2013 Local Election is About Jobs…but what about Water? How does Whatcom County fix this?

DSC_0282Today has been another bellwether day, where more problems are being created than resolved.  As the voting for local candidates and issues in Whatcom County has begun,  the staff at “Whatcom Wins,” (aka: Whatcom Democrats) have attempted to turn the conversation to; trains, railroads, coal, CO2, global warming, water quality, GMO’s and everything under their green moldy kitchen sinks.  But their dirty little secret, which most of the local voters have no idea of, is that they continue to actively work in the background with WA State DOE and Whatcom County Planning and Development Services, to change the language in our local and state water code.

PDS proposed changes to Water Code SR Comments to Planning Commission

Current code allows for property owners to put in a well and septic system to improve their property for small, rural farms and residential living.  This lifestyle could be coming to an abrupt halt if our elected quasi-judicial County Council representatives swings towards the extreme, progressive agenda, that the Whatcom Democrat Central Committee has embraced.  A great resource for anyone who currently takes their water from a private well is this group: Whatcom Private Well Owners.  Connect with this organization to stay abreast of what’s happening with rural water/septic regulations and code.

Please take a moment to read my address at this afternoons Republican Women’s Club of Whatcom County.  Make sure that you read to the end and follow the links to see what’s currently being served up as a solution to the Planning Commission and Whatcom County Council.

Behind the Green Mask

~ Kris Halterman

I want to thank you for this opportunity to address the Republican Women of Whatcom County on what I believe to be the most prescient issues facing Whatcom County today.

Top on my list is water. Water in all its forms, storm water runoff, in-stream flows, aquifers, wells, septic systems, the Nooksack River, Bellingham Bay and the Puget Sound.

Since 2009 the Planning Unit, which was made-up of stakeholders who provide water to our community, were cut out of the process of determining the water supply and needs for our community. Why did this happen? Initially because the local tribes walked away from the table and said that they could not be involved with the negotiations of the Planning Unit because it was not a nation-to-nation committee of agencies. It persisted because the City of Bellingham, the Whatcom County Executive, the Small Cities, and the PUD permitted the tribes to form an outside group which cutout the Planning Unit. The Planning Unit was held to be legal authority from the State Legislature to direct the planning and implementation of the water resource planning and implementation for our county.

What was the result of their actions? A four year loss of time to resolve an issue that will determine Whatcom County growth from now and into the future. Although the Planning Unit has recently been reconstituted, there are still a lot of outside influences, like the Puget Sound Partnership, who are pushing Bellingham and Whatcom County to make decisions based on unproven scientific regulatory mandates that will affect the ability for individuals and families to live in the rural areas of Whatcom County.

Next on my list are the personal, private property land values in Whatcom County that have been and will be greatly affected by recent storm water requirements executed by the WA State DOE within the Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish, Lake Padden, Birch Bay and Drayton Harbor watersheds. You will hear them referred to as “on-site storm water facilities.” Currently these storm water overlays are limited to the watersheds I mentioned, but will be state mandated on Dec. 31, 2016, for all property that lies outside of a municipal water/sewer system. What does this mean to Whatcom County? If you own personal property and wish to remodel, expand, or develop your property beyond 500 sf. of impervious footprint, no matter your lot size, you will be required to first have engineered, permitted and in place an “on-site storm water facility,” that will prevent 90% of all water that either lands on, flows into and over your property from leaving your property.

What gives the WA State Department of Ecology the authority to implement this onerous regulation upon private property owners? The Clean Water Act. Does the Washington State Department of Ecology know whether this mandate will achieve its stated goal for cleaner water? No, they do not. In fact they do not know how much it will cost Whatcom County or any county in Washington State or if it will be effective and they don’t care. Cost has intentionally been left out of their agenda to achieve clean air and clean water. The potential costs for implementing their plan is somewhere between $25k to $150k, depending upon the topography and geology and size of your property.

No one really knows how much it will cost. A lot of properties will become undevelopable. The cost to place a storm water retention facility on your property(s) could be higher than the value of the land, making it an unmarketable lot. These decisions don’t just impact individual land owners, they cost the county potentially millions in tax revenues to pay public obligations. Is this a good way to operate our County, let alone our state?

What needs to be done? We must update our Critical Areas Ordinances, re-evaluate properties that have been designated as wetlands, using licensed hydro-geologists this time and then backup these changes with the recent “Koontz v. St. Johns River Management,” Supreme Court decision. This court case requires that there be a nexus between what a County requires as mitigation to property development. What does that mean? It means that there must be a clear connection between the cost of the project, the property to be developed and what the government agencies require or charge the developer of that property. The undeveloped lots in Sudden Valley are prime examples where the Koontz case may be applied to overturn this burdensome regulation that is coming at us like a freight train. The sooner someone takes this to court, the sooner Whatcom County may find relief from the State DOE” on-site storm water facility mandate deadline in 2016.

Whatcom County is at a crossroads in retaining local control of our destiny. The coming election is going to be a bellwether moment for us. If we do not win the two seats currently at risk this November and the two new seats. I believe that local business and industry, especially those at Cherry Point will be irrevocably harmed. Whatcom County is and will remain a wonderful place to work and raise a family, no matter what the outcome of this election is but for far fewer people. Rural life-style jobs and business/industries will be in jeopardy in our county. The “green-enviro-elites” have made Whatcom County their home and created an economic “circle of life” here. That circle of life they have created consists of funds they receive from the government which is given to their non-government organization (NGO), who then goes out to find a business or farmer they think are not environmentally friendly, the NGO makes a formal complaint to a government agency and that government agency goes forth knowing that the fines they impose on the business or farmer funds their agency which turns around and then continues to give its funds to the NGO to continue this cycle.

What NGO’s am I referring to? Groups like; Futurewise, Resources for a Sustainable Community, Sustainable Connections, Whatcom Farm Friends and North Sound Baykeepers. These groups are consistently standing at the doors of our local and state government asking for our tax dollars to create a clean environment and they use those funds to put a boot upon rural life and local businesses that do not fit their agenda.  They all have a few things in common.  They profess to care more about the environment that average citizens, farmers or businesses.  They actively promote regulations who’s stated goal is to preserve land and water for rural use, except these regulations are driving down property values and livability for rural residents.  Each of these organizations share a lot of the same membership and their board members move from one NGO to the next,with their hand out for our tax dollars.  Without our tax dollars they would shrivel up and die on the vine.

Lastly I want to give everyone here some hope. There are a lot of new groups that are spinning off of the local political parties and the Tea Party. Each is taking on their own identity and issues. Our local chapter of CAPR is doing some tremendous heavy lifting in local property rights issues. Another one of those groups is the “Get-Together-Group,” which meets the third Monday evening of each month, 6:30pm at the Rome Grange. This group is open and available to anyone willing to take the time to address the group with their concerns. The Whatcom Excavator has done a yeomen’s amount of work posting a lot of well researched articles. Please take a moment to read and share what is posted there.  Not to be forgotten are the most recent additions to Whatcom County social media and citizen journalism are: Whatcom Works and Whatcom Watchdog.  Whatcom Works acts like our own edition of a Drudge Report and Whatcom Watchdog is paying particular attention to everything park-like.  Are you aware that Whatcom County has eight times the parkland of any other county in Washington State?  Are you engaged in social media such as Facebook, Pinterest, Tumbler or one of the many online social media outlets that are connection people all over Whatcom County, Washington State, the United States and globally?  Please consider dipping your toe in to the social media world.  This is possibly one of the most effective resources we have to raise public awareness of what’s happening in our community and state.

Saturday Morning Live is available to for citizen journalists to post about local concerns on this website, and to address local issues publicly on KGMI/790’s SML – Liberty Road, heard on Saturday’s at 8:00am. This can be a powerful resource and I want everyone here to know I am available to help. The only limitation I have is time. With only one day per week and about 40 minutes of airtime, I need some lead time to work on issues to present on air, but it can make a difference by raising public awareness of what’s happening to the good people of Whatcom County.

Recently, I and about nine other volunteers formed SAVEWhatcom, a political action committee. The catalyst of this organization was the Whatcom Democrat’s – Cherry Point resolution, but we decided early on that this PAC couldn’t be a one time, one election resource. SAVEWhatcom is here to stay so long as we believe that we can be a resource to help support the election to office of individuals that will promote jobs and private business growth to all sectors of Whatcom County.

Whatcom County didn’t get here in a day and we’ll need to keep our heads down and focused through the next few election cycles to effectively change the perception of the voters and re-hang our shingle “Welcome – Whatcom County is Open for Business.” 

DSC_0212This is a copy of the email I received.  The email has links to the online version of a Whatcom County PDS document for the Planning Commission and the documented response to the Planning Commission from Skip Richards, of Catalyst Consulting.  The buttons located at the bottom of this post are the same and will take you to the copies I have preserved to make certain that they are not moved or scrubbed from public view. ~ Kris Halterman

Pertaining to the water issue, this is an email with links to pertinent information on currently proposed “solutions” by Whatcom County Planning and Development Services, to the Planning Committee to address and make recommendation to the County Council.

Link to the PC agenda http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/pds/pc/agendas.jsp

Link to the staff report http://www.whatcomcounty.us/pds/pc/pdf/20131024-sr.pdf

Scroll to nearly the end.  The RED text is the proposed changes.

See attached comments from Skip; cell  360-305-1122.

Read the last page of the attached.  Skip’s PDS proposed Comp Plan amendments first to give you back ground information on who Skip Richards is.  He has a lot of experience with water issues locally, state and federal going back to 1994 and is very well qualified to speak to the issues.

Focus on reading “Regarding PDS proposed Comp Plan amendments regarding water quantity.”  That is his heart of the issue and his comments addressing the proposed changes directly.

These proposed changes directly undermine the Groundwater Permit Exemption RCW 90.44.050 (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/comp_enforce/gwpe.html ) which allows for providing water for a single home or group of homes up to 5000 gallons per day.

The proposed change in wordage does not include the word exemption.

This is alarming because wells would be allowed “only if the site does not fall within the boundaries of an area where DOE has determined by RULE that water for development exists.”

The key word is rule.  DOE already has determined by rule that no additional water may be appropriated in most of the Whatcom County water basins and is regulated by WAC 173-501-040. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=173-501-040

Currently, it is not being enforced as DOE has taken the approach to work toward a resolution of the various water claims.

However, the recent tactics of some to use the courts and the resulting recent WA Supreme Court ruling on the Skagit River basin, reservation of water for domestic wells and some business, has the very real potential to change DOE’s position. PDS Proposed Changes to Water Code DOE will be required to come up with new rules for water withdrawal in the affected Skagit River basin.  In the mean time, will they issues building permits?  Too early to know.

The concern is that a similar action could be taken in Whatcom County, either through the courts, or by DOE rule making and enforcement.

The proposed change in the Comp Plan clearly increases the likelihood by either method to restrict or eliminate the withdrawal of ground water, even with exempt wells.  It is a clear way to control development in Whatcom County.

No water, no building permit.

You now have land that becomes unbuildable, has few other uses and little or no value.  Remember the building moratorium in Sudden Valley? They couldn’t even sell the lots for enough to cover the taxes.

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