forestry will continue on the remaining DNR lands.

Stan Snapp. It is important to note that the City has had to pay $22 million to protect 1,500 acres.

Jack Weiss. With the reconveyance 9 miles of roads would be eliminated and 20 miles would not be built.

Clare Fogelsong. About 728 developable lots have been purchased in the land acquisition program thus far.

Jon Hutchings summarized some upcoming policy issues for the Lake:
    Water and sewer services
    Invasive Species
    Forest practices (reconveyance; application of landscape plan)
    Cost-benefit review
    Program funding
    Governance strategy

A general discussion amongst Council members and Commissioners ensued.

Bill Knutzen. Does the invasive species planning include invasive plants?

Clare Fogelsong. Right now we are focusing on Zebra and Quagga mussels but plants will be included at a later date.

Bill Knutzen. Can we provide information on invasives at boat launches?

Clare Fogelsong. There are 4 public launches and 2 private. The state is low on funds so enforcement right now is minimal.

Sam Crawford. Some states require inspections. Could we require this at Bloedel?

Clare Fogelsong. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is scheduled for a consulting visit this summer. We don’t want to have measures at one launch and just displace boats to other launches.

Barbara Brenner. Could we have sprays at public launches?

Clare Fogelsong. It costs about $10 to $20,000 per cleaning station. Some states have self-inspection programs. Hot water is used to remove the mussels. A jurisdiction could require inspection and spraying. There are some limitations on the potential for invasion because of the local water conditions. Any plan to be brought forward would have options.

Barry Buchanan. Could the Policy Group take up the issue of reconveyance?

Stan Snapp. The policy group is 3 jurisdictions but the reconveyance is a county-only decision.

Michael Lilliquist. A question is whether other governments will commit to land acquisition. Also, HIP is now funded by outside dollars.

Tony Larsen. A cost-benefit analysis is important. We need to know how to improve water quality by getting the best return from our investments. No new large funding sources for innovative projects will be likely.

Jon Hutchings. A cost-benefit analysis is also a central piece of the Silver Beach Pilot Project. Projects will be evaluated. Stormwater projects are very expensive. Geneva was a source of urban stormwater runoff near the City’s intake, so there was broad agreement to fund that. Tributary basins are being measured. There is large variability from year to year. We are also tracking costs of projects in each basin. We know generally what to do but not how to get the biggest bang for the buck. The Policy Group will help identify projects to be compared.

Clare Fogelsong. The Silver Beach pilot project will track changes in water quality in response to a large number of projects.

Michael Lilliquist. Bang for the buck may come out of studies, but policy makers must identify resources.

Tony Larson. We have less resources available in this economy.

Bill Knutzen. The Puget Sound Partnership has identified dollars for water quality projects. Can we seek grant funding?

Jon Hutchings. We are always seeking grants. Some current projects get moved up in priority if we have grant dollars.

Barbara Brenner. Purchasing potentially developable land is the most important. According to the DoE, lot-by-lot retrofits will get us the biggest bang for the buck. Conservation Futures funds may also be a source of dollars for Lake Whatcom projects.

Jack Weiss. The reconveyance would prevent 20 miles of roads. Roads are also development. The flood control tax has been collected for 20 years. In the watershed, about $25 million has been collected, but only about 10% has been spent on lake improvements. Can we use some of these dollars for stormwater improvements?

Jon Hutchings. About a third of the floodwater fund tax goes into stormwater. Recent revenues have been about $2 million per year. Some money goes into salmon recovery. About a half or a third goes into management of river systems. Recently $1.2 million was swapped out to the general fund. In 2011 about $1.7 million will be available for capital improvement in Lake Whatcom projects. Some monies for this are from Real Estate Excise Tax.

Sam Crawford. As revenues go down there is more pressure on existing sources and there will be pressure to shift flood control dollars to the general fund. As for County responses to the City’s requested closure of exempt wells, what is the current response to that? The DoE has said the standards are not yet where we need to be. We want to do better with development standards. There is a water resource protection overlay in County code. Where are we with new development standards – there are hundreds or thousands of lots that could be developed.

Jon Hutchings. Improved development standards are in the planning process. This was part of the 2010-14 plan. The City’s 2009 Silver Beach standards of protections are the comparison. Because of land use differences this is harder to extend to the entire County. We are looking for better consistency. Right now we are using SEPA to ensure protection on large lots. As a result of the petition from the City we will do what was planned but on an accelerated schedule. In June or July of this year there will be a staff report to the Planning Commission.

Stan Snapp. The hope would be that the County would move in the direction of the City standards.

Barbara Brenner. Can we have a review of the Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan standards?

Jon Hutchings. I will review the issue with interested Council members.

Sam Crawford. This is not the venue to debate the value of the reconveyance project.

Michael Lilliquist. From the work plan, the review of development plans is shown as taking one-third of one staff member’s time.

Jon Hutchings. The work will be done on a compressed schedule. Much of the background work has already been done. Many of the changes are straightforward and will mostly involve stormwater standards.

Michael Lilliquist. Will the standard be zero or near-zero runoff?

Jon Hutchings. The code is not consistent throughout. The County relies on SEPA for some reviews which may lead to inconsistencies.

Leslie McRoberts. Retrofitting existing development is far more important than preventing additional development. Why are we not spending more on existing development rather than preventing new development?

Clare Fogelsong. There is a new report on developable lots coming out that will be distributed when it is available.

Seth Fleetwood. When will the cost-benefit study be completed?

Clare Fogelsong. We expect it by June or July.

Stan Snapp. Can we get a brief synopsis of the Silver Beach pilot?

Clare Fogelsong. The project will be ongoing. The homeowner Improvement Project is the showcase, and it is just getting underway. We have funding through 2014.

Jon Hutchings. There are 5 facilities total that will be built and 485 acres will be treated. Much of it is in Hillsdale and Tweed 20. The benefits will accrue over time.

Stan Snapp. About 50% of watershed residents did not think the Lake was in decline in an earlier survey. Awareness may be increasing.

Jon Hutchings. Source control is the key. Government has to decide how far it will go.

Carl Weimer. Funding is the biggest elephant in the room. Most of the work that is already underway is well targeted and backed by research findings. We are still short of dollars especially since flood control monies were drained for the general fund.


Marian Beddill. We need a review of all sources of pollutants, including car washing, lawns, etc.

Wendy Harris. I question the statistical data on the Silver Beach ordinance, especially the comparison between fully forested and fully engineered solutions. The best result will be from a watershed-based plan, and a full restoration of ecological functions. There is too much emphasis on stormwater. Where can the public access data showing trends in water quality? The TMDL is based on the Clean Water Act. The Shoreline Management Act is neglected. Lots of developments are being allowed under conditional use. The County recently allowed the building of a dock for a seaplane. This will amplify the invasive species problem geometrically. It is not just new development, existing development has a cumulative long-term impact. The cumulative impacts need to be taken into account when assessing individual project proposals. SEPA DNR’s are being allowed for new docks, when in reality there should be a requirement for mitigation.

Arlene Eskin. 12 years ago a culvert was put in near her property, and her parcel and a neighboring parcel were responsible for maintaining it. Now it is failing. Land clearing above the lot has increased runoff. Fixing it would cost $20,000. City staff are working up a LID and have told her there is no money available to help compensate for it. The water is coming from county lands.

Kirk Christensen. A new project is being planned this summer for upstream to reduce summer flows. Construction would occur in 2013.

Mary LeDonne. Thanks to all for coming tonight. Many City and County staff come to the Geneva neighborhood to help residents understand issues. Thanks for the watershed gardening program. Some neighbors are changing their views on the need for measures to protect the Lake.

Dean Martin. The County is updating standards for rural development. How many additional lots will be allowed after the rural update?

Sam Crawford. Staff has not completed an analysis of a 5 acre standard with a 2 acre overlay. It is estimated now there are 30 to 40 new lots possible, after the changes 15 to 20 would be allowed if an overlay is used. The Planning Commission originally wanted a straight 5 acre standard. Staff is working on the analysis.

(Speaker not identified). Signage directing people to use Lake Louise Road to Sudden Valley rather than Lake Whatcom Boulevard has been taken down. Putting the sign back up would be an inexpensive solution to direct pollution away from the Lake.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:38 PM. Stan Snapp, Council President

ATTEST: Mark Gardner, Policy Analyst

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.