Friday, April 27, 2012

Reconveyance Decision Upcoming

Bob Simmons has posted another piece on Crosscut about an impending decision by the Whatcom County Council regarding whether over 8000 acres of steep DNR-managed timberlands upslope of the Lake Whatcom Reservoir will become designated County parklands that severely restrict future clear-cutting and its associated service-road building.

Here is the comment I posted:
This is a good idea and affordable. To mimic nature is always easier when nature is left to do the job it does. There will always be pro & con arguments, but preserving these steep slopes from clear-cutting has to be a no-brainer! Bellingham & Whatcom County are very fortunate to have such a large and pure reservoir for a drinking water supply, but until relatively recently, understanding what it takes to preserve it has been slow in coming. 1992 was the year that a joint Resolution was signed that identified known problems that need to be faced, with careful thought coupled with effective action, not just talk. Other major cities, like Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver, BC, etc had long ago taken steps to ensure the safety of their water supplies, but not Bellingham -which had and has some serious catching up to do! 
The Whatcom County government has been very slow in coming to terms with its water policy, and not just concerning the Lake Whatcom Reservoir. It still lacks any meaningful storm water program that has both long term goals and funding. So, this reconveyance can represent a good start, and one that is affordable and effective in mimicking nature on the very steep slopes that need to be kept stable and green, whether one calls it a park or watershed buffer; trees and native plants do the work necessary to hold unstable soil in place. And, since soil is the major source of phosphorus, keeping it out of Lake Whatcom is important if the growing problem of algae blooms is to be curtailed. 
Bellingham, by contrast, has focused is watershed preservation efforts on acquiring land more suitable for development, using funds from surcharges on it's water sales as purveyor. Of course, this land is more expensive; it is not often just given away! The point is, that whatever watershed land is preserved -by whatever method- it all contributes to stopping inappropriate development in this stressed and sensitive watershed. Make no mistake about the fact that development -whether housing, clear-cut logging, roads, etc- is the main culprit in degrading this wonderful water supply source! To the extent the DNR reconveyance helps, its good. 
It's now time for this decision to be favorably made, since the issue has been thoroughly debated for several years, during which almost $400,000 has been already spent by the County to survey and consolidate parcels into the configuration upon which the decision now rests.

Practically every objection raised has now been addressed and reasonably satisfied, except of course for those permanently mired in selfish interest or extreme ideological thinking.
The recent $500,000 contribution through the Whatcom Land Trust to the Mount Baker School District certainly keeps that jurisdiction whole from future timber harvest revenue loss.
Also, scaling back expensive early plans for extensive park development results in far less new revenue demand from the County, which helps both fiscally and in terms of avoiding adverse watershed impacts.

When this DNR reconveyance proposal first publicly surfaced in the fall of 2007, I also raised several concerns, all of which have now been satisfactorily addressed. I hope the County Council -and the new Executive- will allow this idea to go forward and become the reality most residents want and have come to expect.
It will be good for the County, good for Lake Whatcom Reservoir, and it will respect all the hard work, effort and expense it has required to proceed thus far in good faith. All that is left to do is the final approval, which only the Council can decide.