Monday, January 19, 2009

Lake Whatcom: Questions about Proposed Private Road

It seems hard to believe that in the face of the DOE's TMDL -and its required, difficult remedial actions- that someone can adequately "mitigate" the effects of two miles of new 'private' road in this Reservoir's watershed.

Yet, the Whatcom County SEPA official has apparently rubber stamped this application with another DNS [Determination of Non-Significance].
Is this 'SEPA official' person competent, or is he just doing what he is instructed to do?
Does the SEPA checklist used include or even address effects on stormwater runoff downslope from the proposed development?

Even if the County has minimal stormwater rules -and no viable means for funding such efforts- don't they consider the impact of clearing of over eleven acres of forest and natural ground cover significant?
Won't this be replaced by an impervious surface that will itself allow more clearing and impervious surfaces?
Somewhere, I recall that stripping natural growth from land increases runoff by a factor of 16.
Do we understand what that can cause?

I don't get either the myopia or the routine bureaucracy that continues to seriously hamper efforts to protect this Reservoir.
And, coming so soon after the record rainfall and runoff from this same general area that actually closed North Shore Drive, damaged homes and infrastructure, too!
What the heck is going on?
Business as usual?
I hope the City and/or others will soon vigorously challenge this short-sighted, and maybe even illegal development!

Here are a few pieces of information about this proposal that have come my way, followed by a few questions that citizens and our elected representatives ought to be asking:

LEGAL NOTICE: [How many people actually read these? Thank goodness some do!]
(L7015) WHATCOM COUNTY GIVES PUBLIC NOTICE THAT THE FOLLOWING SEPA THRESHOLD OF MITIGATED DETERMINATION OF NON-SIGNIFICANCE (MDNS) HAS BEEN ISSUED TODAY SUBJECT TO THE 14 DAY COMMENT PERIOD CONCLUDING ON JANUARY 22, 2008. File: SEP2008-00063 Project Description: The construction of a road to serve future residential home construction on up to 26 existing 20-acre residential properties currently located in the Rural Forestry zone. The proposed private road will require clearing and grading for roughly 10,300 linear feet of roadway. The total project impact area (clearing) is approximately 11.05 acres in size. Proponent: CLN LLC, Christopher and Nancy Secrist, Gordon and Carol Iverson Location: The proposed project lies northerly and approximately 2 miles east of the intersection of Academy Road and North Shore Drive on Squalicum Mountain. APN #: 380324 066302, 380324 066366, 380324 066432, 380324 200432, 380324 200495, 380313 094020, 380313 229052, 380313 137128, 380313 211152, 380313 333171, 380313 333231, 380313 355328, 380313 295341, 380313 368452, 380313 307476. Lead Agency: Whatcom County Planning and Development Services Zoning: Rural Forestry (RF) Comp Plan: Rural Forestry ANY PERSON OR AGENCY MAY APPEAL THE COUNTY'S COMPLIANCE WITH WAC 197-11 BY FILING AN APPEAL WITH THE WHATCOM COUNTY LAND USE DIVISION LOCATED AT 5280 NORTHWEST DRIVE, BELLINGHAM, WA 98226. APPEALS MUST BE MADE WITHIN 10 DAYS AFTER THE END OF THE COMMENT PERIOD.

From the Department of Ecology's website:
County: Whatcom
Lead Agency: Whatcom County
Lead Agency Contact: Tyler Schroeder
Lead Agency Phone: (360) 676-6907
Lead Agency File #: 2008-00063
Ecology File #: 200900152
Document Type: DNS-M
Description: Squalicum Ridge Rd; construct a 10,300 ft road to service future residential homes on up to 26 existing 20 acre residential properties in the Rural Forestry zone
Location: Two miles east of the intersection of Academy Rd and North Shore Drive on Squalicum Mountain
Applicant: CLN LLC, Christopher & Nancy Secrist, Gordon & Carol Iverson
Issue Date: 01/08/2009
Mail Date:
Comment Due: 01/22/2009
Enter Date: 01/12/2009

The Bham Herald Legas-Ad announcement : ;

A cursory googling shows: Christopher Secrist is/was affiliated with Oeser (famous in-town polluters) and Gordon & Carol Iverson both are/were worked for Trillium.

• I can add from my own knowledge that Mr Iverson has monitored closely the City's interest in acquiring watershed property in this vicinity, and in at least one instance, bid slightly higher than the City's offer on a large wooded acreage near the power line right of way. Due to a technicality, the owner opted to sell to Mr Iverson rather than the City after it had completed a lengthy due diligence process. Nothing illegal here, but it does demonstrate an agenda that is significantly at odds with the City's goal of protecting the Reservoir.

One basic tenet of stormwater management is to use nature's own mitigation whenever possible.
Sometimes this means 'don't build there'; other times maintaining adequate buffers is OK.
Always, its better to mitigate stormwater higher up the slope, not lower!
And, building detention ponds, stormwater drains and treatment facilities is expensive and relatively ineffective.

Yet, knowing the above, here we are pretending this wisdom is unknown - again!
Amazing, but maybe not when one takes into account how this County is being administered.
But, that also brings up another question: Does the County Executive own property in this vicinity?
And, if he does, will this development benefit him financially?

Another observation:
If this property is currently zoned 'Rural Forestry', how is it possible to build 26 homes, each on 20 acres?
Is that land use appropriate, even as a 'cluster'?
Is it legal?
Would the County Council need to approve a rezone for this to happen?
On what grounds might such a rezone be granted?

Who will supply water to these sites?
Water District 7?
Whose water will they use?
Doesn't Water District 7 have an agreement with the City?
Does this agreement restrict such extensions?
Does Water District 10 [now masquerading as the Lake Whatcom Water & Sewer District] have any role to play in this scheme"

What about sewage?
Does the developer expect the County to allow more septic systems to service these 26 mega homes?
What about the clear policy adopted for NOT doing that?

What about downstream damage potential?
Not only will runoff from this area find its way downhill, it will likely reach the Reservoir.
On its way down hill, who is responsible for the expected stormwater damage, in the forms of erosion, flooding and added nutrient and pollutant loads -which are supposedly to be considered in the County & City's response to the DOE TMDL?
Will the County be allowed to wash its hands of these responsibilities and look the other way as the City tries to manage this mess after the fact?

You know what?
There is a lot that stinks about this proposal!
And, it is time to do something about it, in strongest terms!
It would be nice if those who profess concern about our Reservoir, started doing more to actually achieve their stated goals.

And, while I'm at it, how about those citizens who take their drinking water for granted, then use their energies to advocate something of far lesser importance?
It is past time for this community to come together and really make its will known to those who have been elected to lead us!
We simply need to demonstrate what is most important, and tell them we expect effective action, not empty words and more complacency!

There is not much time to waste in addressing this particular problem 'development', which is so symptomatic of the repeated damage that has already been inflicted on our Reservoir!
Literally, this Reservoir is being harmed to death by 'a thousand pin pricks'; each may be non-fatal, but in their cumulative effect certainly so.

When I hear 'private road', I also think of Sudden Valley, which feels entitled to County road funds to access and maintain them.
Already, there is the expectation of the County providing access to this proposed development on Squalicum Mountain.
Then, will come widening, turning lanes and other improvement, all at taxpayer expense.
I object to any part of my taxes being used for this private purpose!
The County can't even maintain the roads it has!
Eventually, those who choose to live in this proposed, private, 520 acre enclave, if it gets allowed and built, will also depend upon City services, too, which they will pay nothing to deserve.
Just say no to this.
If we can't find a way to say 'no', we'll deserve what results.

And 520 acres of low density development; when did that start to fit with the slow growth policy that so many citizens want?
Why, that's more than the County wanted to allow the City to have -and that was for high density development!
Get serious County!