Lake Whatcom Management Program a win for the community

City, County, water district work together to protect our reservoir

May 04, 2015 - by Mayor Kelli Linville, County Executive Jack Louws and Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District General Manager Patrick Sorenson

​​​by Mayor Kelli Linville, County Executive Jack Louws and Lake Whatcom
Water and Sewer District General Manager Patrick Sorenson

We are happy to report to the community that through collaboration, hard
work and a commitment to improving our primary drinking water reservoir, the
Lake
Whatcom Management Program (LWMP)
is showi​ng success in protecting this
valuable community asset.

This program, established in 1998 by an Interlocal Agreement between the
City of Bellingham, Whatcom County and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer
District (LWWSD), is founded on our long-standing commitment to protect,
preserve and enhance the water quality of Lake Whatcom. Last year we worked
with our Councils and Commission to reaffirm our efforts and establish
milestones for removing phosphorus and bacteria from storm water entering
Lake Whatcom.

Since then, we have clarified the work, costs, and funding necessary to
restore lake water quality to a near-natural condition. Our collaborative
efforts are reflected in the ​2015-2019 Work Plan. We are pleased to report
that we remain on task and on schedule toward achieving a clean and
protected source of drinking water and a healthy habitat for wildlife and
people.

Last year we said that this program would set a new bar for cooperation
between City, County and LWWSD on the protection of our drinking water
supply. Last month, we stood before our Councils and Commissions with an
aggressive yet pragmatic plan for the next five years of work and a shared
funding package that will get the work done. That plan was adopted
unanimously by all three bodies.

Programs showing prog​ress

The actions contained in our five-year plan show that the LWMP can and will
deliver on the community vision of a clean and protected water supply for
future generations. The City, County and LWWSD are directing more local
funding to the LWMP than ever before and have made a long-term commitment to
meet Washington Department of Ecology requirements to determine the actions
needed to return the lake to acceptable water quality standards. Any outside
funding will accelerate our work to meet our objectives — and we will
aggressively pursue all funding options.

The Lake Whatcom Management Program is now more than 12 percent of the way
toward reaching Ecology's phosphorus reduction target of 3,000 pounds. Under
Ecology's requirements, the target must be reanalyzed using updated water
quality and streamflow data. That work is already underway and will inform
the program's response to the findings.

We are committed to continuing programs that are successful in protecting
our lake, including the City’s extension of right-of-way improvements along
Northshore Drive, County right-of-way improvements along Lake Whatcom
Boulevard, completion of the County’s second phase at Coronado and Fremont
Roads in Geneva, and our joint project to treat the steep hillside above the
lake near Academy Road.

We have committed to an expanded program to refit high-density residential
areas in the City and County. Beyond the developed areas that we are
mandated to address, 63 percent of the watershed area is protected from
future development via public ownership and Commercial Forestry Zones that
cannot be developed. A phosphorus neutral plan for co​unty park lands is just
getting underway, led by the County Parks Director.

The City and County are also conducting market research to inform how to
most effectively engage residential property owners in productive dialog
about storm water and phosphorus reduction. The joint work is aimed at
identifying the best combination of information, incentives and technical
support to achieve the biggest residential phosphorus reductions.
Constituents will be receiving the first invitations to participate during
the coming weeks. In the past two years, 120 residential properties have
been retrofitted under the Homeowner Incentive Program.

Working cooperatively to protect our future

None of this is successful without the participating staff and community
members maintaining the highest level of teamwork and productivity. This
plan presented to our Councils and Commission in April, when held against
the backdrop of committed, ongoing capital work, is the preview of what
success will look like in the Lake Whatcom watershed — visionary
collaboration, financial cooperation, and plain hard work.

The City, the County and the LWWSD will continue to meet annually to discuss
program accomplishments and goals for moving forward. We are committed to
being strong advocates and partners for protection and improvement of lake
water quality — for the 100,000 current residents of Bellingham and Whatcom
County who get their drinking water from Lake Whatcom and for future
generations to come.

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