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Mayor's Board Room
Monday, November 14, 2011, 10:00 AM
Book: 65, Page: 1

Special Meeting

Called To Order The meeting was called to order by Committee Chair Seth Fleetwood at 10:04 AM

Roll Call
    Seth Fleetwood, Council Member, At Large
    Michael Lilliquist, Council Member, Sixth Ward
    Barry Buchanan, Council Member, Third Ward
    Gene Knutson, Council Member, Second Ward



Lake Whatcom Reservoir and Natural Resources Committee discussion of Cost-Benefit Study of Phosphorus-reduction activities

Staff: Clare Fogelsong, Ravyn Whitewolf, Bill Reilly, Ted Carlson, Rory Routhe, Mark Gardner, John Carter, Martin Kjelstad.

Other participants: Amy Carlson, Phil Martinez (CH2M HILL); Stan Snapp.

Seth Fleetwood. The agenda for today is a discussion of the study of costs and benefits of phosphorus-reduction activities in the Lake Whatcom watershed. The study was previously reviewed by the Lake Whatcom Policy Group.

Clare Fogelsong. This is the study done by CH2M HILL which began this summer. We selected 36 activities from the 2010-14 work plan and the citizen task force recommendations. We created a common denominator to compare the cost-effectiveness of these activities. Education components were examined in a separate analysis. Some tasks were dropped because research was not there to provide an understanding of costs or benefits, and some regulatory measures were not viable for the analysis.

Phil Martinez. An additional handout provides some background context to the study, both what it included and what it did not include.

Seth Fleetwood. I will recommend allowing the Watershed Advisory Board (WAB) to look at the report.

Clare Fogelsong. We are looking for feedback on any gaps, what makes sense and what does not, and on what questions still need to be answered. Any initiatives arising from this work would come from the Council. We are not going to make policy recommendations as a result of the study at this time.

Seth Fleetwood. Does the Council need to formally bless this study?

Clare Fogelsong. I don’t think it’s required. It is a background document and will be used when staff bring policy or action issues to the Council.

Amy Carlson. I want to be clear about what the study is and isn't. It is hard to compare so many different types of activities, you are comparing apples to oranges to goldfish. The benefit is phosphorus reduction, not the community benefit of various activities. For example, planting street trees may have aesthetic benefits but we only look at phosphorus reduction. The costs include public costs but do not include costs borne by the private sector such as developers. Some activities do not have all costs included, i.e. land acquisition for bioinfiltration. Costs also do not include tax revenue losses from changing the zoning, or costs to property owners for land development regulations or forestry regulations. Costs are first year costs, not life cycle costs. Asian clams are not included as a factor in the analysis. Data to compare costs and benefits is from a literature review as well as from the City or the County. Anecdotal information on performance of a particular activity is not included. Note that activities cannot be implemented everywhere. We can’t multiply everything by total acreage in the watershed. The first phase is to characterize and rank the costs and benefits and identify those activities that are most cost-effective. Adding the life cycle costs would be valuable, e.g. 10 year. We might also add something on implementation constraints as well.

Seth Fleetwood. If costs are public, why are some land acquisition costs not included.

Amy Carlson. We did not include these costs because land acquisition is not needed for each application of some of the activities.

Phil Martinez. The need for acquisition varies and is not needed everywhere.

Clare Fogelsong. Also, acquisition costs would vary by where the land was in the watershed.

Michael Lilliquist. Were you aware of the Council’s request for analysis of regional infiltration facilities and land acquisition for infiltration? Resistance to this idea had to do with the cost of land and analysis of this activity should be included.

Amy Carlson. I was not aware of that proposal.

Bill Reilly. In an earlier analysis I provided average land acquisition costs for a number of properties. On the lake shore it is $1 million per acre, if not on the shore it is $600,000 per acre.

Michael Lilliquist. It is frustrating that land acquisition costs are not included for regional infiltration activities.

Clare Fogelsong. We have an understanding of the technology and land acquisition is a part of that approach.

Michael Lilliquist. One of the things holding up the surcharge proposal was the cost of the program as proposed.

Clare Fogelsong. We did look at the costs within one particular area.

Michael Lilliquist. I thought the study would formalize findings of the estimate of the costs of regional infiltration.

Clare Fogelsong. We can get actual costs from real data. We can add that but it was not something that we needed to research.

Michael Lilliquist. This is something I brought up with Council a year and a half ago and asked staff to work on implementation. About 9 months ago we were asked to put off the analysis for the cost-benefit study.

Gene Knutson. Wasn’t there going to be an analysis of the water and sewer rates apart from this before we went ahead with the surcharge?

Ted Carlson. The timing is up to Council. Our staff put a water, sewer, and storm rate analysis into our 2012 budget. It would make some sense to look at the surcharge at the same time.

Michael Lilliquist. In the surcharge proposal there were two components, land acquisition costs and public works construction costs.

Bill Reilly. The study will go to the Watershed Advisory Board for review, and staff are also making comments. Better information on property acquisition has been requested. We are close to our budget maximum on the study itself.

Michael Lilliquist. At the annual Joint Lake Whatcom meeting of the City, County, and Water and Sewer district I raised the point that whatever we do, it will cost money. The Council needs to start providing resources. We need to act on the watershed surcharge.

Seth Fleetwood. That is not the issue for today. We need a conversation on how to do that. At the end of this meeting we’ll take that up and decide how we want to proceed.

Clare Fogelsong. At the Policy Group meeting we talked about the difficulty of evaluating treatment trains. It is difficult to guess at all the combination of treatments that need evaluation. If we need to get into various sequences of activities we’ll need to figure out how to do that.

Seth Fleetwood. Was there anything that stood out that was a surprise or that would cause readjustment of priorities?

Clare Fogelsong. No.

Amy Carlson. Look at Exhibit 1. Programmatic activities are marked in green and those in blue are capital expenditures. Capital expenses are generally more expensive. Note also the difference between item 9a. v. 9b., new pervious pavement with infiltration v. retrofit of existing roads. Retrofitting existing infrastructure requires tearing up existing material. The cost differential is not a surprise.

John Carter. Are you equating these activities -- some are removing future loading and some reduce existing loading.

Amy Carlson. Yes, we are equating current and future loading.

Ravyn Whitewolf. For Michael’s request on infiltration would that be activity number 9, the bioretention raingarden.

Michael Lilliquist. It’s also number 10, the infiltration basin.

Amy Carlson. Note that many activities are under $1 million per pound removed but the costs go up significantly after that.

Gene Knutson. On the street sweeping, we are doing that now -- is that cost estimate from existing activities?

Ted Carlson. Yes, where available, costs are from existing activities, for example dollars per land mile of road.

Gene Knutson. Do we get any compensation from the County for sweeping?

Ted Carlson. When we purchased the sweeper we thought we might sweep County lands as well but that has not worked out.

Bill Reilly. We bought the sweeper using a grant from Ecology and it is shared between the County, Ferndale, the Port of Bellingham, and Bellingham.

Martin Kjelstad. The costs per lane mile include replacement costs of the equipment.

Ted Carlson. The costs of equipment and sweeping etc. are included, that is built into our hourly rate.

Amy Carlson. The information in the study is not new but it is a good reality check on existing activities.

Ted Carlson. We identified numerous activities in our work plan and also from the citizens group. We did not have costs for many types of projects as well as corresponding phosphorus removal. Now we have that. There is a huge value in getting cost information on these.

Rory Routhe. The best value from the engineering perspective was learning how much phosphorus reduction we get per activity for the cost.

Bill Reilly. We are still in the midst of reviewing the study. There will be changes in information on the cost basis of some items. It is a good template, but we need to continue to work on this so we have the best data.

Clare Fogelsong. Can you give some examples of how the ranking may change?

Bill Reilly. Bioretention rain gardens are at the bottom. The original information came from Public Works data.

Clare Fogelsong. Will it change position in ranking?

Bill Reilly. Some of these things will go to the middle of the rankings. The findings showing prevention is cost effective is good. Bioretention Rain Gardens will need to be looked at carefully. For our HIP project we are doing Rain Gardens and lawn modifications at very low cost. That information is not reflected yet in the study.

Amy Carlson. We are taking comments and not all are reflected yet in the study. It is a work in progress.

John Carter. Does the analysis show how much reduction of Phosphorus load will occur if all the tasks are fully implemented?

Amy Carlson. This relates to the question of how much can we implement different activities. You can’t implement Rain Gardens everywhere. Somewhere in the middle of the graph is $1 million per pound. You need to remove 2500 pounds on an annual basis watershed wide so that would be 2500 times $1 million per pound.

John Carter. That’s on the theory you could remove it all.

Michael Lilliquist. About 4,000 pounds are moving into the Lake annually but to meet the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) we need to remove 2,500.

Rory Routhe. The short answer is no, we didn’t do that analysis. If council wants the next phase of a study we could go further to provide more information.

Michael Lilliquist. Regarding activity number 10, infiltration basins, it is one of the lower cost activities and it has 100% Phosphorus removal. But I’m not sure that you mean by infiltration basin.

Amy Carlson. We need to add a sentence on what we mean by each. Basins are similar to infiltration ponds.

Bill Reilly. It looks like a pond but sometimes there’s no water in it.

Ravyn Whitewolf. It assumes 100% infiltration but if you look at the soil types in the watershed it is pretty unlikely.

Amy Carlson. The conditions needed for 100% infiltration may not be widespread.

Bill Reilly. One of the next things to do is add information from the infiltration study of the watershed. Information on the soils that are there could be added along with information on property costs.

Michael Lilliquist. For the project this analysis was based on, was substantial amendment to the soil needed? In the watershed we may have to do some amendments.

Amy Carlson. I don’t recall, I will find out.

Martin Kjelstad. When it says there is 100% infiltration it means everything is going down into the ground and getting treated. With other activities such as Rain Gardens and bioinfiltration there are underdrains so you are not getting complete treatment as you would with full infiltration.

Bill Reilly. Some of these have underdrains that go to infiltration facilities, that is why we have better performance out of our Rain Gardens.

Amy Carlson. This study does not provide all the information needed when deciding to implement an activity at a certain site – you need to look at feasibility, steep slopes, soils etc.

Michael Lilliquist. What is the difference between Rain Gardens which do not work well and infiltration basins which theoretically could work very well in the right soils?

Amy Carlson. It has to do with the effect of underdrains. You are not getting full credit because you are allowing that water to be untreated.

Michael Lilliquist. You may actually be exporting phosphorus if you pick it up in the Rain Garden and the underdrains are allowing movement of water that may have picked up more phosphorus.

Bill Reilly. We have been doing work on Rain Gardens and infiltration to deal with the export issue to determine what soils can treat phosphorus without exporting it. Ongoing work on this has resulted from our HIP program.

Amy Carlson. This ranking can help inform prioritization for putting together a program. Items on left should be implemented fully depending on constraints. The second tier are other activities that can be implemented as resources are available.

Seth Fleetwood. What would be helpful to ask of staff and the consultant? What general direction can we provide to result in a finished project?

Ted Carlson. Staff needs to finalize comments and respond to input. What else would the committee like to see?

Seth Fleetwood. The Watershed Advisory Group would like to review this.

Clare Fogelsong. It is on their agenda for this month.

Michael Lilliquist. We have used most of the money allotted for the study. The study does not include private sector costs, land acquisition costs, or a 10 year window for life cycle costs. Can we drill down on cheaper infiltration activities and add in other costs?

Phil Martinez. We are taking in comments. New information does not substantially change the results. We will take into account new information to improve the analysis. Some of the other things require an additional level of effort, e.g. adding in private sector costs.

Bill Reilly. What about the inclusion of land costs?

Phil Martinez. It depends on what level of specificity. In some cases there are costs and in other cases there are not.

Ted Carlson. Some of this can be done within the existing contract or with a minor amendment. I recommend not answering the treatment train questions. Each project will get full analysis. Often projects are tied together for numerous reasons. If the Council adopts a surcharge or if we do it through our rates such as water or storm, we will identify a list of capital projects. We could call it a 6 year watershed program for capital projects. I would like to have us look at one time v. long-term costs.

Seth Fleetwood. What is your reaction to adding a summary statement or executive summary to the report?

Clare Fogelsong. We will write a brief summary.

Ravyn Whitewolf. The majority of the infiltration projects we have done have been in existing right-of-way corridors. We could add some land costs for the type of projects we do.

Bill Reilly. With regional infiltration basins, property acquisition is a component. You may need to do it for that one in particular.

Michael Lilliquist. There may be limited opportunities for regional infiltration facilities. In some cases there are things already built that preclude this, or the soil conditions will not support it.

Ted Carlson. I think we can build on the project example that Bill provided.

Bill Reilly. I want them to look at this independently too.

Seth Fleetwood. We want to emphasize better bang for the buck. But this study does not identify a full protection program, we may do all the inexpensive things but still need to do more expensive activities to get where we need to go. Will this type of information be in the TMDL Detailed Implementation Plan?

Clare Fogelsong. We need to focus on more than the TMDL. Protecting the City’s water supply is the most important. We could be in compliance with the TMDL but still have issues with the County not being in compliance. Water supply system standards should be a priority.

Seth Fleetwood. What do we do if present efforts are insufficient?

Bill Reilly. One indicator included in the city metrics tracking project is phosphorus in Lake Whatcom. We are using a model to calculate removal of phosphorus resulting from projects. The study will help us get at costs. We may not need to get to the top end stuff. The County needs a similar process. The city is only 10% of the watershed. We have been doing projects in the Lake for some time. I hope to spend stormwater dollars elsewhere in the City at some point.

Ted Carlson. The rate study will help us understand this. We’ll have to meet other requirements such as marine water quality issues. We’ll need to meet permit requirements such as NPDES and also understand our capital requirements.

Michael Lilliquist. Can I get committee interest in looking further in Activities 10 and 8, Infiltration basins and infiltration trenches? We are already doing a number of regulatory things. These are the next steps in terms of removing phosphorus.

Ted Carlson. We will look at this including the analysis of soils in the watershed, and regional infiltration where we incorporate the cost of land.

Bill Reilly. Infiltration is most important but will not be the total solution because it has some limitations.

Seth Fleetwood. What is the timeline for changes to the study plus the summary -- several weeks?

Ted Carlson. A couple of weeks is possible, say 2-3 weeks. The WAB is looking at it now so that feedback would be incorporated. We can respond to the Committee via a memo.

Seth Fleetwood. We you planning to present a summary slideshow to the full Council?

Ted Carlson. That is up to the Council. The study is not a magic bullet but does provide very good information, now we have costs and efficiency information.

Seth Fleetwood. Let’s turn to a new order of business. We have the surcharge proposal. We discussed this early in the year. There is energy to do something on that this year.

Gene Knutson. We could put it on the December 7 agenda.

Seth Fleetwood. Does anyone object to putting it in a meeting at least in committee this year?

[Committee: no objections]

Michael Lilliquist. Could we recommend it to the full council now?

Seth Fleetwood. Staff is still looking at some items and the ordinance is not complete yet. We should provide a final recommendation on the ordinance and we’re not quite there yet. At the August meeting, a hardship exemption was an issue. What is needed from staff before a final ordinance is ready?

Ted Carlson. We are looking at an exemption program for low income people. A senior and disabled exemption program is already in place. We used research from the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) to get examples of utilities that have low income exemption programs. It is not common but there are some. Sometimes a county takes the lead on identifying low income criteria. Someone can get a certificate that they bring to a utility. Our Finance Department has a concern regarding staff impacts for determining eligibility, and on the utility billing process. My concern is, right now we have 500 or so people on the low income senior discount. This affects the whole utility bill not just the surcharge. If we went to 4-5000 people this would have a large dollar impact on a utilities’ revenue.

Seth Fleetwood. The Committee blessed the idea of having a hardship exemption for the surcharge portion.

Ted Carlson. We’ll have a proposal for that. We want to clarify the phasing out of a utility tax. Is this still on the table? The WAB had a proposal to phase out the utility tax on the surcharge over time. The tax is 11 percent. The general fund would be made whole and then the tax would be phased out over three years. Is that something you would like us to bring forward?

Gene Knutson. We could look at it, yes.

Ted Carlson. If the Committee decided to bring the ordinance forward on the 7th we could bring that forward too.

Seth Fleetwood. Is the 21st too soon?

Ted Carlson. John Carter would not have input yet by that date. We need analysis of the percent that would go to non-capital projects. The study was going to help drive this.

Seth Fleetwood. The last draft was half stormwater and half acquisition.

Michael Lilliquist. I am against a rigid formula since the projects may vary from year to year.

Seth Fleetwood. We wanted to identify the best bang for the buck. It does not have to be rigidly 50-50. Many people object to land acquisition. We want to be able to say that this is both for land acquisition and for stormwater.

Ravyn Whitewolf. We may want to roll over any dollars from year to year so bigger projects could be done.

Ted Carlson. We will put the new position of aquatic invasive species coordinator in the budget. The bigger question is, what is the program going to look like – we are talking about mandatory inspections etc. We are looking at a scale of options that go from $500,000 to $1 million a year. Existing rates cannot support that. We may need a water rate increase. Or we could fund part of it from the surcharge. If there is a $7 surcharge, a 4 or 5% rate increase could come out of the rate study. We may need surcharge dollars for some of these projects. The ordinance may need some flexibility to fund those types of programs.

Seth Fleetwood. So we would broader the draft to include land acquisition, stormwater, and invasives?

Ted Carlson. Or, to allow non-capital programs.

Michael Lilliquist. Or prevention programs. I’m in favor of allowing discretion especially because the Council will be making these choices publicly.

Clare Fogelsong. You could phrase it in terms of supporting the 2010-14 work program of the lake management program.

Ted Carlson. Should we bring back the ordinance as it is?

Seth Fleetwood. We would like to see the final working draft, including the low income exemption and the broader language for uses of the dollars.

Michael Lilliquist. Are we looking at a $7 increase still?

Seth Fleetwood. That is what is in the draft right now.

Stan Snapp. I am worried about the invasive species plan. We are delaying the bad stuff rather than figuring out how to keep it out. When will that come back for Council discussion?

Clare Fogelsong. We will bring this back in December.

Stan Snapp. The Water District commissioners have even discussed a ban on non-resident boats.

Clare Fogelsong. Note that there may be at least 3 incidents of invasion from clams.

Michael Lilliquist. The County Council is not involved in discussions around budget for this.

Clare Fogelsong. We presented this issue to them.

Ted Carlson. We are looking at a program of mandatory inspections and how to fund it, and will develop a cost-of-service model including revenue from inspection fees or licensing to help support this. We need to find out what can be covered by rates. At the state level - only State Department Fish and Wildlife (DFW) employees are allowed to do enforcement. We would like to use city staff, police officers, etc.

Clare Fogelsong. We do have ability to use local staff for enforcement at our inspection stations. DFW staff are required only if you have a program pulling people over on the freeways. That was good news and we won’t have to be down in Olympia to try and change this. Idaho and Oregon have a program but Oregon’s is not very effective. Idaho is doing a good job. Washington’s program has been cut back. Idaho has a tax on boat licenses that goes to invasive species prevention. They intercepted 65 boats from Lake Mead last year. Lake Mead is required to notify other state agencies when a boat leaves Lake Mead, but they notified Idaho 4 times out of 65. I’d prefer if we had a ban that it be a moratorium rather than a complete ban. Then we can get a program up and running.

Seth Fleetwood. A moratorium implies temporary whereas a ban is permanent.

Clare Fogelsong. A moratorium would be for the purposes of getting a program up and running.

Michael Lilliquist. Will job qualifications be brought back for the new invasive species position?

Clare Fogelsong. The description is already completed.

Seth Fleetwood. The meeting is adjourned.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:36 AM.
Seth Fleetwood, Lake Whatcom Reservoir and Natural Resources Committee Chair

ATTEST: Mark Gardner, Legislative 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.