Sunday, August 12, 2007

Water Source Protection Plan: Comments & Questions

Here are WSPP Comments & Questions I sent to the Public Works Dept on 6/30/2006. Hopefully, most of these will have answers developed for the upcoming August 15 meeting referred to in my previous posting. I know the jargon, extensive references to a large, obscure document and the sheer number of questions will not be easy reading for most people. But for some, it will represent exacly the type of oversight they expect from elected officials, especially on an important matter like watershed protection. I'm putting these questions out there anyway, with apologies to those who would rather read something else.
Here are comments referenced to specific sections & pages of the printed 2000 WSPP document. These need special emphasis when the 2006 update is drafted for submission to the State Dept of Health. This should not be considered a routine administrative task! It has broad policy implications that City Council rightfully needs to consider and approve.

There are major updates required to this document to reflect both accomplishments and new trend data. More important are the broad implications to be derived from current knowledge, activities underway and additional actions required to actually achieve the stated goals of the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Program.

The following general comments [in no particular order] that are –or should be – addressed in this WSSP:

1. The WSPP document was jointly submitted by COB & WD10. These organizations have vastly different Charters, objectives and organizational structures. COB is a Strong Mayor/ Weak Council form of Govt, wherein the Executive has significant operational authority, providing policy direction and funding is approved by Council. The Water District has a much different, single mission focused on its system service requirements within its district boundaries and budget balancing. The GM needs approval from the Commissioners before taking other than routine action. The problem comes from both the different perspectives and funding the 2 organizations inherently have. It is essentially a David & Goliath relationship, where WD10 [and WC] has effective veto power over actions that might benefit watershed protection that fall outside City jurisdiction. Perhaps a Gulliver & Lilliputian analogy would be more appropriate, but the point is made. Regarding this WSPP, both WD10 and the County had the opportunity to review, revise and weaken the plan the City paid for! This, without any City Council review! What is wrong with this picture? At a minimum the City Council needs to review the update before it is submitted!

2. From the data submitted, it is obvious that COB is paying the great majority of the costs for monitoring this water supply. This appropriate because COB is by far the largest purveyor of water and sewer services. But, at some point, is it OK for COB to be responsible for determining what problems are causing water supply degradation, and then have to pay to fix them? Both WD10 & WC have been externalizing these responsibilities to COB, and this must stop!

3. This update is a major undertaking! Are we prepared to do it correctly? Why is it already a year late? Much has happened in the last 6 years and more is known now than before.

4. Input from Whatcom County appears to be extensive. Will this be developed for review and inclusion in a timely fashion? Is there any sense of obligation or urgency? How can we get this to happen?

5. What has happened to the Lake Whatcom Management Program Review meetings? These seem to have become afterthoughts! Why don’t the executives see this as an important aspect of their responsibilities? It would be good to set these meetings early and stick to the dates!

6. DOE’s 303(d) listing allows 15 years to mitigate. It has now been 8 years, and no TMDL or Model yet! Even before these tools are ready, we need action toward meaningful results!

7. Re Watershed Property Acquisition, more funding is needed from both COB and Whatcom County. Public ownership and careful management are the best BMPs known!

8. Whatcom County & COB need to look very carefully at Recreation uses in and around Lake Whatcom, and insure passive uses predominate! What kind of message are we sending to the public when we fail to respect so valuable a resource? Other jurisdictions generally prohibit any such uses as standard practice.

9. New focus needs to be on interpreting results and taking actions likely to produce favorable results. Focus to date has been on data collection, planning to plan and watching more development and degradation happen! If this is really a hot issue, why not pursue real progress?

10. It would be of great interest to review the comments and changes made by WD10 & Whatcom County to the initial WSPP submitted in 2000. Are these available for examination? Will it require an Public Information Request to make this happen?

11. From the Introduction, comes this overall perspective:

Preventing drinking water contamination at the source makes sense:
• good public health sense;
• good economic sense; and
• good environmental sense.

Section 1 – Background & Description

• needs updating for water use, post G-P & diversion

• What are implications of increasing impervious surface coverage in watershed?

• Lake is a glacial depression, incapable of flushing itself.

• Note mass-wasting hazard from forest harvesting is minimized by vegetative cover

• Austin & Smith Creeks are largest tributaries + Anderson [diversion]

?? How will DNR mass-wasting hazards compare with proposed County land swap/reconveyance? Are county uses/practices likely to be any more protective than DNR? See figure 1.3.3-2 on p 1-19:

p 1-23: critical source protection areas

Fig 1.5.1-1: WD10 wells in Agate Bay area? What is planned use/expansion?

P 1-27: jurisdictional boundaries – adjust for acquisitions

• what would be advantage of COB annexing WD7’s area?

P 1-29: Whatcom County land use needs update. Note that Rural Forestry rezones continuously allow roads and sprawl development on 20 acre lots.

Fig 1.6.2-2: WC Title 20 zoning & UGAs – note land acquisition location priorities. Commercial Forestry [CF] allows roads, no houses, outside WD’s [>40 acres]

P 1-32: needs updating

P 1-34: COB zoning – Basin 1; Fig 1.6.2-3 needs update for parks, acquisitions

p 1-38: Water Quality Monitoring; need column to show $ per year! For COB costs [note COB also pays for IWS work]

p 1-42: 1993 Comp Water Plan – by Barrett Consulting

Section 2 – ID of activities detrimental to water quality.

• need update of Lake Whatcom Watershed to show current zoning

p 2-1: modify to eliminate G-P use [explain reference to residential ?]

p 2-2: update potential build-out tables

p 2-3: 10% impervious should be maximum!

Fig 2.1.1-1: does not bode well for lake, especially basin 2!

**P 2-9: DOH designated Lake as “severe public health hazard”
Need to ban any more OSS?

Fig 2.1.4-1: OSS sites; don’t allow more; require sewer hook-ups where close by; buy TDRs from remainder

P 2-11: forestry is 67% or 20,798 acres of watershed; 3,000 acres = Rural; 18,000 acres = commercial. Need to prohibit any further use of RF zoning for homes! Relate this to land acquisition program. Update areas to current conditions.

P 2-11: mass-wasting is mostly from catastrophic events, slides, etc. DNR practices are better than private forest rules, but all forestry has some deleterious impact. Is this the intent of the County’s proposed re-conveyance plan? If so, why not focus on private land, not DNR?

P 2-13: bulk chemical spill hazard is obvious, especially off LW Blvd.

P 2-14: alluvial fan hazards- assumes additional floods/slides will preferentially impact these areas? eg Sudden Valley, etc.

**P 2-15: if only mitigation is appropriate zoning, then do it & enforce it!

P 2-15: diversion prior to 1998 was > 25% during summer. Better flushing than we can expect post G-P. earlier flushing inadequate to completely mask degradation, merely delaying it longer.

Explain hydropower plant impact on diversion flow further. Does this constrict COB operations?

P 2-15/16: Note joint planning with WD10 since 1974. Are they still in denial a problem exists and it is their responsibility to help fix it? If COB’s greatest concern is water degradation, what else can we do to prevent it?

P 2-16: if diversion water has < nutrients, could diversion water enter the lake closer to basin 2, especially during summer? Would this cost be cheaper than extending COB intake?

Fish hatcheries impacts; any unnecessary wastes being dumped into lake?

Passing reference to pathogens giardia and cryptosporidium; treating takes care of giardia, but not crypto?

Fig 2.1.8-1: fish species and habitat; concentrate on preserving natural spawning areas.

P 2-18: mining for sand, gravel [and coal] should be permanently terminated as inappropriate use

P 2-21: road use chart needs updating; future road maximum needs determining and ensured.

P 2-23: LW Connector – please delete all reference to this in future. Only developers [and potential Trillium rezone] could benefit! Note that 32% of roads are gravel forest service roads, yet these contribute 50% of sediment. Stop doing this! Also stop allowing more private roads that ‘daisy chain’ development!

P 2-23: Hydro-power requires reduction in middle fork flow from 90 to 66 cfs to produce 1000 kw. Is this worth it at PW current practice? It is green energy, but reduces operational flexibility for LW. Its moment in history may be over.

P 2-24: recreation is cited as a ‘popular’ use by 71% of those surveyed. Are we to be guided by what is popular, or what is best practice? What are appropriate recreational uses and where should they be located? Are these active or passive uses? Do they require hauling boats over local roads from anywhere? Who is to regulate this activity? Who will keep track of statistics, collect fees and enforce laws? County has 5 parks; how will these be developed and used? Some uses [marine & floatplanes] should be curtailed or eliminated for the general good of the community and ratepayers. New parks development will bring more roads, parking and people which exacerbates existing problems!

P 2-25: ORV/off-trail vehicles are a problem that demonstrably degrades watershed. Need to be careful! Trend is toward more urbanization and less natural areas – bad ideas, both of them.

P 2-28: prioritization of adverse activities & rating system. This is the meat of this exercise, yet only methodology is discussed –maybe more later?

Section 3 – Watershed management & Control measures.

P 3-1: how local jurisdictions monitor & control activities to minimize adverse source water impacts.

P 3.1 thru 3.5: details existing measures [are they working?]

• Land use & ownership are challenging! No surprise.
Public ownership is 47.5% + 4.4% = 51.9%

• Cites failed TIG effort; ‘currently no plans to purchase property’ needs update!

• cites Sudden Valley’s Gordian Knot of covenants; can’t limit access to lake, even at water intakes!

P 3-2: agreement: COB & WD10 –increases sewage volume to COB

• 2 agreements: WC & COB
UGA annexation ‘coordination’
Septic system survey

• agreement: COB & DNR [14,300 acres] 1985 – encourages public ownership!

• agreement: COB & WD7: 1703 acres

p 3-3: water & sewer outside COB limits; COB stipulates to protect

• SVCA ACC Guidelines -35% max lot coverage

• SVCA density reduction program [reduces by 1400 lots]

**p 3-4: cites WD10 settlement with CWA regarding 241 & 91 lots
NOTE COB bought these properties with Watershed Acquisition $!
[Chen & Denke]

• ‘informal agreements’ COB & Agencies - pesticides

• WD10/WC bought SV lots at tax auction [so did COB]

• cites CWA suit settlement $220 K

p 3-5: notes Lake Whatcom is a ‘hot’ political issue! Imagine that!

• COB prohibitions are pre Silver Beach Ordinance

P 3.6: touts Lake Whatcom Management Program as ‘unique advantage’.
Is this conceptual or actual? Show results! Talk is cheap. The best sounding idea may not be enough to do the job. Where are results?

P 3.7: effectiveness of existing controls

• COB enforcement weak; others?

• WD10 ‘empowered’ by 3 RCWs; these aren’t effective unless WD actually uses this enabling to advocate protection with WC!

• 80% Rule limits extent of zoned area to be developed.
Why not a lower %? What does this translate to in # of DUs?

P 3.8: recommended strategies

• WC Title 20; need update of current zoning and its potential build-out. Are there areas that could be further restricted? Acquired? Which ones?

P 3.9: reviews of anticipated monitoring & outlines future updates of WSPP.

• TDR program; is it working? Why not?

P 3-10: WC Storm water management; extremely weak!

• Land clearing; extremely weak! Needs update

p 3-11: GMA compliance with Comp Plan? What about UGAs?

**P 3-12/13: downzones; ‘options’ which were adopted? needs update

• Timber mgmt - Forest Practices Act; DNR has oversight in watershed- needs update!

p 3-13: ‘harvest prescriptions’ – means potential mass-wasting -or clear-cutting for the layperson

p 3-14: stormwater facilities – only COB [needs update to show new SSWU rates * program

P 3-15: WD10 Interceptor & overflow problems it was meant to correct. Will it just create more?

P 3-16: WC stormwater – where’s the results, except for those facilities that are privately owned and operated? If non-structural BMPs are used, this minimizes need for built facilities!

• Are OSS rules still voluntary? Is Lake Whatcom any different from countywide?

**P 3-17: are there really no restrictions on hazardous materials transport?

• LUST [Leaking Underground Storage Tanks] enforcement weak due to staffing. Is this being corrected?

** • Joint COB/WD10.WC effort on stormwater management- Phase 1, EES & ENTRANCO Report exceptionally weak! Has been discredited. More delays!

P 3-18: disposal of toxics: initiated by COB, now being operated by WC

• OSS interlocal – entirely paid by COB [$73.5 K per year]? 689 sites ID’ed in 2000.

**• Because of Moratorium, WD10 won’t object to OSS being used, if ‘no protest agreement’ is signed to connect to sewer later!

**P 3-19: Because COB would not accept add’l sewage, WC HHS had no choice but to approve OSS!

• State & Federal efforts; local control mechanism enables these agencies to help. Otherwise wait until emergency!

• DOE 303(d) listing [1999] for Oxygen depletion, triggers TMDL – within 15 years!

• DNR’s HCP excludes private forests lands. What covers them? WC must keep these in perpetual forestry!

• Bill 5536 LW Landscape Plan – a long, unsatisfactory result

P 3-20: no timber sale until pilot project completed [3+ years] defied state legislature!

**• WRIA – locally plan & implement! Where are results? What is plan? Is this defunct? Where are teeth?

P 3-21: public education – joint effort, list of tasks. Weak. Where are results?

**• COB has ‘tremendous commitment’. What are results & costs?

P 3-23: WD10 – nil! WC – OSS, otherwise nil! Needs update

P 3-24: DOE – COB 7 FTEs for Pledge Program, a voluntary effort

**• Local watershed control committee; Lake Whatcom Management Program adopted by 1992 Joint Resolution. This ID’ed 8 areas of focus, deferred 3 [Land Use, Stormwater, OSS] the important ones!
Instead, worked on Forest Practices, Spill Response, Conservation, Education, Data Management.

P 3-25: 1998 formalized Interlocal Agreement @ $375 K per year

• adopted Interlocal Agreement & published list of ‘accomplishments’

** p 3-29: Tabulated List of Existing Control Strategies & Ratings of their effectiveness. Note: these exclude laws, such as ESA, CWA, CAA, Federal WPCA, pesticide regs.

• Several Fold-out Spreadsheets list the above, with implementing agencies shown. Preponderance of work to be done by COB!

**P 3-30: Public ownership; DNR should keep forests; other avenues need exploring. Update for COB watershed Acquisitions

**• Restrict COB sewage amounts

p 3-31: Add COB; bought Chen & Denke [91 + 241 TDRs]; helped buy SV lots.

P 3-32: List COB actions! [Silver Beach Ord; SSWU; CAO; Land Acquisition; Narrow Street standards]

P 3-34: GMA; Landscape Plan; Land Acqusition –Private Forestry; fenced Anderson Creek; etc]

P 3-35: COB is doing its part!

P 3-36: COB is doing its part!

P 3-37: COB is doing its part & more! [BTV10, etc]

• Cop out! Legislative bodies have other things to do! Both COB & WC have Executive/Council forms of Govt. Neither Council had any input into this WSPP! This does need to change! [WD10 Commissioners had input!]

p 3-38: Recommended Control Strategies: COB & WD10 have limited abilities!?? Yes, because County has jurisdiction over most of it, and they need to do things too!

• ‘Water Purveyor Perspective’ 5,000 DU’s now + ???? more to come!
Potential for 7331 add’l DU’s, for total of 16,500 people! Update this!

• Residential paragraph – doubtful of effectiveness

• Commercial – only WC has the zoning stick!

P 3-39: Reaffirm that WC has responsibility!

**• Recreation plans need review for compatibility – encourage passive uses!

P 3-40: Recommended control policies currently being pursued
• all old news!
• what specifically has WD10 done? $?

• monitoring & assessing toxics; who does this, COB? $?

• Modeling Lake Whatcom; DOE has ever-elongated time frames – 6 ears later this still is not ready for use as a management tool. [16 years is allowed]

p 3-41: Plans for monitoring & updates; where are the ‘plans, procedures & schedules’?
• began discussions in 1990; in 1998 set up annual review, focus is on 1 year ahead?

P 3-42: WSPP update
• where is info between 2000 & 2005? Are we serious about meeting deadline with meaningful update?

• 2005 1st 6 months –COB & WD10 are to consolidate information –has this begun?

• 2005 last 6 months –weekly progress meetings –has this happened?

• Final Draft is to be submitted to the Lake Whatcom management Committee for THEIR approval – never goes to City Council? Why?

• Approved Draft plan to be submitted to State Dept of Health by Jan 1, 2006. Has this happened? If not, why not?

Section 4 – Monitoring Programs

P 4-1: Most monitoring by COB & WWU - $? Per year?
• some by WD10; DFW; DOE - $? Per year?
• routine tests - $? Per year?

• Water quality parameters tested – Table 4.1.2-1 – are these adequate, or just the minimum required?

P 4-2: Stormwater run-off monitoring – extent & who pays? Adequate?

P 4-3: Special monitoring; analysis of trends – what are major findings? Implications? What actions does this suggest? Where is expert interpretation? E.g. don’t correlations between giardia, cryptosporidium & fecal coliforms tell us something? Does treatment kill crypto? What are near-shore implications for swimming and other direct water contact recreation?

P 4-10: Oxygen depletion conditions; why are two different perspectives given? This seems a continuation of the dueling scientists that clearly showed basic disagreement between COB & WD10 during the discredited ENTRANCO Report. Does WD10 get to veto COB concerns?

P 4-11: Phosporus; again, why are two different perspectives given? This also seems a continuation of the dueling scientists that clearly showed basic disagreement between COB & WD10 during the discredited ENTRANCO Report. Does WD10 get to veto COB concerns? What about WC? Didn’t the Joint Council agree 2 years ago that Phosphorus was a top priority? This need serious updating of agreed policy!

P 4-11: Austin Creek; 58% of samples exceed fecal limits! What’s wrong with this picture? Can this ever get bad enough for WD10 to actually do something?

P 4-13: WWU monitoring; why are we even bothering to do this if we’re not willing to be guided by the trends? What happened to our agreed policy of prevention over cleaning up a bad mess? Are our laws so weak that we are stymied? Do we have the political will? Is ignorance by decision makers still an excuse? When will the situation be bad enough to force strong action? Seriously, we need more than just retreating lines in the shifting sand!

P 4-14: Near-shore; Bloedel-Donovan has high fecal & enterococcus counts. What implications does this have for continuing to have children swimming here? What about boats, cars & trailers? It will take more than a few life guards to fix this problem!

P 4-16: after storm events – high fecal, phosphorus & nitrogen concentrations. Summary says it very succinctly. Needs current update, especially for Basin 3. Identifies streams & constructed stormwater facilities as main problems!

P 4-17/18/19: Recommended Monitoring Improvements –Important!

• Hydrologic Model –Long Term predictive tool –when?

• Nutrient Transport Model [TMDL] – when? Why not set interim limits as adaptive management tool?

• Determine if P or N limited; why not control for both?

• Additional Sampling; to test validity? Will there ever be a time when more data is not needed? This paralysis by analysis is understandable, but not helpful in slowing or stopping or reversing negative trends!

• Additional Monitoring parameters; same comment as above. It’s good to improve tools, but don’t let ‘better’ get in the way of doing ‘good idea for until we know more’!

• Circulation Model; good idea, but why not just test for the existing conditions?

• Monitor BMPs for stormwater facilities; always good to monitor for results, but we already know which BMPs are likely to work best!

• Identify sources of pathogens; good idea! Hint, its mostly humans!

• Evaluate Y-Road landfill; isn’t this done? Has any mitigation resulted?

• DOE Toxics study follow up. Good idea, but not reason to delay action!

• Additional weather stations & gauges; necessary for proper data gathering to support Model(s) - isn’t this completed?

Section 5 – System Operation

• Mostly info that describes basics; could benefit from a narrative of how system could be reconfigured for better treatment results, including OOM cost estimates.

Section 6 – Appendices

Very information collection of existing policy, Interlocal Agreements, Ordinances & Operating procedures that give the foundation for why things are as they are.

• ORD 7775: Public Water Supply –to DOH in 1969

• Water Quality Report for 2000

• Staff Ranking Factors, developed to weight ‘Adverse Activities’ in Table 2.2-1

• Interlocal Agreement; COB/WC/WD10 [9/9/98] - Joint Lake Whatcom Management Program

• Interlocal Agreement; COB/WC [12/19/97] - Annexation – Very problematic! Among other things, this says COB adopts the Countywide Planning Policies. This was specifically rejected by COB in its recent Comp Plan!

• Interlocal Agreement; - Septic Systems [undated] – Dr Frank James

• Agreement; DNR & COB [3/5/85] – Forest management

• Interlocal Agreement; COB & WD7 [4/13/93] -

• Lake Whatcom RESERVOIR Management Program – 2000 [printed brochure with tasks listed in some detail]

• COB Public Works Data & Operating procedure