Today’s Radio Real Estate program featured local Realtor’s Mike Kent and Chris Weitzel. The shows focus was on this June 18th, 2013 Council decision which could give approval to implement the Department of Ecology’s solution to reduce phosphorus loading in to Lake Whatcom by 87%, through a stormwater management plan. Mr. Kent’s and Mr. Weitzel’s focus was on phosphorus loading and algal bloom in Lake Whatcom’s basin 1 and basin 2. But, the real “problem” according to the EPA is the reduction in dissolved oxygen levels in Lake Whatcom basin 1 and basin 2. (Before going further I would ask that you listen to the June 1st, 2013, Saturday Morning Live (SML) program where Planning Commissioner Dave Onkels clearly explains that the most recent data shows that although algal bloom may still be an issue and phosphorus is still present, the dissolved oxygen levels in Lake Whatcom have stabilized and show trends of improving with the current standards.) So, with this information readily available to anyone who is willing to look at the issue with fresh eyes, you need to ask yourself whe the DOE would ask Whatcom County to implement their stormwater plan, thus causing a downzone of all properties in the watershed? This will cost shift property taxes to other areas of Whatcom County to pay government obligations; for what? To remove one teaspoon of phosphorus per year from each undeveloped lot? According to Mr. Weitzel the DOE’s action has the potential to remove 5000 teaspoons of phosphorus (5000 ounces) from Lake Whatcom each year; while the City of Bellingham continues to divert water from the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River into Lake Whatcom, which deposits sixty-four million teaspoons of phosphorus per year.
Now the amount of phosphorus that the Middle Fork diversion dumps into Lake Whatcom does vary; but the numbers I am hearing run anywhere from 2000 lbs. and up, per year. I do not want to exaggerate the amount of natural phosphorus that is dumping into Lake Whatcom from the Nooksack River, but the DOE’s claim that natural phosphorus is different than phosphorus runoff from developed lots is preposterous. The DOE’s solution at this stage is to require individual, undeveloped lots in the Lake Whatcom watershed to engineer and install stormwater diversion systems prior to obtaining a permit to develop the lot.
The costs to engineer and install a stormwater system could vary from $20k to $150k, dependent upon the size and topography of the lot. Of course before that you must first determine whether or not, after you’ve put this stormwater system onto your lot, is there still room to develop the lot for the intended purposes of the property? When you look objectively at the cost benefit of such a program you understand that there is none, and that’s before asking the first question that must be answered; “Is Lake Whatcom currently impaired? Or, have the dissolved oxygen levels stabilized and improved to the extent that Lake Whatcom should not be on the EPA’s impaired body of water listing?
In closing I would encourage you to take action, as Mr. Kent and Mr. Weitzel said, in the June 8th, 2013 edition of Radio Real Estate; “You need to contact your Whatcom County Council and the Mayor Linville of the City of Bellingham, to ask them why they would consider implementing this action, when it does not address the problem? Then ask them, if recent studies show that the dissolved oxygen levels in Lake Whatcom have stabilized and are improving, why do we need to do anything more than what we already are? Stay tuned as we discuss this further in future articles and SML programs.
~ Kris Halterman
Recent video of debris flow from the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River: