Monday, March 30, 2009

The City should implement Lake Whatcom Watershed Land Use Restrictions throughout the City

Your familiar with the proposed Silver Beach Ordinance -- and the City's Ordinance 16.80.120 restricting land clearing in the Silver Beach neighborhood. Chances are -- you probably supported it. So, why doesn't it apply to the entire city?

After all, the City of Bellingham is built right next to Bellingham Bay, and bays have tremendous economic, recreational, and aesthetic value to the economy.

Residents are attracted to the water and tourists visit the bay to boat, fish, swim, fly a kite or just enjoy a sunset. There was even a time when people dug clams there.

Yes indeed, the economies of many coastal communities depend on the natural beauty and bounty of their bays and estuaries.

In fact, I'm going to play devil's advocate and recommend that the proposed Silver Beach Ordinance be re-written and re-introduced so that it provides protection to all of our precious water resources.

After all, Bellingham Bay is a seriously impaired water body due to excessive discharges of chemicals and other contaminants. Never mind that the GMA requires cities and county's to protect public waters, like the bay. And, Whatcom Creek transports phosphorus and other contaminants to the bay from the Lake.

Let's set an example for the rest of the state and clean up the bay and the lake at the same time. After all, we all live, work and play in a watershed!

Like the proposed Silver Beach Ordinance, the new city wide Water Resources Protection Ordinance will place an emphasis on "prevention" rather than "treatment" of the problem - Of course, this may require a revamp of growth projections and development priorities, but I am certain that it will be worth it in the end!

P.S. in 1995, we lost a beautiful 40' Douglas Fir tree after the city cut its roots supplying utilities to the housing development behind us. Do you think its unreasonable to ask to have it replaced? (Ill take a 20 ft tree). After all, it absorbed quite a bit of water before it was killed.

Oh, and what about the entire forest that was bulldozed down behind us? If it was still in place, the city wouldn't be asking me to shell out big bucks to pay for stormwater runoff treatment for the people who live behind me.

In fact, there was a time when development around the lake was actually "in balance" with the lake. For instance, when we built our house, there were four houses across the street on the water, and there were four houses on the hill behind them. That was it!

But the city got greedy - heck, they even sold the street easements that abut the lake to developers as building lots. (A balanced neighborhood could have used the street easements to treat stormwater and provide access to the lake. Today, many of the homes built on those easements have flood problems, thanks to runoff from the streets above them.

Now, remind me, who was it who issued all those building permits without requiring protective stormwater management? (and how long have local government's known that they have an obligation to protect existing development from future development)? The Clean water Act was signed into law back in 1972 folks.

So,how does a community go about determining who owes what in regards to protecting the lake? Does someone have a mathematical model that actually discloses when "we" crossed the line? If so, some of us dumb property owners would like to see it.

Links to existing and proposed code follows:

City of Bellingham Municipal Code

Title 16



A. No earthwork, including clearing of vegetation, grading, filling, excavating or trenching of soil or earth materials that will result in an exposed soil or earth area that exceeds 500 square feet shall be permitted from October 1st through April 30th within the Silver Beach Neighborhood, except subareas 11 and 15.

B. The 500 square feet threshold in BMC 16.80.120A. shall apply to each individual lot, parcel, uncompleted short plat, preliminary plat, trail, road, utility or maintenance project.

C. The seasonal restriction on clearing and earthwork is intended to prevent the start of any earthwork project that will exceed the 500 square feet limit and reduce open soil/earth surfaces to less than 500 square feet per project during the above listed months.

D. All bare soil and earth areas in excess of 500 square feet shall be required to be covered during the above listed months with any of the following:

1. Well established grass, sod or a vegetated surface sufficient to prevent the erosion or transport of soil, sediment and silt laden water. No soil or earth may be visible.

2. A minimum of 3: cover of shredded wood chip/fiber, vegetative mulch, hay or straw.

3. Crushed rock or gravel, not less than 3/4" in aggregate size and 4" deep.

E. The City may approve emergency exemptions to the seasonal restrictions as may be necessary to protect public health, safety, welfare, the environment and private or public property. Exemptions shall be construed narrowly and may be granted by the Planning or Public Works Directors.

[Ord. 2001-01-001]

Proposed Silver Beach Ordinance:$FILE/SBO%20Materials.pdf

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