Press Release: Common Threads Northwest submits criticism of Whatcom County’s draft environmental impact statement on future growth for the County

Contact: Dick Donahue, Chair / Common Threads NW / (360) 319-2839  Press Release from CTNW

 Common Threads NW criticizes draft EIS for Whatcom County’s comp plan update

The draft Environmental Impact Statement for Whatcom County’s comprehensive plan update and Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) review prepared by a Seattle consulting firm is lacking in many areas, according to Common Threads NW, a Bellingham-based nonprofit public interest organization.

Some of the more serious deficiencies include: assuming certain policies will be adopted without needed support from key decision making bodies; ignoring deficiencies in urban infrastructure planned years ago, but not built yet; not giving sufficient credence to the most recent trends in population and housing distribution; ignoring recent expansion of the Lummi Nation at I-5 and Slater; and disregarding the need to address deficiencies in existing housing stock as well as new, and needs for several kinds of housing.

“Policy decisions regarding Growth Management Act updates are supposed to be made by those charged with decision-making for the people of Whatcom County: planning commissions, the County Councils, and others,” Donahue said. “Policy decisions are not supposed to be made by planning staff or hired consultants. Most especially, policy decisions are not supposed to be made in a way that herds decision-makers through corrals of information and into holding pens where they will be told what predetermined decisions they are to make.”

Common Threads NW also is critical of the lack of substance in the economic development section and the little attention paid to the importance of the Cherry Point Industrial Area, which directly and indirectly supports 11 percent of the jobs in the county and 15 percent of the wages paid in the county, according to a 2014 study by Western Washington University’s Center for Business and Economic Research. This valuable report was ignored by the consultant authors.

“The draft EIS doesn’t recognize the importance of the existing industries there – BP Cherry Point Refinery, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery and the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter –  and the potential for future family wage jobs in Whatcom County,” Donahue said.

The draft also ignored the valuable information and ideas in the detailed “County-wide Housing Affordability Taskforce” (CHAT) report. This report was completed in 2008 with diverse community input and at considerable public expense by Bellingham and the County.

Common Threads NW commissioned an analysis of the draft EIS that was submitted to the county before its May 15 deadline for comments. Decision-makers are required to make GMA-compliant decisions as they revise comprehensive plans and development regulations. Adoption of revisions is due June 30, 2016.

Common Threads NW seeks to help Whatcom County achieve economic vitality, environmental quality, individual rights, an informed citizenry and prudent use of public resources. For more information about the nonprofit organization, call Dick Donahue, 360- 319-2839.

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