Re-committing to a clean, protected Lake Whatcom Reservoir

Every March, the governments of the Lake Whatcom Management Program join together to assess their previous year's work, lay out actions for the future, and re-commit to our greatest community vision: a clean and protected Lake Whatcom Reservoir. Why is this annual meeting important? It is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the Lake … Read more

Mar 07, 2014 - by Mayor Kelli Linville and City Council President Cathy Lehman

Every March, the governments of the Lake Whatcom Management Program join
together to assess their previous year's work, lay out actions for the
future, and re-commit to our greatest community vision: a clean and
protected Lake Whatcom Reservoir.

Why is this annual meeting important? It is an opportunity to pause and
reflect on the Lake Whatcom Reservoir, and on the fact that it is the
drinking water source for 100,000 people – over half of all residents of
Whatcom County. It is a time to remember that it has irreplaceable
ecological, recreational and aesthetic value. It is an opportunity to
re-commit, and to recognize together that our determination to improve Lake
Whatcom water quality is increasingly paying off.

The City of Bellingham, Whatcom County and the Lake Whatcom Water and
Sewer District make up the Lake Whatcom Management Program. The annual
meeting is a joint meeting of the Bellingham City Council, the Whatcom
County Council and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District Commissioners.

The Joint Councils and Commissions meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March
26 at Bellingham City Hall. We encourage community members to attend and
provide an opportunity for public comment. For those who cannot attend, the
meeting will be videotaped and aired later on BTV10 and posted on the City
website.

2014 an important milestone

This year's meeting marks an important transition to a new era of program
planning, administration and action, guided by greater knowledge, experience
and success than ever before.

Our work to reduce bacteria and nutrients entering the lake is guided by
five-year work plans. These work plans describe our principal program areas
and define local government investment in the watershed. The participating
governments have developed and implemented three five-year plans since
entering into a joint working agreement in 1998.

Each plan builds successively on past work as our community learns more
about how to improve water quality, deliver projects and programs, and
improve accountability. While the current work plan (2010-2014) addresses
federally-mandated reductions in fecal coliform bacteria and phosphorus
entering the lake, it does not provide assurance that reductions can or will
go far enough to achieve our vision. The next work plan, to be prepared this
year for the 2015-2019 period, must show how these reductions can be
accomplished and how they will be financed.

This will be a major milestone in the management of Lake Whatcom and will
move us much closer to achieving a forever clean and protected source of
drinking water, and a viable habitat for wildlife and people.

Building on knowledge, experience and success

The effort begins with greater knowledge and experience than ever before.
Successful demonstrations of phosphorus reduction — like those alongside
Northshore Drive and at Silver Beach Creek — together with improved
modeling and analysis, have advanced our understanding of how and where
phosphorus enters the lake.

We no longer dispute phosphorus reduction goals, but focus our energy on
getting work done on the ground. Today, we largely agree that the
watershed's phosphorus footprint must be restored to near its
pre-development condition around the lake. To achieve our vision, we must
remove phosphorus from our landscapes, stabilize our soils, infiltrate our
runoff, and treat remaining stormwater before it reaches Lake Whatcom.

Our community’s work during the last five years proves that we can
succeed in this. We have delivered a host of phosphorus reduction and
watershed protection projects, investments that have resulted in:

  • Collecting and treating stormwater from 1,090 acres
    of developed landscape;
  • Managing and protecting 11,000 acres of land;
  • Upgrading stormwater infiltration and treatment on
    82 private lots and two schools;
  • Removing 775 lots from future development;
  • Reducing our yearly phosphorus footprint by over
    300 pounds.

We have learned to effectively design and build stormwater facilities for
our unique urban environment, to provide meaningful incentives that leverage
private investments, and to deliver targeted messages to residents who can
make the biggest impact. We have learned that success demands government
action and public participation, so we work to inspire, cajole and provide
incentives for good stewardship by watershed residents and visitors.

And we have done this together: the city, the county, the water and sewer
district, the Sudden Valley Community Association, other watershed residents
and concerned citizens throughout our Whatcom County community, with the
support of our state government funding partners and others.

Re-committing to a clean, protected Lake Whatcom

This year’s Joint Councils and Commissions meeting marks a transition
from envisioning a clean and protected lake, to making choices about how and
when it will be achieved. Participating councilmembers and commissioners,
with strong support from their respective administrations, will consider a
joint resolution establishing strong and meaningful expectations for the
next five years and beyond. In doing so, they will re-commit us to achieving
our greatest community vision.
We hope the citizens of Bellingham and greater Whatcom County will honor and
embrace our leadership on this vital community resource and support a
forever clean and protected Lake Whatcom Reservoir.

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