Friday, April 25, 2008

What is the 2005 WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan?

Over the last few months, there has been considerable discussion of forming yet another Watershed Management Process (We have already had three other processes over the last 15 years) to address water quality issues in Lake Whatcom and Whatcom County.

The County is actively pursuing what is called the County Water Resource Integration Project CWRIP and the City is advocating the creation of a "Water Czar" to address water quality issues in Lake Whatcom.

Some of the proponents for a new process claim that the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan is dead -- which I find interesting, since I recently attended a Watershed Management Meeting at Whatcom County's Water Resources Offices. (I'm a board member of the Whatcom Water Systems Caucus (non-municipal purveyors) and one of the former Planning Unit Representatives for the Whatcom County Water Districts - back in 2001 & 2002).

(I'm including for your review a summary of Whatcom County's Watershed Management Plan and a list of concerns that were raised by members of the board of the Whatcom Water System Caucus earlier in the month).

The article below was drafted by our Planning Unit Representative and was submitted to Whatcom County Council members and Planning Unit members on April 9th. I'm solely responsible for what is posted above, so please direct your comments to me, not to our caucus.

The 2005 Watershed Management Plan (2005 WMP) was intended to be, and is, a comprehensive framework within which and process by which local water resource challenges, including all aspects of water supply, quality, water-dependent habitat and instream flow are to be addressed in a collaborative manner. While apparently slow and cumbersome, proceeding by achieving broad stakeholder agreement can yield long-term, stable and beneficial results for all parties – something that cannot be said for other approaches.

In the context of a looming basin-wide water rights adjudication, the 2005 WMP will prove more valuable still, as it provides the means to reach a settlement of that dispute that will have to be reached one way or the other.

Habits of mind apparently have misled many into thinking of the 2005 WMP as something other than what it is, and those habits have in turn led to problems with the County’s County Water Resource Integration Project (CWRIP).

You can’t fix a problem using the same thinking that created it. In the case of water resources the central problem is a piecemeal, scattered, compartmentalized approach that fails to build on past work and experience. The CWRIP was initiated precisely for that reason. Yet, it suffers from the very same problem it was intended to cure. The framers of the 2005 WMP also recognized the central problem of approach water resources in a compartmentalized manner, and the 2005 WMP was also explicitly designed to address it. There can’t be more than one comprehensive water resource process that truly meets the face value definition of the term.

Thus, while well-intentioned and potentially very useful, the County’s CWRIP was generated seemingly without regard to the relevant work accomplished in the 2005 WMP, including especially key sections of the March 2000 General Scope of Work and the entirety of the Natural Resource Policy Integration Program. Documentation of that allegation is provided herein.

One key factor that appears to have been overlooked is that the failure to use the work products of the 2005 WMP in formulating a CWRIP (or any other water resource-related policy, program, or project) is that the elements of the 2005 WMP are designed, through a carefully developed adaptive management process, to improve with use. If the elements of the 2005 WMP are not used, they will not improve, and not improving, they will become increasingly irrelevant over time until they are useless, whereupon the many years, millions of dollars, and thousands of person-hours expended upon them will have been totally wasted.

A proposal to rectify these problems is also provided herein. By scrapping current plans to form yet another citizen advisory committee to the CWRIP and recommitting itself to work within the framework and process already provided by the 2005 WMP, the County can bring itself back into compliance with the terms of the Joint Board/Planning Unit contracts and agreements, and improve the odds of making the CWRIP the fully successful program it can and should be.

There is a great deal at stake for the County in water supply issues, especially water rights. Even though the county has no water rights and provides no water service, it has a huge and unavoidable potential liability as the receiver of last resort for all water purveyors within the County that fail – and absent a means to address the water supply issues we face, those systems without rights, and even many of those with junior rights, stand to fail when (and its only a matter of time) the water rights code is enforced.

NOTE: The dutiful yet bored or impatient or extremely busy reader (and doesn’t that pretty much take care of everybody?) can jump to the last two sections of this document (proposed solution and what’s at stake for the County) unless they would rather dig into the discussion and joint the argument, in which case you’ll do well to read every word of the following.

Two key misconceptions, bred by the habit of sloppy language, are leading us astray:
During the March 2008 Planning Unit meeting County staff stated something like, “There’s more going on than just ‘the WRIA.’” This statement is either nonsensical or false, depending upon what it meant by it. It is also dangerously misleading, as will be demonstrated herein.

The first problem is the confusion surrounding the misuse of the term WRIA itself. WRIA 1 is nothing more than an acronym for Water Resource Inventory Area 1, a totally arbitrary designation for a specific geographic area that is not quite coterminous with the boundaries of the western two-thirds (or whatever it is) of Whatcom County. A state statute, the Water Resources Act of 1971, directed the Department of Ecology to define all of the major watersheds of the state, of which there are about 50 in total, and WRIA 1, comprising the Nooksack basin, coastal drainages such as Drayton Harbor, and the Lake Whatcom drainage, is just one of those areas; it excludes certain areas of the county, including those which drain down the eastern slopes of the Cascades. Some parts of Skagit County are included in WRIA 1.

When at the end of his epic exploration of what was to become the southwestern portion of the United States, Major John Wesley Powell made his report to the Dept of the Interior, he recommended that when county boundaries were established in what were soon to be western states, drawing county boundaries along traditional lines should be abandoned, in favor of using watershed boundaries. Had his remarkably prescient and tragically ignored recommendation become accepted, today there wouldn’t be a difference between Whatcom County and WRIA 1, they would be one and the same. Today, rather than the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Project, it would be the Whatcom County Water Resource Management Project. And that is what it is, save for the boundary issues noted above.

Why does this issue matter? Because it has become common – and dangerously misleading -- practice, ever since the Watershed Management Project was initiated, to refer to it as “the WRIA” as if it were something altogether foreign, or if it were just another project, and an obscure and odd one at that, rather than what it was intended to be (and will be, but only if put into practice), a comprehensive water resource management mechanism that applies to all jurisdictions within the geographic boundaries of WRIA 1.

In an ideal world, participants in the Watershed Management Project, especially the members of the Joint Board and all their staff, would henceforth refer to the Watershed Management Project or 2005 Watershed Management Plan as such, and stop using “the WRIA” as the handle for either. In reality, this misleading and damaging practice is likely to continue, but that is unfortunate.

It’s a framework and a process, not just a project or program.

The next, and far more serious, common conceptual error, again reinforced and perpetuated by language abuses, is that somehow “The WRIA” is just another program, like Critical Areas protection, or another project, like building a dam (or removing one J), and further, that it is conceptually and practically disconnected from any other water resource activities within Whatcom County. It is no such thing. The 2005 Watershed Management Plan was intended to be and is a comprehensive framework within and process by which all aspects of water supply, quality, water-dependent habitat instream flow is to be managed. So, to that extent, it is simply not true that there is more going on than ‘The WRIA.’

To document that assertion, consider these extensive excerpts from the 2005 WMP’s March 2000 General Scope of Work:

1.0 Initiation
1.1 Background

Beginning in 1998 and continuing over the next few years, decisions will be made and plans developed and implemented regarding the water resources of the Nooksack River watershed and certain adjacent streams (Water Resources Inventory Area 1 or WRIA 1). These decisions and plans will coordinate with the land use/resource management planning under the Growth Management Act, the Shorelines Management Act, and other similar Acts, along with planning/projects in response to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing for Chinook salmon and bull trout, and will largely determine the landscape, the environmental health, and the economic future of Whatcom County residents. Agencies of federal, tribal, state, and local governments are authorized to make these decisions. The state legislature, with agreements from federal agencies, provided an opportunity for watershed management decisions to be made locally.

In 1998 the State legislature passed Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2514, codified as RCW 90.82, known as the Watershed Management Act. The Act provides a framework to better understand the nature and extent of water resources issues and to locally plan and implement a variety of solutions to address those issues. More specifically, the Act requires the development and implementation of a Watershed Management Plan that:

· Balances the competing resource demands in the watershed;
· Provides for the economic well-being of the citizenry and community;
· Protects existing water rights;
· Is consistent with current law;
· Does not conflict with existing state statutes, federal laws including Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery actions, tribal laws, and tribal treaty rights; and
· Provides local citizens with the maximum possible input concerning their goals and objectives for water resource management and development.

Further on in the same section of the same document we find the following:

1.3 Implementation Strategy for Scope of Work

The purpose of this scope of work is to outline the general process, strategy, and actions necessary to address water resource issues in WRIA 1, including the actions taken to date. It provides the framework from which more detailed work plans will be developed and implemented. These work plans will include goals/objectives, specific tasks, budgets, who will implement, work products, and schedules.

From the foregoing, is it not extremely difficult to imagine how the intent of the 2005 WMP could be construed as anything other than a comprehensive framework and process within which all water resource management programs and projects within the delineated geographic boundaries henceforth would be conducted?

Further evidence from the same source abounds. Consider these excerpts from Section 2.0 of the same March 2000 General Scope of Work:

2.1.1 General Purpose/Goals of the Watershed Management Project
In general, the goal of the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Project is to have water of sufficient quantity and quality to meet the needs of current and future human generations, including the restoration of salmon, steelhead, and trout populations to healthy and harvestable levels and the improvement of habitats on which fish rely (9)

2.1.2 Goals of the Watershed Management Project Components
More specifically, the Project will address the following specific goals/purposes for each of the four components identified in the Watershed Management Act and the intergovernmental Memorandum of Agreement (MOA):

Water Quantity: The goal of the water quantity component is to assess water supply and use and to develop strategies to meet current and future needs (1). The strategies should retain or provide adequate amounts of water to protect and restore fish habitat (9)2, provide water for future out-of-stream uses and to ensure that adequate water supplies are available for agriculture, energy production, and population and economic growth under the requirements of the state’s growth management act (1).

Water Quality: The goal of the water quality component is to ensure that the quality of our water is sufficient for current and future uses, including restoring and protecting water quality to meet the needs of salmon and shellfish (9)
contact recreational uses, cultural uses, protection of wildlife, providing affordable, safe domestic water supplies, and other beneficial uses. The initial objectives of the water quality management strategy will be to meet the water quality standards (3).

Instream Flow: The goal of the instream flow component is to supply water in sufficient quantities to restore salmon, steelhead, and trout populations to healthy and harvestable levels and improve habitats on which fish rely (9)2.

Fish Habitat: The goal of the fish habitat component is to protect or enhance fish habitat in the management area (1) and to restore salmon, steelhead, and trout populations to healthy and harvestable levels and improve habitats on which fish rely (9)2.

The approach used in this project will explicitly recognize that the four project components are interconnected to a high degree. Actions intended to affect change in one component may affect one or more of the components. The approach will capitalize on the interrelationships between the four identified project components by systematically integrating the data collection and analysis efforts. The effort will be coordinated with other resource management efforts such as land use/resource planning, flood management, Salmon Recovery Project (NEAT/2496), and a myriad of other similar efforts.

From the foregoing, is it not clear that the 2005 WMP was to provide a comprehensive framework and process, and that any other water resource programs and projects already enacted would either be integrated into or coordinated with the 2005 WMP, and that that decision was mandated by the high degree of interconnectedness of the four components of the WMP? From the foregoing, is it not extremely difficult to imagine how the intent of the 2005 WMP could be construed as anything other than a comprehensive framework and process within which all water resource management programs and projects within the delineated geographic boundaries henceforth would be conducted?

If, to some readers, it is not yet clear, then consider the following, from the same section of the same document:

2.4 Linkage/Coordination with Existing and Potential Programs
A critical and required element of the watershed planning effort is to effectively use limited resources. To preclude a “reinvention of the wheel” and to avoid potential conflicts, the project participants will review, build upon, and coordinate with historic and current data, regulations, and programs (1,2). Tracking and providing input to potential new local, state, tribal, or federal regulations and programs that could affect the planning effort will also occur.

Historic, current, and potential new data, regulations, and programs should be considered in order to (7):
· Coordinate data collection efforts – data collection is occurring through many different programs. The quality (accuracy) of these data need to be evaluated and this information should be used wherever possible prior to collecting additional data. When additional data are collected, efforts should be made to ensure that all parties needing the data are involved in the design of the data collection efforts and in ensuring that the quality is acceptable for all anticipated uses.
· Understand potential constraints on management options that may exist due to local, state, tribal, and federal requirements. The watershed plan developed under the Watershed Management Act does not supersede other federal, tribal, state, or local requirements. However, a well-done watershed plan can provide a framework for federal, tribal, state, or local agencies to modify existing or pending actions.
· Coordinate potential funding. In some cases one or more programs may need the same information that is needed for the watershed planning effort. Costs may be significantly reduced by adequate coordination with other programs.
· Consider appropriate implementation tools. In some cases, solutions may be best achieved by modifications to existing programs.
· Determine how to handle proposed new actions that could affect the watershed plan. During the course of the watershed planning effort new local, state, tribal, or federal actions may be proposed. A strategy for ensuring that these potential new actions are coordinated with the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Project.

Some examples of the many programs and activities that need to be considered in developing a coordination strategy include: County-wide Planning Policies; Comprehensive Plans; Coordinated Water System Plans; Drinking Water Source Protection Plans; Shoreline Programs; Shellfish Protection Plans; Storm Water Programs; Ground Water Management; education and technical assistance programs, Salmon Recovery Plans; Instream Flow regulations; Critical Area regulations, and Flood Hazard Management Strategies.

In addition to the comprehensive scope of the 2005 WMP, it provided a means for evaluating solutions to water resource challenges, as follows, again citing the March 200 Scope of Work:

2.2 Criteria for Evaluating Proposed Solutions
In order to achieve the above goals, the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Project will initially develop a watershed management plan that identifies specific actions to address the water resource problems identified. It is anticipated that during the plan development, specific alternatives and recommendations will be considered. Specific criteria will be developed to assist in selecting the best alternatives. The following criteria are provided by the Guidance Manual and should be considered when establishing the criteria:

Effectiveness Criteria
· Overall Effectiveness – Among the alternatives considered, which do the best job of addressing the issue at hand?
· Cost Effectiveness – Which alternatives deliver “the most bang for the buck”, even if they do not completely address the issues of interest?
· Flexibility Over Time –Which solutions offer the ability to be readily modified over time, in response to changing conditions and new information?
· Potential Side Effects – Do some of the potential solutions appear to create new problems, or exacerbate existing problems?
· Equity Considerations-What are the differing effects on various groups and economic activities in the Management Area?

Feasibility Criteria
· Legal Authority – Do the implementing organizations have the authority to implement the proposed solution? If not, can ordinances or rules be adopted to provide that authority?
· Approvals/permits – What approvals or permits will be required, especially by organizations not represented on the Planning Unit. Are those approvals or permits likely to be granted?
· Cost and Funding Sources –How expensive is each alternative, and who will bear the cost? Will funding sources be available, both in the short-term and long-term?
· Administration and Staffing –What organization will administer each solution? Do they have the capabilities to do the job? Will additional staff be required?
· Integration with Related Program –How will each solution fit in with related programs and plans?
· Acceptability – Are solutions acceptable to participants, elected officials, and key outside organizations (e.g., NMFS)?

In developing the County’s Benefit Evaluation criteria for the “investments” identified during the CWRIP process to date, was any of the foregoing taken into account? If so, how? If not, why not?

Methodological confusion regarding the “Triple bottom line:

During the March 2008 Planning Unit meeting the representative of the Environmental Caucus asked whether the “triple bottom line,” wherein environmental and social costs, as well as direct dollar costs, was used in evaluating the project costs during the CWRIP benefit ranking process, and if not, why not. The County representative answered that only dollar costs were used, without much elaboration. The issue deserves further clarification, elaboration, and exploration. A comprehensive benefits and costs evaluation should attempt to quantify the environmental, social, and economic benefits along with the environmental, social, and economic costs of each program or project.

Typically, a shortcut is used in which it is presumed that the social and environmental costs of such projects as improving instream flow are nil, and that thus a more commonly used one-dimensional cost/benefit ratio is appropriate. That assumption might be valid in many cases, but is it in all cases? Can environmental projects have environmental costs? If, at least conceptually, the answer is, potentially, yes, then a more comprehensive three-dimensional analysis of costs and benefits might be warranted.

Indeed, one of the issues with the “sticker shock” affect of early estimates of the dollar costs of the full implementation of the 2005 WMP was that the dollar benefits were not quantified at the same time.

Part of the 2005 WMP included a socio-economic impact study. A Summary of Economic Conditions, a baseline report, was produced by ECONorthwest in October 2002. Revisiting that effort might prove useful in taking further action for the CWRIP as well as the 2005 WMP.

The specific problems for the CWRIP that arise from failing to take the 2005 WMP properly into account

1. Failure to build on the many years of work that the WMP embodied. Many elements of the WMP, as cited elsewhere herein, would have proven useful to any kind of CWRIP effort.

2. Reinventing the wheel. We don’t need yet another public process to address water resource issues. We already have one. To start up another one certainly provokes at least this question: if the last public process spent many years and many millions and in the end produced nothing but several hundred pages of paper that now sits on a shelf, why should “the public” invest more time and money in yet another public process that is likely to come to no more in the end than the last one?

3. Contractual default: a fair reading of the MOA, the Joint Board Interlocal, and the WMP itself, suggest they are contracts to which the County is bound. The 2005 WMP certainly does not prohibit the County from engaging in a separate CWRIP, but it does set forth certain terms and conditions, and establish certain processes, by which such an effort should take place. This point is essentially a restatement of Points 1 and 2 from a legal perspective.

The fundamental flaw in the current approach to the CWRIP is that it appears to treat the 2005 WMP as if it were nothing more than yet another project on a par with all the others now lined up facing the County, each demanding its share of dollars and time, rather than what it was intended to be, a comprehensive framework within which and process by which water resource projects would be conceived, ranked, selected and implemented. As the County pointed out during its March 2008 presentation before the Planning Unit, during the process of developing the CWRIP staff discovered many instances in which the right hand not only didn’t know what the left foot was doing, but that in the worst of cases some offices were working at cross purposes with others. It is unfortunate that in developing the CWRIP the same problem was replicated in the case of the 2005 WMP. There can’t be more than one comprehensive water resource process that meets the face value definition of the term.


The CWRIP “investment” ranking system appears to have been ginned up from scratch with the help of a consultant. Thus, all the work the Planning Unit/Joint Board put into developing criteria for evaluating solutions appears to have been totally ignored.

Even if the County continues to view the 2005 WMP as nothing more than another project, there are good reasons to put it at the top of the implementation list. For example, the WMP was designed to address, simultaneously, at least three important driving forces of any water resource project, two of which were explicitly identified during the County’s presentation to the Planning Unit during the March 2008 meeting: regulatory compliance and contractual obligations. The third, not mentioned but ever present in potential, is litigation. The 2005 WMP certainly meets all three criteria. It helps meet regulatory mandates under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the GMA. It is a contract to which the County is signatory.

With respect to litigation, the 2005 WMP was designed not only in recognition of the prospect of a General Stream Adjudication, but as a means to facilitate the resolution thereof. One would think that the onset of a General Stream Adjudication would prompt the rise of the 2005 WMP to the top of the County’s list of water resource projects.

Apparently, also ignored was the WMP’s Natural Resource Policy Integration Program. To put teeth into Section 2.4, Linkage/Coordination with Existing and Potential Programs, of the March 2000 Scope of Work, the Joint Board/Planning Unit adopted as part of the 2005 WMP a Natural Resource Policy Integration Program, the purpose of which, as set forth in the document found as part of the 2005 WMP, is as follows:

Smarter natural resource policy through collaborative learning
The purpose of this Natural Resource Policy Integration (NRPI) program is to assure improved coordination among water-related natural resource plans and policies developed within the jurisdictions of WRIA 1. Coordination problems identified during the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan development include:
1) Policy gaps within individual planning documents and more often across the multiple plans produced by multiple jurisdictions within the WRIA 1;
2) Overlapping requirements among plans and policies; and
3) Inconsistencies and contradictory conclusions and requirements within and among plans and policies.

The purpose of including this program in the WRIA 1 watershed management plan is to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of developing, implementing and evaluating the natural resource plans and policies. This will be accomplished by creating a strong link between the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan (WMP, 2004) goals, objectives and recommendations and other water-related natural resource plans and policies within WRIA 1.

The NRPI program will serve all WRIA 1 cities, the County, all water districts, and PUD #1, as well as other interest groups and as such takes place WRIA – wide.

Key Issues Addressed

Water supply
Water quality
Instream flows
Fish habitat

The key issues addressed by the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan, 2004 include water quantity, water quality, instream flow and fish habitat problems found throughout WRIA 1. The details of these issues are described in Section 2 of the plan document. Each of these key issues can be directly or indirectly impacted by GMA related plans and policies and by water system, wastewater, and stormwater management plans and policies. Linking the planning processes for these programs with the goals and recommendations of this WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan can assure that water related natural resource plans and policies are consistent with:
· Availability of water for human use and for fish habitat requirements;
· Identified needs for protecting beneficial uses of the surface and groundwaters of WRIA 1;
· Achievement of the recommended instream flows in WRIA 1, and
· Protection of important fish habitat. (The WRIA 1 WMP, 2003 will support and be consistent with the WRIA 1 Salmon Recovery Plan also scheduled for release in 2003).

Included among the goals and objectives of the NRIP we find:

Goal # 1 Improve efficiency and effectiveness of water-related natural resource planning and policy development, evaluation and implementation among WRIA 1 jurisdictions.

Objective # 1.1 Focus on GMA related and water system, wastewater, and stormwater management plans and policies in initial implementation phase of the WRIA 1 Watershed Management Plan (WRIA 1 WMP, 2004)

Objective # 1.2 Develop mechanism(s) to improve coordination among jurisdictions required to develop land use and water, wastewater, and stormwater management plans and among WRIA 1 Watershed Management Project implementing entities

Objective # 1.3 Manage the program, share resources and pool efforts among participating entities to provide ongoing support for implementation of the above coordination mechanism(s)

What relationship is there, if any, between the CWRIP and the NRPIP? It would seem incumbent upon the County, since it initiated the CWRIP, to provide an answer to that question that is satisfactory to at least the other members of the Joint Board, if not the Planning Unit.

Finally, Adaptive Management won’t work if it isn’t used: The WMP isn’t perfect as is, wasn’t meant to be. It is supposed to evolve by use, according to a process established in the March 2007 SOW Section 2.7. If the WMP is not used, it cannot grow, cannot adapt, and thus it will become irrelevant.

A positive resolution to the issues raised herein:

FIRST, No New Advisory Committees: DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL. Do not mislead the public by starting yet another public input process: stick with the one you established with the WMP; if necessary, modify the WMP structure and function document to provide linkage to the Flood Advisory Committee, others, as needed, or find some way to incorporate their input. After all, if money is an issue, won’t it cost more to start a whole new public process than it will to adjust those already established? Or is this yet another case of, “There’s never enough time and money to do it right the first time … but we’ll find the time and money to do it again when the first try misses the mark”?

Convene the Planning Unit governance and funding subcommittee forthwith, using the money you were going to waste on yet another public input process for the CWRIP, with the resolution of the issues raised herein at the top of the agenda of said subcommittee. The CWRIP should be integrated within the WMP process to the extent that there is now overlap between the two of them.

The subcommittee must also address the following:
1. honestly and squarely face the problems raised by the need to fund many water resource projects;
2. recognize that the implementation of the WMP does impose additional new costs, whatever they might amount to.
3. Re-initiate the exploration and documentation of the avoided costs – what has it/is it/will it cost NOT to follow through on the WMP? See the last section herein as one example.
4. Re-initiate the exploration for the most fair and effective means of raising the additional funds needed; options: single-entity (County, PUD, Port); multiple entity based upon per capita; etc. as well as exploring what vehicles are statutorily permitted to be used (special purpose districts, etc.).

What has Whatcom County at stake in the water rights crisis?

Whatcom County has no water rights, owns no water supplies, manages no water systems, and thus does not serve water to anyone. Nevertheless, it has a huge stake in the water rights crisis.

Why? Whatcom County is the receiver of last resort for any and all failed water systems within its jurisdiction, and thus faces many tens of millions of dollars of potential liability that it cannot escape – enough to make its past and any future planned expenditures on the 2005 WMP seem a pittance.

How? Enforcement of the water rights code, either by action of Ecology already authorized under state law, or by the effect of court decisions under a general stream adjudication, will cause all those systems without valid rights to water – and there are many of them within the County’s jurisdiction -- to fail, and then to present themselves to the County in receivership. Further, even systems that have valid water rights might find their water access curtailed because their rights are too junior to be satisfied, and thus, they too will fail, and the County will find them at their doorstep as well.

At the same time, all the homes, farms, and businesses those failed systems were serving will not have water, thus they will lose much of their assessed value, which will in turn reduce County property tax revenues even more than the current real estate implosion is already doing.

The end result could be a financial liability large enough that the County simply could not satisfy it, and thus would face the prospect of filing for protection under the federal bankruptcy code.

Knowing all this, those who created the 2005 WMP understood it as a means to avoid this catastrophe. It’s time for the County to quit looking this gift horse in the mouth, and remount it.

*The WRIA 1 Planning Unit interprets that char and shellfish are also included in this goal, that improvement to habitat will focus on degraded habitats, and the term “fish” refers back to the groups listed earlier. This language is meant to be consistent with the goals and mandates of the 2496 process and the objectives of the salmon co-managers. Salmon co-management is defined in The Puget sound Salmon Management Plan, implemented under a 1985 Court order under U.S. v. Washington 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash. 1974). The co-managers of the fisheries resources are defined as the State of Washington, Western Washington Treaty Tribes, and the federal government. For WRIA 1, the salmon co-managers are the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Nooksack Tribe, and Lummi Nation.

(Submitted to Whatcom County Council and members of the Planning Unit on April 9, 2008 by the Planning Unit Representative for the Whatcom Water Systems Caucus, whose members serve drinking water to more than 60,000 Whatcom County homes, farms and businesses).

WRIA 1 website:

Whatcom County Stormwater Division:

Joint Resolution between Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham:

Draft Long Term Program:

"Whiskey is for Drinking and Water is for Fighting" - Mark Twain

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