Monday, December 3, 2007

Silver Beach Ordinance Redux: 1st Meeting Citizens Task Force

WARNING: The following information is LONG, boring to many, incomprehensible to others, and history that repeats itself!

The Silver Beach Neighborhood recently debated adopting a list of policy measures to address the issue of protecting the Lake Whatcom Reservoir.
Many of the items on the list were recognizable as elements of earlier discussions during the deliberations on the City's 'Silver Beach Ordinance', designed in response to the Dept of Ecology's 303 (d) listing of the lake for fecal cliform and dissolved oxygen levels.
Some were adopted and incorporated into the Ordinance, while others were not for various reasons.

It may be useful to revisit those earlier discussions again as a reminder of what was considered during those initial eight public meetings, which resulted in a list of unanimous, or near-unanimous, recommendations that were adopted.
The adopted recommendations -from meeting No. 9- were the subject of my 8/8/07 blog.

This general subject was also discussed or rferenced in blogs from October 9, 12 & 13.


Summary of Meeting on May 16, 2000 (7-9pm) in Mayor's Board Room

1. All present except A. Kanne & T. Bornemann (both excused)

2. Handouts:
• Committee Members List
• Agenda/Topics Outline
• Committee Objective/Chronology of Events
• 3-ring Binders
-Silver Beach Ordinance
-Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Plan 2000
-Impervious Surface Article
-Reference Materials
* Surrey, B.C. Watercourse Setback Limits
* The Washington Lake Book (DOE Handbook)
* Cooperative Extension Bulletin #1744 "Your Yard & Water Quality"
* Cooperative Extension Bulletin #1786 "Effective Options for Farmers"
* Cooperative Extension/Master Gardeners Workshop Materials (4/22/2000)
+How your lawn & garden affect water quality
+Soils & fertilizers
+Alternatives to grass
+Managing pests

3. Self-introductions of participants & particular interests. Most live, own property or do business in Silver Beach Neighborhood. All are interested in preserving water quality and in contributing citizen input/flexibility into the SB Ordinance.

4. Brief review of handouts & binder materials:
• Main focus of this Task Force is the SB Ordinance itself, adding flexibility and options without changing its intent or goal, which is to arrest or reverse further degradation to water quality in measureable terms.

• The Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Plan 2000 (County/City/WD#10) is much more comprehensive, with 21 lake-wide goals. Three of these goals are top priorities for year 2000: Land Use/Urbanization, Stormwater Management (Non-point source) and Land Ownership. Many of the suggestions and ideas submitted during the SBO process are already being addressed by this plan. (see Binder Tab #2) The overall problem of protecting the lake is complex and interrelated, however all helpful actions, no matter how insignificant their effect may seem, are important to the overall solution. Eventually, the cumulative effect of all these practical changes will result in observable improvement in water quality trends and equitably spreading their costs and benefits among all watershed residents and users.

• The SB Ordinance directly addresses the Land Use/Urbanization goal for the City.

• The Stormwater Management goal is also being addressed this year as a separate matter, but will be positively affected by the SB Ordinance. Improved Stormwater Management, as mandated by Federal & State law, very important to water quality, is also amenable to specific performance standards which can be measured. A number of proven Best Managements Practices (BMP's) are available to help achieve Stormwater Management goals. These BMP's could also be used or referenced to add flexibility to the SB Ordinance.

• The Land Ownership goal is being addressed by another Citizens Task Force sponsored by the (The Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Plan 2000) Inter-jurisdictional Coordinating Team (ICT). The ICT is comprised of County Executive, Mayor of Bellingham & Water District #10 General Manager. This Citizens Task Force is now meeting twice each month to develop criteria for prioritizing areas for protection, options for preserving and enhancing high priority lands in natural/protected condition, and mechanisms for integrating these options with identified priority areas. This watershed-wide effort should be completed this year.

All Task Force Members are invited to contribute or recommend additional reference materials to the group. City will copy & distribute.

5. Agenda review:
Why do this? See Lake Plan policy statements. Commitment to agreed-to goals. SB Ordinance Citizens Task Force needs to make recommendations for Planning Commission & City Council consideration by August 15. 6-8 meetings to be scheduled @ 2-week intervals.
Rules of meetings- orderly & respectful (taped). Diverse group; variety of ideas from public; range of knowledge/backgrounds; reach consensus whenever possible; report all views.

Additional resources are available as required (MRSC, Internet, etc); use experience from other areas; avoid re-inventing the wheel; use most current info available.
• Tour of Lake Whatcom Watershed -see examples of good/bad practices (afternoon)
• NEMO slide presentation (20-40 slides) Non-point source Education for Municipal Officials
Map of Geographic areas: City Limits, Urban Growth Areas, Other Zoning Designations
SB Ordinance Topics: Allowed Uses; Density; Lot Coverage; Land Disturbance
Native vegetation - use to improve flexibility
Definitions & interpretations (Intent -vs- Literal meaning?)
Incentives (what's in it for me? - showcase examples)
Appeals (process)
Corrections/Enforcement (+/- Friendly/Firm/Fair)

All Task Force Members are invited to contribute or recommend ideas for presentations/tours to the group. City will arrange.

FOCUS: SB Ordinance itself -look at flexibility ideas without sacrificing basic goals.
"Emergency" didn't just happen; was the culmination of events built over time.
Recently, two reports contributed further toward triggering the SBO;
1. DOE's 303 (d) listing & other findings (mercury in fish, other high toxics levels)
2. Entranco's summary of accumulated lake monitoring data (now undergoing Peer Review).
The DOE 303 (d) listing for fecal coliform clearly signaled an opportunity for action by the impacted jurisdictions for immediate and effective action. The SBO is a step in this direction, applicable within the city limits. Possible beneficial effects elsewhere in watershed. Other actions may also be required in a step-wise progression to protect public health & safety. Especially with this warning, all jurisdictions have the responsibility to prevent a larger public problem from developing.

"Emergency" process is still a public process, just different sequence for prevention.
All recommendations from this Task Force will be seriously considered.

City commissioned new aerial photographs taken on 5/15/2000. These will update impervious area data and quantify it very accurately, enabling us to show the changes in growth and related impervious areas since 1950. Both a predictive & enforcement tool. Primary impervious surfaces are roads, roofs & driveways.

Since January when SBO was enacted, the city has already seen a benefit in reduced TSS (total Suspended Solids), using continuing WWU water studies.

Question: What does the City Council want from this Task Force? What would be most helpful?
Answer: No easy answers from us, we are mainly facilitating input from residents who expressed interest in adding flexibility to SBO. General idea is to trade-off some strict limits in return for BMP's. These meetings are to introduce & quantify public's ideas related to 4 parts of SBO. We recognize that education on this subject is essential, that's why resources are at your disposal and homework is recommended. Learning will greatly assist this effort.

Suggestion: Start at beginning and go thru SBO item by item.
Comment: Look at limits; ID flexibility; What are incentives +'s & -'s; Interpretations -what does it mean? (eg, if an existing home exceeds 2000 sqft, you might reallocate space by allowing 1 additional sqft of home footprint for each 2 sqft of impervious surface eliminated, etc); illustration of WWU Viking Solar Vehicle Models, each an improvement over prior models.

Members get phone calls from neighbors asking for interpretations. Can driveway be finished, etc?

This group must understand the SBO, to define these answers/alternatives/tradeoffs for others.

Similar situation to Energy Code changes; big impacts to costs and styles. Over time people found ways to meet intent.

Question: Is there a model of a city, which has an ordinance like SBO?
Answer: Yes, the NEMO Impervious Surface article in the binder shows Olympia, WA as a very similar example, in their case, trying to protect a groundwater drinking water source. There are other examples in US as well; some work and some don't. Lacey, WA has a "zero-impact" ordinance which details "compensatory practices". While the intent is clear, this one seems to fail because it is infeasible to understand or follow in practice.

Comment: There are many factors, which impact the SBO goals
Response: Yes, all are non-point source contributions. These can be broadly categorized into Building Practices & Living Behaviors.

Comments: Another good info source is a 67-page booklet "Urbanization and Water Quality"; copies have been ordered for all members.

One recognized problem is making the public aware of our specific watershed problem, as distinguished from "generic" watersheds. Lake Whatcom is unique, has several beneficial uses, of which drinking water source is most important. Our problems are not the same as for Lake Washington, which is not used as a municipal water supply!

Big cities almost always have protected water supply reservoirs, which are off-limits to other uses. Many locations get their water from wells or streams. Not many use a lake that supports development. While really dirty water can be treated to make drinking water, this is costly. (eg Astronauts, Navy ships, Saudi Arabia) Also, other beneficial uses complicate this strategy. Lake Whatcom also supports aquatic life and recreation activities like swimming. These beneficial uses have their own requirements to remain healthy and sustainable. Fish need oxygen to live and clean spawning areas to reproduce naturally. Humans, particularly children, need clean water to avoid exposure to disease. The water treatment plant requires a certain quality of its raw water to avoid excessive treatment costs or more expensive treatment facilities.

In each of these cases, prevention is distinctly preferable to cleaning up after a problem happens and is certainly cheaper and safer to the public at large. That is why Bellingham's Comprehensive Plan prioritizes protection over treatment in managing Lake Whatcom and its watersheds. (see Lake Whatcom Plan, Appendix B: Goals & Policies, page 27)
Bottom line: We must be careful & practical.

Question: Why doesn't the SBO ban fertilizing lawns?
Answer: Good example of an individual Behavior problem, simple and easy to change, that would be very effective in meeting the intent of the SBO. It is a personal choice with measurable effects that would improve the nutrient loading problem in the lake. Phosphate has a noticeable influence down to levels of 5 ppb (parts per billion). It can be measured directly in run-off, estimated by windshield survey or mathematically and modeled.
Comments: This is a voluntary decision. Some hire lawn-care professionals. Who supervises them? This is a common problem. Gross over-fertilization has been reported and observed.

Question: SBO covers only city limits (2% of watershed), while Proposition #1 covered entire watershed. Will SBO coverage significantly help the problem?
Answer: SBO does cover only a small part of watershed, but it is in the most critical location, which showed greatest water quality degradation and close to city's water intake. There is mixing between the 3 Basins by at least 3 known mechanisms: SE to NW water flow; wind mixing between #1 & #2; internal siches & seasonal turnover.
SBO may influence the Urban Growth Area later. At minimum, it sets a good example.

Question: Do we know the lake's water balance & seasonal variations?
Answer: Yes, good information is available on flows from COB, hatchery & WD10 intakes, plus ~200 direct home intakes. Diversion is known, day by day.

Question: Wouldn't it help water quality in Basin #1 if the G-P intake were moved to Basin #1?
Answer: Yes, probably, but don't consider it as the solution to the whole problem. G-P would need to agree to this, consider capital costs of relocation and potential increased treatment costs.
Comments: City intake withdraws ~50 MMGPD from Basin #2. Screen, disinfect water before splitting out G-P flow of ~35 MMGPD, treat rest for drinking water use. Intake is 27 feet below full lake level, slightly above oxygen-depleted level. Max depth is 66 feet. Original intake in Basin #1 was built in 1895, lasted until 1922, was rebuilt. This is still used as trout hatchery intake. New city/G-P intake in Basin #2 went into service in 1941. This may have contributed to Basin #1 stagnation problem because of the changed flow characteristics. If G-P intake were relocated to deepest part of Basin #1, it would tend to purge it better. #2 & #3 mix more.
example ~Moses Lake flushing =remedial measure. Good idea to evaluate.

Question: Doesn't the Middle Nooksack Diversion impact flow & dilution?
Answer: Yes, there have already been seasonal reductions during last 2 years and this will probably continue. Diversion & withdrawal questions are being addressed now by the Lake Management Plan. Next phase is modeling these variables. Lake has long turnover time now; if diversion goes away this increases and makes stagnation/eutrophication problems worse. Moreover, it could necessitate greater water level fluctuations, likely to be unpopular with watershed/lakeside residents. It could also mean relocating the intake to Basin #3 at major expense. Notwithstanding the value of this info, we need to redirect our focus back to SBO.

Comment: Land use is the single most influential factor in lake water quality.
There is no possibility of increased water supply, although water demand will increase.

1) Is "let G-P fix it" realistic?
2) Interested in knowing the whole menu of ideas, recognizing differences in member’s points of view & education.
3) Since time is limited, this exercise (2) is better done at home by individuals, to be shared with members via e-mail before the next meeting. (Agreed)
4) Others are also interested. friends call for input.
5) Outside SBO items, can pass ideas on to ICT/Lake Whatcom Program
6) Need to summarize all ideas for all to hear.
7) Agree to consolidate a list of ideas & pet peeves. (send to chair)

1) Consider the concept of "Impervious Equivalents" or similar term, as a measure for trade-offs & incentives.
-what incentives might be popular with existing homeowners to encourage their participation in retrofitting either appropriate individual BMPs or a regional stormwater system?
what additional building footprint would be allowed in return for:
-agreeing to not disturbing existing native vegetation?
-replacing a paved patio with a slatted deck?
-using porous pavers instead of conventional asphalt?

2) Literature on various porous paving systems is available for reference. Perhaps a presentation by vendors would be of interest.

3) The idea of developing Bloedel-Donovan Park into an environmental demonstration area, showcasing BMPs and serving to educate/encourage lake-friendly behavior was recently advanced by the Whatcom County Cooperative Extension. This idea seems to have much merit and preliminary support, patterned after the very popular Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale.
Since Public Information & Education is such a critically important component in coming to grips with an effective watershed-wide program, this appears to be a good example of how the city could lead by example. Hands-on demonstrations of BMPs, which native plants are effective and low maintenance, which fertilizing practices are most appropriate, how to properly use pesticides, picking up after your pet, several types of porous paving systems (drive-on & park-on), signs & displays, presentations & exhibits and plenty of volunteer opportunities.

Comments: The Horticultural Society & Master Gardeners could also be involved. Also important to have private parties participate with garden tours and the like, especially near the shoreline.
People relate to live examples; need to see & feel things to understand better.
Merit in considering 2 types of impervious surfaces? Yes, all sorts of physical strategies -even sod roofs as in Germany.
Many different education opportunities, however, Objective remains: SBO improvements.
OK to broaden scope to learn, but need to focus on SBO recommendations!

City Council has small reference library: BMP Design & Maintenance, Fundamentals of Urban Runoff Strategies, Global Cities Series (Examples), Monitoring Report, etc.

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, May 30. 7-9pm in Mayor's Board Room
Homework: Read information in handouts & e-mail ideas & suggested discussion topics to all members to read before next meeting.

Meeting Dates:
Tuesday, May 30
Tuesday, June 13 (Board Room not available)
Tuesday, June 27
Tuesday, July 11 (Board Room not available)
Tuesday, July 25
Tuesday, August 8
Tuesday. August 15 (final recommendations deadline)

Silver Beach Ordinance Citizen's Task Force

Kimberly Barron
Terry Bornemann
Bill Bliss
Dan Cantrell
Tim Farris
Jan Hayes
Allena Kanne
Jeff Kenoyer
Mike Minge
Bay Renaud
Barbara Ryan
Chris Spens
John Watts
Myron Wlaznak