Friday, January 8, 2010

Lake Whatcom: Little Ducky Duddle's Fault?

The Ducky Duddle Song

Little ducky duddle
went wading in a puddle,
wading in a puddle quite small.

Said he "it doesn't matter
how much I splash and splatter
'cause I'm just a little ducky after all."
The current Weekly's GRISTLE poses some interesting background and observations about our RESERVOIR.
I recommend reading it.

Those who have followed this issue for a while know what a conundrum it is.
Even after a string of after-the-fact beneficial actions by City & County governments as well as the WA Dept of Ecology and other agencies, the rate of steady degradation of our drinking water supply has slowed slightly, but not stopped, much less reversed as the DOE has directed.

Recounting the long litany of well-intended past actions would fill a few pages and more importantly lead some into believing we've already done a lot, which lessens the need to do more.
Nothing could be less true!

Suffice to say that some of the bigger steps, like down-zong, restrictions on clearing and grading, watershed acquisition & preservation, storm-water regulations and mitigation, lake-friendly gardening & landscaping are working to some extent, but not nearly enough to actually reverse the trend of lake water degradation.

Believe me, I know how tiring it can be working on this issue! And expensive. And controversial. And frustrating.
But that is the nature of this beast.
Think of a long-term marathon race, not a 40-yard sprint -as many seem to prefer.

With that concept in mind, the new year brings in some new elected officials, who may or may not be able to do much more than has been done to benefit our Reservoir.
Time will tell, as it has up to now.
And the results are not nearly good enough.

Waiting for the DOE TMDL Study to tell us what is needed to be done is easy, because we're really good at waiting!
Actually taking the actions required is the hard part.

And its not easy to conceive of many more 'quick fixes', like the ones already put into place.
Only steady, incremental steps can be visualized that will largely depend on the voluntary efforts of enlightened watershed residents, property owners, users and concerned citizens.
Of course, government regulations, funding and enforcement are necessary to effectively support these -and prior- efforts.

Ideas like infiltration of storm-water, creating a large park & open space from former DNR forest lands, and the like do have the potential for adding more protection from pollutants rapidly entering Lake Whatcom.
But, these approaches need to be tested and evaluated for their efficacy.

As tempting as it is to wish for a 'silver bullet' to solve our Reservoir degradation problem, that is not likely.
Only the 'block & tackle' work of constant vigilance, political courage and steady effort is likely to be effective over time.
The degradation of our drinking water Reservoir has been caused primarily by unfiltered stormwater run-off, resulting from multiple acts over time; literally 'death by a thousand pin-pricks'.

Or a thousand Ducky Duddles?
That's the point; we are all Ducky Duddles, and it DOES matter how much we splash and splatter!

Under these circumstances, a quick and painless solution is not likely to occur.
Daunting as that outlook may seem, it should encourage more focused action, not less.
I hope the new elected officials will rise to this task and accept their share of accountability for Lake Whatcom.
After all, it is the drinking water source for half of the people in Whatcom County.

Back to the Gristle's conclusion: Seth [Fleetwood], with feet on both sides of county and city water policy, chose not to step into that puddle.
Maybe that's not such a bad thing for Seth to not do, unlike Ducky Duddle?
After all, he's been there, done that and knows -first hand- the kind of irrational reaction that can be triggered by stepping into such a puddle with both feet.

Remember 'Boats Off', and the County Council's [and Seth's] unhappy experience with that?
It's intent was simply to restrict the use of older motorized watercraft that spewed 25% of their fuel directly into the water.
Doesn't that sound like a desirable thing to do?
Especially since the City's Water Treatment Plant isn't designed to remove harmful hydrocarbons?

So, it really makes no difference whether Seth volunteered for the City's Lake Whatcom Reservoir Watershed Committee -for several reasons:

(1) Unlike the County Council, the City Council Committees are 'weak' committees meant primarily to spread the early discussion workload, although these sessions are also inclusive of all other members, and all final decisions are made by the Council-As-A-Whole.

(2) Given the make-up of City Council, there is comparatively less resistance to considering, passing and funding programs to benefit Lake Whatcom. Seth does not need to be on this committee to stay informed or contribute ideas.
{My last 2 years I elected to not serve on this committee, because I thought others needed to become more involved.]

(3) Seth DID pick the Parks & Recreation Committee, whose activities he is familiar and comfortable with.
And, it's possible that Seth MAY use that position to help promote the County's proposed Reconveyance of 8400 acres of DNR forestlands to create a large park and open space in the Lake Whatcom watershed.

Some have already characterized this as a potential 'home run' for the Reservoir, and it could be, provided a careful, low impact plan is adopted -along with the long term funding to adequately manage it.
But, I remain a skeptic until I see those critical elements in place.

Seth has served us pretty well while a part of the County Council.
And, I suspect he will continue in that vein while on the City Council.
No one should doubt that Seth's new job will prove more comfortable to him, both in the scope of issues considered and better compatibility with his peers, not to mention a much more favorable atmosphere for being re-elected.

Of course, two years ago Seth did run for Mayor. Think he'll do that again?
Since his position is the only 2-year elected seat in the County, do you think he will support changing it to a 4-year seat?
His predecessor certainly fought that idea, but think of the possible ramifications for Seth.

By serving a 2-year term, Seth would have to pick which office he runs for in 2 years.
But, a 4-year term -on the same election cycle as Gene Knutson, Michael Lilliquist and Stan Snapp- would mean he could run for Mayor [or other office] without first relinquishing his Council seat.
Think about it.