Whatcom Watch Online
December 2001
Volume 10, Issue 12


Tree Stumps in Fairhaven Village

Ken Wilcox is a writer and environmental planner. His business, Osprey Environmental Services, is located in the Terminal Building in Fairhaven.

Part II

Editor’s Note: Part 1 in this series appeared in the September issue of Whatcom Watch, page 1.

by Ken Wilcox

It’s now been six months, as I write this, since the Harris Avenue tree-nappers made off with our sweet gums. Six months since anything so bland as a house sparrow perched and preened itself outside my office window. Where there were once 30-year-old sweet gum trees—trees whose leaves would have turned by now—there is something of a chasm, a dry geometric wash, as if a flash flood had scoured away the living parts of a city block and left us only concrete.

Yet Fairhaven is fundamentally still Fairhaven, despite the missing trees: the old buildings, parked cars, the bumpy street, the people. They are all still here. But the green shades, fluttering leaves, the birds, the routine complexities of shadow and sunlight, and a modicum of history are gone.

Roots “Busting Up the Sidewalk”

The stealth tree cutting, shortly after dawn on the 16th of May, and unannounced to the public beforehand, was part of a scheme crudely described by the city’s complaint handlers as a necessary sidewalk repair and replacement project. The tree roots were “busting up the sidewalk,” they said, “creating safety hazards to people,” and needed to be removed.

They were the wrong street trees, we were told (by public works and park department staff, as well as the mayor’s office), because the sweet gums’ roots needed more soil area for growth, the trees were not planted correctly, the branches were prone to wind damage.

When a public furor erupted after the cutting and city officials were asked to account for their action, the initial response was provided in an inter-office email from the parks department to the mayor’s office, the morning after the trees were removed. Steve Nordeen, the city’s tree expert, wrote “Here’s the scoop... [the trees] have been buckling the sidewalk and curbs for several years due to poor site preparation when they were installed.”

The planting space was too small, he said. And sweet gums hold their leaves into the fall. When it rains, the added weight makes the branches “susceptible to breakage,” and our southwest wind “whips these branches all around.” It’s a real challenge, Nordeen wrote, “to keep them from breaking.” Somehow the other sweet gums in Fairhaven have weathered storms for three decades and remain stately and intact.

Nearly lost in the official explanation is a hint of a shushed plan to widen the street. “We looked at several options,” read the email, “saving the trees, creating larger growing spaces, adding root barriers... replacing the sidewalks and curbs every three years... [and] removing the trees.” Removal would allow replacement with a “more appropriate tree with better site preparation.” After all, said Nordeen, “we are the parks and recreation department. Our goals is (sic) to plant and preserve trees, not to take them down.”

Curbs Are Moving Closer

Then comes what was later acknowledged by Dick McKinley, the city’s new public works director, to be the principal basis for taking the trees down. Nordeen: “Since the entire street is being replaced, the curbs are moving closer to the root zone of the trees and the sidewalks are also being replaced it was decided to remove the trees.” The curbs are moving closer... Now why would that be?

Certainly, we should not wholly dismiss the concern with the less-than-ideal conditions these trees were surviving in (one could say thriving in), but the explanations do seem tailored to the convenience of argument. If the curbs were not “moving closer to the root zone,” would there have been a compelling need to remove the trees?

I called an acquaintance, a landscape architect who has been designing streetscapes and prescribing street tree installations for decades, including work in Bellingham. He told me there were a number of things the city could have done—should have done—short of removing the trees, if the purpose was to help make them stronger and more resilient while also reducing root damage to sidewalks. Like removing some of the concrete around their roots (an easy task in the business of sidewalk repair).

Twilight Zone Moment

As street trees go, seven of the nine trees taken were in generally excellent condition; only two had significant scars from broken branches—hardly grounds for a whole block of hasty arboricide. Interestingly, on my way to a recent meeting in Seattle, I passed through a street-full of maturing sweet gum trees, just above the breezy shore of Elliot Bay. All appeared reasonably prim and healthy in their five-by-five-foot plots.

Days before the Harris Avenue tree tragedy unfolded, a botanist friend dropped by my office to chat, believe it or not, about the unusual diversity of native and non-native trees in Bellingham. She looked out the window, admiring the sweet gums. I don’t recall her exact words... they were something along the lines of “Look at those sweet gums... beautiful.” Despite the obvious downside of their constricted concrete habitat, she assured me the trees appeared to be doing fine. It was a Twilight Zone moment.

Generally speaking, it would seem that the esoteric phenomenon of moving curbs can be reliably correlated to a widening of a street. And street widening, in this instance, would require tree removal. When citizen investigators combed the block for evidence of buckling (or moving) curbs, the buckled sidewalks defense fizzled. Except for one notable bump near the corner at 12th Street, the sidewalks were relatively smooth—cracked, but not at all in the state of desperation one might presume from reading the city’s subnormal deposition on tree removal.

McKinley Meets the People

There are, of course, far needier examples of buckled sidewalks elsewhere in Bellingham. Far more desperate trees than these. Any good street sleuth, standing in front of Tony’s Coffee with a 12-oz. single shot in hand, could eyeball the situation and probably reach the same conclusion.

In response to the stream of complaints, McKinley scheduled an informal meeting in Fairhaven to hear people out and to further explain the city’s plan for Harris Avenue. About 70 disgruntled gathered at Finnegan’s Alley with open minds and prickled nerves. The loss of the trees had pissed off just about everyone and McKinley got both ears full. Why, we asked, wasn’t the public notified? How could the city take down all the trees along one full block and not inform the community of its plans? “We talked to the merchants,” McKinley said. “We had meetings with them.”

John Servais, a southside resident and devotee to Getting-to-the-Bottom-of-It (whatever It may be), did some digging on the issue of public notification. He requested copies of all documentation relating to the tree removal, as any citizen is entitled to, and found that the city did issue a notice on the day prior to the tree cutting.

The notice appeared in The Bellingham Herald on the morning of the fateful day, though the trees were gone by the time most people would have picked up a paper. The paper trail he passed along to me for this article contained some interesting comments, like one from Gary Almy at Public Works to Nordeen: “Take your *#@%* trees down!” (verbatim).

City Needed Permit to Remove Trees

Tim Paxton, a Bellingham software developer and frequent visitor to Fairhaven, did a little more searching and discovered that the city also needed a permit to remove the trees, as provided under the local street-tree ordinance. When he requested a copy of the permit, he got little more than a blank stare in return. Sometime later a permit did materialize, dated and signed the same day the trees were cut. Perhaps the dedicated permit issuer was putting in some pre-dawn overtime.

To his credit, Dick McKinley, newly arrived in Bellingham to assume the under-appreciated role of public works director, quickly acknowledged to the frazzled crowd that a mistake had been made: that the public had not been adequately notified. The street tree scandal had already become a first big test for the kindly, robust man from Walla Walla. By the end of the meeting, the issues were not, by any stretch, resolved, but McKinley had done well. He promised a follow-up meeting after staff had an opportunity to review the concerns.

In the meantime, citizens inquired if anyone had reviewed the project for its potential impacts to state or nationally-listed historic features. The city’s landmark preservation ordinance seemed to have been ignored. A member of the Landmarks Review Board contacted Jackie Lynch at the planning department to ask questions about the planned removal of the historic red bricks in the center of Harris Avenue, left over from the old trolley car run to Happy Valley. The city wanted to replace them with an imitation brick-like surface that would be easier to maintain.

Lynch responded to her board member that “folks are driving on the bricks and popping them out, which makes for nasty little ankle-turners for us pedestrians.” She added that the bricks were not officially historic since they were not described in the historic registry.

This seems odd, since a week prior Lynch sent an email to Dick McKinley with this quote from the 1976 historic designation for Fairhaven: “Fairhaven’s electric street railway was discontinued in 1939 and 1940... However, the brick-paved railway bed is still exposed at the centers of 11th Street and Harris Avenue.”

The second meeting with McKinley and city staff, held in late June and also well attended, mostly rehashed the same issues. The discussions were animated, but concluded with what seemed to be fairly broad agreement to enhance the streetscape for pedestrians and transit, but to not widen the street. One dead-serious business owner suggested replacing the street with native trees, shrubs, boulders, and a babbling brook with little falls and a pond below.

The public works chief again promised to process the input and report back at a later date. The third meeting, on a gorgeous summer day in September and not well attended, revealed that the city had essentially gone back to Plan A: which was the curbs would move, the street would be widened. The disgruntled grunted.

So what were the concerns, really? And why would so many folks feel a need to resist a minor increase in street width and removal of a few bricks when the city promised to plant a new crop of “more appropriate,” street trees?

Next Month — Part Three

Local Builder Decries Building Industry Association Rhetoric

by Rick Dubrow

Rick Dubrow is the owner of A-1 Builders.

Inertia prevails… even with people and organizations. They tend to behave with consistency. Look at the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County’s (BIAWC) most recent attempt to argue that they are an organization working hard to insure a healthy environment. Come on now —how many of you align the BIAWC with sound, environmental stewardship?

How many of you that lean, or work, towards environmental health turn to the press at election time to seek out which candidates the BIAWC endorses, and then conclude that —yes—these are the folks I want to vote for to protect our environment?

Me—I run the other way. With bells on.

The BIAWC’s most recent attempt at green-washing finds Emily Salka, the assistant director of government affairs for the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, hammering Lisa McShane for her recent article entitled “All You Need to Know About Politics in Whatcom County” (Whatcom Watch, August 2001, page 6).

“All You Need to Know About Politics”

Lisa argued soundly for you and me to work hard to help elect officials “…who will be well informed on complicated issues and put good policies in place…with the good sense to not increase development in the watershed. Government that understands that a healthy environment is essential to a healthy economy, and that it’s cheaper and more effective to prevent pollution than to clean it up later.”

Ms. Salka’s response (Whatcom Watch, October/November issue, page 2) is a must read…concluding, in part, that BIAWC members “…represent the definition of altruism.” I must be one of these altruistic folks because she uses my company name, A-1 Builders, as part of her argument.

Green Building Awards

Salka writes that “members of our association, including A-1 Builders, have won national green building awards for building environmentally friendly homes and implementing projects to recycle building waste that normally end (sic) up in a landfill.”

For the record, I am a BIAWC member and my company has won some pretty outrageous awards (the Washington State Department of Ecology Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling Award for their small business category (less than 100 employees) for the year 2000-2001 and the 2001 Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention and Sustainable Practices).

But I do this critically important work for the environment not as a flag-waving member of the BIAWC, but, in part, to counter pro-growth groups like the BIAWC. These groups promote elected officials and policies that seek to undermine environmental stewardship; environmental stewardship that might reduce the pace at which the building community seeks to do their thing—gobble ’n build, gobble ’n build.

BIAWC Serves As Personal Fuel Rod

Therefore, while Salka tries to focus attention on A-1 Builders as a proud BIAWC member working to protect our environment, the fact is that the BIAWC serves as a personal fuel rod to fan my flame to work for sustainability against their very mission!

Why, then, am I a member of an organization so counter to my own goals? (I struggle with this each and every year I send in my BIAWC membership check.) My company spends a huge amount of money on industrial insurance to protect the health and safety of our co-workers.

BIAWC membership allows me to enroll into a program that gives back very sizable amounts of our premium when our safety performance is better than the average contractor. Without BIAWC membership, I lose this insurance refund, so, quite frankly, I choose to be rewarded for our excellent safety performance.

BIAWC Will Not Use A-1 Name to Green-Wash Itself

But I will not sit here idly and watch the BIAWC use my company name to green-wash itself as a model of environmental responsibility. To the contrary, this green builder wants to focus the light on what the result is when organizations like the BIAWC passionately promote growth.

First, an aside. The BIAWC is very active in our community, and Salka’s letter documents this well. They work hard in the community on projects involving children, helping single, head-of-household mothers, raising food for the needy, etc. My hat does go off to the BIAWC for these efforts— their social service record is strong.

I choose, however, to use triple-bottom-line filters to evaluate actions: the economic bottom-line, social equity, and environmental performance. And from this broad-based perspective I find the BIAWC, although very effective in protecting the economic bottom line of its membership, although working hard on social problems within our community, is nearly paralyzed in working to protect our environment.

Pro-Growth Inclinations

I saw this firsthand while I served on the BIAWC’s board of directors years ago while president of the master remodelors council. I was repulsed to the point of resigning my board position because of the pro-growth inclinations and actions of the organization.

Many builders and developers tell me that what they do is in simple response to what consumers want–“don’t point a finger at us,” they say. They simply supply what people demand, the argument goes.

Who, then, designs the demand? Are you and I really out there in the marketplace asking for new subdivisions that look like the very last one, so that “every place looks like no place, and no place looks like home”? (James Kuntsler)

Abundance Based Solely on Self-Interest

Or, instead, is demand driven—designed, perhaps —by private interest groups like the BIAWC, resulting in an economy fueled by the belief that we can grow our way into sustainability. “Ever expanding abundance,” says Paul Hawken, “is not a theory based on science, or history or nature. It is based solely on self-interest.”

The BIAWC is simply one of the spokes in the great economic wheel that surrounds you and me. A wheel that has resulted from a deliberate design strategy begun in the 1920s to boost U.S. markets by educating people to want things they don’t need. Listen to retailing analyst Victor Lebow just after World War II:

“Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual and ego satisfaction in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.”

Today’s Garages Larger Than Homes of 1950s

When I was born in 1951, ‘normal’ was a house of about 750 square feet. Today it’s about 2,300 square feet. In fact, today’s two or three car garage, covering a footprint of 700-900 square feet is larger than the entire typical homes of my childhood!

Normal, today, is our president asking us to spend like normal to keep ourselves healthy.

Healthy? Buy stuff to be healthy? Is it really healthy to be a people, says Joan Ryan, “…that shouts at a microwave oven to hurry up?”

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to live in it.” (Ellen Goodman)

Trying to Grow Our Way Out of Problems

I understand that the BIAWC is behaving rationally and that I am not. Given our system’s rewards and constraints, and viewed from the place they occupy in the system, the BIAWC is behaving normally. So the fault is not with people, it is with the system. A system that has led most, if not all, natural systems to some stage of collapse.

I know that sprawl hurts us all; that possession-overload hurts us all; that being normal amidst the prevalent paradigm hurts us all. I know that without government intervention, the environment can’t be fully protected because the marketplace doesn’t align the interests of the individual organization with those of the community at large.

I know that the BIAWC is just one of so many organizations trying to grow our way out of our problems, instead of embracing the fact that these problems may be the very results of this growth. Human nature being what it is, they seem unable, yet, to see the forest for the trees.

“The painful truth is that the present is a relatively comfortable place for those who have reached positions of mainstream political or business leadership…many of those with power to effect the necessary changes have the least motivation to alter the status quo that gave them power.” (Stephan Schmidheiny)

Hope Lies With “Cultural Creatives”

My hope lies with the 50 million people in the United States—26 percent of the adults—who, according to Paul Ray in his groundbreaking book “Cultural Creatives,” have made a profound, holistic shift in their world view, values and way of life. These are the folks that Lisa McShane asks to step up to the plate and work towards sound leadership; to act as one voice–in union.

Unity…perhaps the only real tool the left has against the money of the right.

Lisa’s appeal hopes to energize local cultural creatives (CCs) into action. It’s not easy, given that most CC’s think they are evolving alone—in a vacuum. They’re also folks who often shy away from joining movements or groups.

“The cultural creatives (CCs) have acted rather like an audience: all facing in the same direction, rather than toward one another. They believe that they are pretty much alone in the world and have yet to become conscious of themselves as a subculture. They have been reading the same things and going through parallel life experiences, and coming to similar conclusions about what is most important in life.

But their stance has been rather like an audience—spectators to the planetary drama who are leaning back in their seats, not fully engaged in creating, nor in acting in the drama...now CCs need to turn and face one another, to recognize who they are, to lean forward in mutual engagement and excitement. Having done that, hope and a sense of new possibility will arise, and they can be energized to take up the torch and build community, not only as a community of values and belief, but as a large and potentially powerful movement that comes at the most opportune historical moment.” (Paul Ray)

Business Is Destroying the World

I embrace the words of a fellow businessman and prolific author, Paul Hawken, when he says “.. there is no polite way to say that business is destroying the world.” Yet right outside your window may be the very solution to this problem that is dying to be replicated (literally dying): healthy ecosystems. Might an economy acting much like a forest be our road to a sustainable future?

“The transition from immature to mature ecosystems is called ecological succession. What we must now create is commercial succession. Rather than argue about where to put our wastes, who will pay for it, and how long it will be before toxins leak into the groundwater, we should be trying to design systems that are elegantly imitative of climax ecosystems found in nature.” (Paul Hawken)

I join Lisa McShane in asking you to turn and face one another; to accept that we all live downwind and downstream; to understand that, in this place, we must each take personal responsibility.

Non-Point Pollution

Driveway Replaced to Improve Water Quality in Lake Whatcom

by Tom Pratum

Tom Pratum is a Lake Whatcom resident who is trying to be a good steward in this special place.

While many would say that Lake Whatcom should be in public ownership due to its extremely high importance as a drinking water resource, I must say that I am afraid the barn door to development was left open long ago. Public ownership is a highly unlikely scenario at this point in time.

A development moratorium would be a good thing now while the situation is so far out of control (with houses popping up everywhere you look), but eventually the watershed will have to come into good stewardship—either voluntary or enforced. The best thing that can happen now is for as many good stewards as possible to purchase as much of the watershed as possible. Those good stewards might be individuals, government agencies, or organizations such as the Whatcom Land Trust.

Lake Whatcom Needs Good Stewards

When I was first searching for my particular piece of Lake Whatcom waterfront nearly 10 years ago, I was struck by the unspoiled nature of this little part of the watershed nestled between Sunrise Bay and Agate Bay on Lake Whatcom. There are over 2000 feet of relatively untouched shoreline here currently under the stewardship of only three owners—of which I am fortunate enough to be one.

Years ago, beginning around 1892 and continuing through the late 1960s, the railroad ran through this area on its way from Bellingham to Wickersham. During those years, this would hardly have been considered an unspoiled place, and this property would have been virtually worthless—dominated by creosoted railroad ties and old remnants of coal and slag thrown out by locomotives of years past. However, 30 years of quiet have left only the railroad grade itself cut into the hillside as the most visible remnant of those nearly forgotten times.

Runoff From Asphalt Driveway Flowed Into Lake

The one exception to the unspoiled nature of my property was an existing asphalt driveway. While this driveway was not nearly so egregious as some which I have seen put in recently along North Shore Road, the section across my property was approximately 10 feet wide and 220 feet long. This 2200 square feet of impervious surface not only acted as a catch basin for automotive secretions of all types, it also constituted a fine river bed for runoff from North Shore Road.

This runoff gained sufficient steam to flow over my bank, or onto my neighbor’s property, and from there into Lake Whatcom, which is the direct source of our drinking and bathing water here, and also the primary source of water for a majority of county residents.

Removing this driveway was not required in any way by the county, and in fact the County Council recently rolled back provisions which would have prevented such driveways in all new construction (see article on page 7). However, in exchange for the privilege of living here, I felt the least I could do is to remove it.

Attempt to Reduce Non-Point Pollution

What we are talking about here is an attempt to reduce the insidious effects of non-point pollution—that bad stuff that has no definite source. Pollutants such as automotive fluids, fertilizers, sediment, pesticides, herbicides and pathogens are transported to surface water bodies such as Lake Whatcom in runoff from non-point sources leading to degradation of the surface water.

Anyone doubting the seriousness of the non-point pollution problem in this watershed need only examine the Department of Ecology’s 1999 Lake Whatcom report, “Results of 1998 Water, Sediment and Fish Tissue Sampling” (publication 99-337, available online at www.ecy.wa.gov.)

Organic Pollutants Break Down in Soil

While the surfaces on one’s property will not necessarily control what an individual decides to place on those surfaces (e.g. whether pesticides are used or not), the nature of the surfaces can control the fate of any of these substances. Either the substances sit on the surface and are washed off in a torrent during rain events, carrying them directly into any neighboring water bodies, or they soak into the soil and are released slowly.

Once in the soil, organic pollutants are acted on by microorganisms and mineral surfaces to help break them down before they slowly migrate to the lake. At the same time, any heavy metals are likely to be bound and immobilized by active sites within the soil aggregates. This process of biofiltration was well described in the August 2001 issue of Whatcom Watch (page 11). If a polluting substance’s toxicity hasn’t been ameliorated prior to entering our surface waters, it is liable to become a public health hazard.

Permeable Surface Options

To discuss removal of my “channel for non-point pollution” and its suitable replacement, I contacted Chris Webb of 2020 Engineering. Chris presented various options for alternative surfaces, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. These are:

1. Gravel. Gravel is a pervious surface only if it is not compacted, and is therefore most suitable for areas that are seldom driven on. This, coupled with the approximately 10 percent grade of the driveway, precluded further consideration of this material.

2. Cellular confinement systems with aggregate fill material, or vegetation (e.g. grass) planted between. An example using concrete blocks for confinement can be seen locally at the SPIE parking lot. Due to the grade of the driveway, and its presence in a forest environment, I felt this was not a good option.

3. Interlocking paving blocks (pavers) with open areas for water to drain. While this is no doubt the most expensive option, it also seemed to be best for my situation in that it will withstand large amounts of traffic without losing its ability to drain, and also the open areas were not too large to maintain their function at the proposed grade of the driveway. An example of this type of paver is Eco-Stone®, which can be obtained locally from Mutual Materials (Everett, WA). Note that paving stone driveways which tightly fit together are often no more permeable than a flat asphalt surface.

4. Permeable concrete or asphalt. This was not discussed for my project, but I mention it here for a thorough review of materials. In this material, the concrete or asphalt itself is porous by composition. It is a lot cheaper than interlocking pavers, and will withstand a high load, but likely requires greater maintenance to prevent its pores from being plugged by silt or organic growth. Additionally, these materials can suffer from cracking during freezing events, and reinforcing bars embedded in permeable concrete are much more susceptible to rust.

A-1 Builders and 2020 Engineering

With the choice of interlocking pavers set, I depended on Chris Webb and 2020 Engineering for the design and Rick Dubrow and A-1 Builders for the construction. Because the primary failure mode for a driveway made out of interlocking pavers is splaying due to lateral instability, the driveway needed a firm and permeable bed to be set on and also side to side confinement, which is provided on my driveway by steel reinforced concrete curbs.

Constructing the road bed and curbs was a considerable undertaking, and I am thankful for my neighbors’ patience during these trying times. However, the result has made our pain worthwhile. We have a beautiful driveway on which water never accumulates, and helps to clean runoff from the road above.

Will These Watershed Properties Be Subdivided?

by Tom Pratum

This map shows those parcels over 15 acres which have the highest likelihood of subdivision in the Lake Whatcom watershed. Note that while we have tried our best to determine all relevant properties, we can’t guarantee that this map is all inclusive—use this map for qualitative purposes only. Properties in public/non-profit ownership, as well as those in commercial forestry (zoning designation CF) areas have been left out of this listing. Properties within the Water District 10 boundary are grouped by section (one section is one square mile, or 640 acres)—note that some properties may extend outside of the boundary shown. For each grouping, the properties are listed by reference number (in parenthesis), number of acres, and zoning. The zoning designations are as defined in Title 20 of the Whatcom County Code. The boundaries for the watershed and Water District 10 are from Water District 10’s Water System Comprehensive Plan Update (2001). The parcel information is from the Whatcom County Assessor.

Tax ID Number Owner of Record
380334 127136 0000 Lee Denke
380334 328070 0000 Trillium Corporation
380334 459067 0000 Trillium Corporation
380334 069370 0000 Chi Ming Chen
380334 058511 0000 Ralph W and Susan J Black et al
380335 493191 0000 James B and Rosalie A Anderson
380335 495095 0000 Ann and James Maxwell et al
380335 129071 0000 Trillium Corporation
370302 297330 0000 Robert Jansky Revocable Trust
370302 297460 0000 James Jansky
370302 364330 0000 Josephine Jansky Revocable Trust
370302 364460 0000 James and Mary Jansky
370302 455340 0000 Trillium Corporation
370302 455490 0000 Van C and Marcia J Osborne
370301 132145 0000 Trillium Corporation
370301 191237 0000 Solid Trading Ltd
370408 387072 0000 Shiraz Balolia
370408 482065 0000 Shiraz Balolia
370408 382169 0000 Shiraz Balolia
370408 492169 0000 Shiraz Balolia
370416 026325 0000 Watts Family Partnership
370420 440088 0000 Cedar Meadow Properties LLC
370429 503375 0000 Three Rivers Timber Co
370429 509450 0000 Nathanael Coffring
370428 060334 0000 Harold F Visser
370428 225330 0000 Todd A and Darci P Chamberlain et al
370428 063066 0000 Alan D and Lynette E Sorenson et al
370428 198190 0000 Trillium Corporation
370421 158106 0000 Smallwood Family LP
370421 301068 0000 Great Western Lumber Co
370421 361054 0000 Byron F King
370421 465046 0000 Darryl W S Chen and Linh T Vu
370426 159318 0000 Jo Anne Fuller Trust et al
370426 163378 0000 Jo Anne Fuller Trust et al
370426 225326 0000 Jo Anne Fuller Trust et al
370426 326450 0000 John C Brewer Ii et al
370426 420310 0000 Dennis L and Maureen C Handel
370423 062197 0000 John C Brewer Ii
370423 195197 0000 Marchelle D Harper et al
370423 199060 000 0 Elaine Zobrist-redelfs
370422 518250 0000 Cindy M Nicholson
370422 414405 0000 Dain and Holly Willey
370422 426508 0000 Nielsen Brothers Inc
370422 474285 0000 Cindy M Nicholson
370422 205511 0000 Nielsen Brothers Inc
380432 457195 0000 Darrell K Bornstein Sr Trust
380429 067230 0000 William G and Dagmar L Francis
380429 075070 0000 Whatcom Critters LLC
380429 166199 0000 Janice M Gaines
380429 231199 0000 Scott N Walker
380430 293467 0000 James E Turner & June A Jaeger
380430 363324 0000 Donald L and Judith G Kesselring
380430 422451 0000 Kim S and Diane L Scott
380430 453354 0000 Alois-ursula and Lisa M Tieber
380430 455287 0000 Woodstock International Inc
380430 492451 0000 Kim S and Diane L Scott et al
380430 149326 0000 David H Davis
380430 233324 0000 David H Davis
380430 066428 0000 Bruce Walton Estate
380430 495195 0000 Shiraz Balolia
380419 100100 0000 Adm Properties LLC
380324 430195 0000 Marlen Enterprises Inc
380324 302191 0000 H Shetabi Trustee
380324 094073 0000 Peter Watts Law Corporation
380324 170398 0000 H J G Company LLC
380324 040335 0000 H J G Company LLC
380324 392330 0000 H Shetabi Trustee
380325 044421 0000 Evergreen View Ventures Inc
380325 062516 0000 Evergreen View Ventures Inc
380323 366066 0000 Trillium Corporation
380323 433097 0000 Evergreen View Ventures Inc
380323 498199 0000 William F and Marla Heath Living Tr
380326 430470 0000 Trillium Corporation
380326 494470 0000 Foxglove LLC 2
380326 430340 0000 Foxglove LLC 2
380326 363470 0000 Foxglove LLC 2
380326 298340 0000 Foxglove LLC 2
380326 360340 0000 Trillium Corporation
380326 431217 0000 Peck and Mew-lan Uy

Regardless of the outcome or appearance of any temporary moratorium considered or approved by the County Council, the fact remains that much vacant land exists in the Lake Whatcom watershed, and the pressure to subdivide it will persist. Will this land be parceled up, and built upon, or will it remain a functioning part of the watershed?

This map shows the Lake Whatcom watershed, along with the service area boundary of Whatcom County Water District 10 (WD10). Since it is unlikely that development would be approved without water and/or sewer service from WD10, only sections in the WD10 service area were considered. The Sudden Valley area is already platted, so this area was not considered further. Areas of public (e.g. Department of Natural Resources), or non-profit (e.g. Whatcom Land Trust) ownership are unlikely subdivision targets. Areas designated for commercial forestry are also unlikely to be subdivided without a change in zoning.

According to the water district’s comprehensive plan update (2001), approximately 1800 additional homes are envisioned to be added in their service area if we exclude Sudden Valley, and the area south of Reveille Island.

Who would benefit from this build-out? The table below shows the tax parcel numbers and owners of the properties shown on the map above. It should be noted that many parcels in the 5-15 acre range have been excluded from consideration here, and provide further avenues for subdivision. We also note that we have no idea of the intentions of these owners, many of whom may intend to keep their land in good stewardship for perpetuity.

County Council Rolls Back Watershed Protections

by Tom Pratum

On October 9, the County Council, in a familiar kowtow to Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, followed a warped recommendation from the Planning Commission, and rolled back a series of stormwater protections for the Lake Whatcom watershed that included a requirement that impervious surfaces be used in all new building in the area. The recommendations from the Planning Commission were adopted on a close 4-3 vote with council members Connie Hoag, Barbara Brenner, and Dan McShane voting to keep the protections in place.

These changes involve Whatcom County Zoning Code 20.71.603 “Use of alternative surfacing methods” and are shown below along with the previous language.

Previous Wording

“Use of alternative surfaces including: pervious concrete, porous asphalt, paving blocks, plastic matting, brick, natural stone, cobbles, gravel, bark or wood mulch, turf block, and similar approved materials is required for fringe or overflow parking areas, emergency parking areas, easement service roads, and driveways in residential or commercial zones unless site constraints make use of such materials detrimental to water quality. Use of pervious materials is encouraged for private roads, fire lanes, road shoulders, bike paths, walkways, and patios...”

New Wording

Areas of additions or changes are in bold type:

Use of alternative surfaces including, but not limited to: pervious concrete, porous asphalt, paving blocks, plastic matting, brick, natural stone, cobbles, gravel, bark or wood mulch, turf block, and other similar approved materials is encouraged for fringe or overflow parking areas, emergency parking areas and easement service roads in residential or commercial zones unless site constraints make use of such materials detrimental to water quality.

Use of pervious materials is encouraged for private roads, fire lanes, road shoulders, bike paths, walkways, patios, and driveways…”

“Stormwater runoff from paved driveways or parking areas shall be directed toward a bioswale, infiltration system or other storm-water treatment facility designed to treat sediments unless the technical administrator determines that topography or site constraints prevent on-site treatment.”

Note that in exchange for removing the impervious surface requirement, language was inserted requiring that runoff from driveways be directed toward on-site stormwater treatment. However, the Planning Commission, in its infinite wisdom, deleted language that would have required treatment for oils and heavy metals.

The Planning Commission, despite all the time it claims to spend studying these issues doesn’t seem to understand two obvious points:

1. Automotive fluids that accumulate on driveway/parking areas are likely to contain oils and heavy metals for which treatment should be provided, and

2. Such pollutants are not likely to accumulate on one’s roof. Therefore, roofs and driveway/parking areas should be considered separately with regard to impervious surface requirements. This latter point appears to be equally confusing to many council members.

Former Building Industry Association henchman and current council member Sam Crawford opined that these protections were bringing financial hardship to watershed developers. That’s funny, I hadn’t realized that the county’s interest in providing affordable housing in the watershed supersedes its interest in protecting the watershed. Let’s hope the new County Council members will see things differently.


Sudden Valley Golf Course Has Nuisance Value

by Lois Garlick

Lois Garlick is a long-time bird rehabilitator.

Have you ever stopped to think what the “nuisance” value of a golf course is?

Take, for instance, the Sudden Valley golf course. The hominid inhabitants there have for some time (since 1986) complained about goose droppings from Canada geese who are attracted to the green grass. The recent uproar over removal of some Canada geese is just some more of the same petty complaining on the part of golfers.

No Semblance of Sport

The immaculately groomed, chemically enhanced surfaces of golf courses defy all semblance of a sport. Lack of sport is combined with the fact that the favorite place to put a golf course is in or near a wetland where grass is the main attraction for many water-bound birds. Doesn’t that answer the description of an attractive nuisance?

Sudden Valley golfers complain, instead, that the Canada geese are the nuisance.

In Florida they employ bag-pipe players to “play” the geese away—the geese don’t like that music. In Ixtappa, Mexico, they share their greens with alligators. Maybe we could import some of the alligators for Sudden Valley and that would give the golfers something to really complain about.

Annihilation of Canada Geese

The firestorm of protesting letters to the editor in The Bellingham Herald should have been deterrent enough, but, instead, the presiding body of managers in Sudden Valley stepped up their schedule for the annihilation of Canada geese so that people with other ideas on how to cope with the situation could not mobilize and act in time. The killing team even had to resort to hazing geese from the lake up onto land to carry out their vendetta.

Some of the residents of Sudden Valley did not speak out because they were mollified by the assurance that the geese would be used for food for the needy (and therefore not wasted). That doesn’t really give me cause to think any better of them, but their chagrin when they found out they had been betrayed leads me to hope that maybe they will know better if there is a next time.

Nuisance Value Nothing New

The recent nuisance value of Sudden Valley golf course is nothing new. In 1986, the chemical manufacturing company, CIBA-GEIGY, funded a research project on Sudden Valley’s golf course. The company requested a hearing to appeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s intent to cancel the registration of Diazinon for use on sod farms and golf courses, based on growing evidence that Diazinon was a significant hazard to wildlife and has killed migratory birds and other wildlife. Field testing of Diazinon AG-500 at one-third recommended level was done on Sudden Valley golf course without a permit.

As local residents might recall, a significant die-off of widgeons resulted from that testing. Then, the experimenters wanted to try again with the test directed at Canada geese who were thought to be more tolerant to Diazinon than widgeon. Fortunately, the Division of Law Enforcement of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, opted to prohibit the continuation of the experiment in 1987, in spite of support from the wildlife management division of the Washington State Department of Game (Editor’s Note: now called the Department of Fish and Wildlife).

This illustrates how cavalier people were, in those days, about contaminating our drinking water. Nothing mattered more than the dollars CIBA-GEIGY wanted to derive from the allowed use of one of their chemicals.

Biologists Had Concerns

The list of concerns that biologists and personnel of the Environmental Protection Agency had over the proposed experiment on Sudden Valley’s golf course was a long one:

•No controlled study had been made requisite to meeting the objective.

•Deaths of migratory birds of various species due to Diazinon had already been documented. The proposed test would only attempt to demonstrate further effects on one subspecies of Canada geese under a limited set of environmental conditions.

•The research proposal, as described, did not enable the observer to control and/or measure intake of Diazinon under the field conditions. The research testing would have only allowed one to relate observed deaths to measured levels in those birds.

•Feeding rates would affect Diazinon uptake, as well as application rate. It was already known that sufficient Diazinon applications would kill migratory birds.

•Surveys of the surrounding area would not necessarily enable one to relate bird deaths to Diazinon uptake at the test site.

•The research proposal did not describe how sub-lethal effects that affect survivability would be measured.

•Since the EPA had initiated steps to ban the use of Diazinon on golf courses, some reviewers questioned the need to sacrifice additional protected birds to study Diazinon on golf courses.

•Since product efficacy studies were not being conducted, it was felt that the research described could be accomplished in a controlled environment with trapped Canada geese being exposed to one or two pounds equivalent per acre in their food. This would help to eliminate many aspects of the study in the wild for which the researcher had no control.

•The experimenter had already shown that Diazinon was highly lethal to a protected species (widgeon) at the reduced application rate. Was it going to be necessary to show that Diazinon might be lethal to all protected species at the reduced rate?

Killing of Birds Continues

The whole plan, and the reason for it, to find a chemical to kill weeds on a golf course (a chemical that would not be toxic to birds)—forget the other mammals, insects, and fauna that might be eliminated in the process—makes a golf course one big, gigantic headache and nuisance.

The fact that this was being undertaken in a watershed of a reservoir for the drinking water of a whole city and its environs does not seem to have even entered into their thinking. And in spite of all the objections to the scheme, the man in charge of the wildlife management division of the Department of Game, at that time, was in favor of the study.

Now, fourteen years later, Sudden Valley golf course had added to its nuisance value. The recent outpouring of objections from the irate public over the “gassing” of Canada geese in Sudden Valley to remove them from the golf course was a completely expected and justified response. Besides being unfair to the geese, the extermination pandered to the complaints of just a few people.

Sudden Valley Golf Course Fungicides

PCNB (Quintozene)

PCNB (pentachloronitrobenzene) is one of the fungicides that Sudden Valley puts on their golf course. Most products containing PCNB have been cancelled for use in the United States. PCNB is an organochlorine fungicide, which is also known as quintozene.

Regulatory Status: Depending on the formulation, PCNB carries the signal word WARNING or CAUTION on the label. The WARNING signal word denotes a moderately toxic compound and the CAUTION signal word denotes a slightly toxic compound.

Organ toxicity: The main target organ, following chronic exposure to PCNB, is the liver. Acute effects may occur in the red blood cells and hemoglobin in the circulatory system.

Effects on aquatic organisms: PCNB is highly toxic to fish and has been shown to accumulate in aquatic animals and in aquatic plants. Algae accumulate the greatest amount. It is insoluble in water, which is why it would appear to concentrate in algae.


Regulatory Status: Mancozeb is a practically nontoxic ethylene bisdithiocarbamate in EPA toxicity class IV—practically nontoxic. It is registered as a General Use Pesticide (GUP). Labels for products containing mancozeb must bear the signal word CAUTION.

Carcinogenic effects: No data are available regarding the carcinogenic effects of mancozeb. ETU (a mancozeb metabolite) has caused cancer in experimental animals at high doses. Thus, the carcinogenic potential of mancozeb is not currently known.

Organ toxicity: The main target organ of mancozeb is the thyroid gland; the effects may be due to the metabolite ETU.

Effects on birds: Mancozeb is slightly toxic to birds.

Effects on aquatic organisms: Mancozeb is moderately to highly toxic to fish and aquatic organisms.

Thiophanate-Methyl and Iprodione

All four fungicides are not used during the same year; they are rotated during successive years.

For more information on fungicides and pesticides, visit the Pesticide Management Education Program at Cornell University: pmep.cce.cornell.edu.

Roadless Areas: The Wild Washington Campaign

Volunteers Seek Greater Protection for State’s Wild Lands

by David M. Schmalz

David M. Schmalz is vice president and conservation chair of the North Cascades Audubon Society.

Did you know that many of our locale’s favorite and most spectacular wild areas, most of which are accessed by popular trails, continue to lack adequate protection that would insure their conservation and values for generations to come? Or, that some of our state’s most important fish and wildlife habitat and oldest forests remain open to threats of degradation from logging, hydroelectric projects, road building, and off-road vehicle use?

A rapidly growing statewide effort with an active local component is working to change that. The quest involves pristine wild areas, politics, field work, strategy, and grassroots activism at its finest.

Coalition Evolving Over Three Years

The Wild Washington Campaign is an alliance of groups and individuals spanning the state that is dedicated to securing additional protection for Washington’s wild public forests. The coalition has been growing and evolving for three years and has drawn support and participation from both the heavyweights of state environmental and conservation groups as well as numerous, smaller, local organizations.

At the heart of the effort is the goal to achieve “wilderness area” status for those portions of our state’s national forest lands which remain roadless and unspoiled.

Currently, 18 organizations are represented on the statewide steering committee with tens more involved or associated with the campaign. In addition, hundreds of volunteers have been working on various aspects of the campaign. The immense task has been aided by the sheer numbers and diversity of interests among wilderness proponents statewide. Cooperation and coalition building have been strong as goals and strategy have been developed and refined.

The campaign has identified and mapped millions of acres of unprotected, roadless national forest lands in Washington state. Nearly three million acres of national forest land remain roadless, wild and undisturbed, yet lack sufficient protection from many of the activities that have been so destructive to vast portions of our public forest lands.

Federal Roadless Area Policy Offers Insufficient Protection

The National Forest Service has compiled an inventory of its remaining roadless lands, and administers them under the guidelines of the federal Roadless Area policy adopted under the Clinton Administration. While this policy prescribes greater protection for these lands than they had in the past, it is in many senses just that—a prescription, not a mandate. The policy is highly susceptible to administrative tinkering or outright dismantling, both by the National Forest Service itself at all levels and by the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

There has been increasing alarm and growing criticism from forest conservation advocates that the Roadless Area policy is not being implemented as it was intended. For example, in the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho logging has commenced in areas that were specifically recommended for conservation. The Bush Administration poses a clear threat to the already tenuous protection that the Roadless Area policy provides.

It Takes a Wilderness

Wilderness Area designation is the highest level of protection that can be afforded to National Forest lands. Unlike the Roadless Area policy, once an area is designated wilderness, it takes congressional legislation to undo it. While allowing for human activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and hunting, wilderness status precludes road building, timber harvest, mining, and off-road vehicle use.

New wilderness areas are created by congressional legislation at the federal level. Amazingly, no new wilderness areas have been added to Washington State National Forest lands since 1984. That legislation included the creation of the 250,000-acre Mt. Baker Wilderness Area, centered near and around Mt. Baker.

Since that time, the state’s population has grown dramatically, with commensurate loss and degradation of natural systems and wildlife habitat. Growing even faster has been the use of remaining natural lands and wild areas for recreation. The recent history of national forest lands in Washington state has seen industrial logging on a tremendous scale finally slowed, and in some areas ceased, in recognition of the tremendous environmental damage wrought by a commodity-based management scheme.

Spotted Owl—Symbol of Transition

The spotted owl is a powerful symbol of this transition, but in a truer sense, it has been growing public awareness and pressure that has shifted forest management in the direction of conservation, sustainability, and an ecosystem-wide perspective.

Fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, and the preservation of the abundance and diversity of flora and fauna unique to our region have supplanted resource extraction as the principal goals of forest management. For some people, it is for spiritual or philosophical reasons, for others it is the simple pragmatics of cost-effectiveness. Whatever the rationale, protection of wild lands has become a priority for a growing number of citizens in Washington state.

Politics, Strategy, and Volunteerism

Early in the campaign, organizers were oriented toward developing a comprehensive statewide proposal that would include numerous areas from around the state in a single congressional bill. Senator Patty Murray, who has been supportive of the goals of the campaign since its inception, recommended a different strategy—that of bringing forward a series of smaller proposals, one or two at a time in order to gain broader support from citizens and politicians alike.

The campaign made a decision to continue the statewide aspect of the effort in terms of identification, inventory, and support building, while at the same time engaging in a prioritization of locations that would move one or two candidate areas forward for legislation in the next one to two years.

Adopt-A-Wilderness Network

Central to the Wild Washington Campaign is the Adopt-A-Wilderness Network. This program provides structure, training, and support for volunteers statewide who wish to protect wild lands in their area. The Adopt-A-Wilderness formula is simple in concept and systematic in approach. The process involves identification, adoption, information gathering, description, support building, and ideally leads to wilderness designation for a candidate area.

The initial task is the identification of candidate areas. Many are obvious, for example, those lands immediately adjacent to areas designated wilderness in 1984 which have remained roadless and wild. Other sites are places only locals might know or an area that provides a key niche of habitat. The Adopt-A-Wilderness Network provides opportunities for citizens to bring forward locations of interest.

Next is the process of verification and inventory of candidate sites. This involves mapping, including verifying existing maps and information, followed by groundtruthing—making sure that boundaries and information on site characteristics actually exist in the field.

Personal Connections to Wild Lands

The Adopt-A-Forest Network provides support and training of volunteers to explore, evaluate, and document characteristics of a candidate area. The idea is to build personal connections with the adopted area. Volunteers are encouraged to create a photo library while documenting significant natural features, flora, fauna, and recommended trails or cross-country hikes which provide access to the area.

Once inventory is complete, the focus shifts to monitoring of the site and advocating for wilderness designation. Monitoring involves keeping a watchful eye on a candidate area to ensure protection until wilderness status is established through legislation. Advocacy is a crucial element of the campaign and will certainly require the greatest number of volunteers.

Those who have adopted an area make excellent messengers to the public and decision makers about the beauty and significance of a candidate site. The tasks of advocacy are familiar to many: writing letters, giving presentations, telling friends, and recruiting additional volunteers.

There are numerous ways to be involved in the campaign. Volunteers range from the casual visitor to an individual area to people who are consumed with the mission of saving a particular site, or attaining wilderness status for all of the remaining roadless portions of our public forest lands. From some of the state’s oldest forest conservation warriors to brand new residents, the campaign is growing in numbers and energy.

Sky Peaks Proposal

The candidate area likely to be initially brought forward for congressional consideration is referred to as the Sky Peaks proposal. Located approximately 90 miles southeast of Bellingham in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, the proposal area is a diverse, publicly owned landscape of free-flowing rivers, magnificent groves of ancient trees, quiet lakes, and secluded alpine meadows.

The geography of the area is spectacular. The mighty Skykomish is truly a wild Pacific Northwest river, in stretches crashing and catapulting through huge boulders, then sliding, azure-green over small seas of rounded polished stone. High above are Gunn Peak, Merchant Peak, Spire Mountain, and the infamous north wall of Baring Mountain which rises 4000 feet above jewel-like Barclay Lake.

The Sky Peaks area forms the headwaters of the Skykomish River, which has some of the healthiest runs of wild salmon remaining in Puget Sound. Large tracts of undisturbed forests provide habitat for mountain goat, bald eagle, black bear, and cougar. Numerous rare plants occur in forest, wetland, and meadow environments. A well-established network of heavily used hiking trails leads through ancient forest, past pristine lakes, and access a high country splendor of flower-garden meadows and spectacular vistas.

The lone permanently protected area in the vicinity is the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area to the east, added in the 1984 legislation. Unfortunately, many of the adjacent, lowland virgin forests were omitted at that time. Logging has been a constant threat in the past and is becoming so once again under the Bush administration. Forest Service officials are contemplating logging portions of the roadless areas. Hydroelectric dams have been proposed for some of the streams. These activities threaten a highly functioning natural system that has remained intact. At risk is prime salmon habitat, rare and endangered plants, the last of our ancient forests, and our ability as humans to visit, enjoy and honor this wild and unique place.

Local Group Gathers Momentum

A group of local wilderness enthusiasts is currently working within the Wild Washington Campaign to bring wilderness protection to threatened, roadless areas in the portion of Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest that lies in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. In many respects, the local group mirrors the statewide effort. Volunteers include members of Sierra Club (Mt. Baker chapter), the Mountaineers (Bellingham chapter), Mt. Baker Wilderness Association, North Cascades Audubon Society, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, North Cascades Conservation Council, and invaluable, unaffiliated citizens.

Many of the volunteers are animated and highly inspired, their work and progress fueled by a connection to wild places and an understanding of their value. Locally, the process of verification, field visits, and prioritization has begun and is ongoing. The group has regular meetings and is building a volunteer base and a local coalition of support.

Portions of the nearby Mt. Baker District of the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest that have remained roadless since the 1984 wilderness legislation are as pivotal to the health of natural systems in Whatcom County as the Sky Peaks area is to Snohomish and King Counties. Local wilderness candidate areas feature stunning scenery, pristine streams, alpine lakes, ancient forests and in addition provide critical, undisturbed wildlife habitat.

Some Local Roadless Areas Not Protected

The Mt. Baker District has a wealth of roadless areas, many of which are already accessed by some of our most popular trails, and nearly all are adjacent to land that was designated wilderness in 1984. Some of these sites represent the last remaining wild spaces between the high rock and ice of Mt. Baker and the rapidly growing and changing lowlands below. Others contain the headwaters of drainages critical for maintaining clean water and quality wildlife habitat.

Popular local destinations accessed by the Mt. Baker Highway that lack adequate protection under the Roadless Area policy include Church Mountain, Skyline Divide, Cougar Divide, and the Chain Lakes area above Austin Pass. Additional areas southeast of Mt. Baker adjacent to the Noisy Diobsud Wilderness include upper drainages of Baker Lake. Many people are surprised to learn that Sauk Mountain, a tremendously popular, early season wildflower extravaganza, is unprotected.

Other candidate areas include locations west of Mt. Baker, portions of which are literally just down slope from the volcano, including Grouse Butte, and the headwaters of Warm and Rocky Creeks. Nearby are wild portions of the Twin Sisters range and the entirety of Loomis Mountain.

As is the case with Sky Peaks, acquiring wilderness status for these superlative areas, virtually in our back yard, is essential in order to protect their vital natural and recreational values. Local volunteers are highly motivated and are gearing up to be next in line for consideration after Sky Peaks

How You Can Help

There are a multitude of tasks for volunteers interested in helping out with the local campaign. The best way to get involved is to attend the next meeting (usually held at Bellingham Public Library’s downtown branch). Meetings are held regularly and the group is in the process of formulating proposals and organizing hiking schedules for next season to candidate areas. In addition, a strategy and timetable for the wilderness protection formula described above is being developed.

Nearly 30 volunteers have adopted candidate areas locally. Whether you want to put your boots on and do field work, or stay home and write letters, there is a great need for additional volunteers for the local effort. Joining the Wild Washington Campaign, or helping out in any small way you can is your golden opportunity to help create and protect a little more wilderness in our world.


Old-Growth Forests Benefit All Generations

by Alan Soicher

Alan Soicher has a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering and a master’s in geohydrology. He is a citizen member of the Lake Whatcom DNR Landscape Planning Committee, and works with non-profits such as the Evergreen Land Trust and North Cascades Audubon Society.

Anyone who’s hiked through an old-growth forest knows there’s more to it than the trees. From the lush blankets of moss-covered branches to shrubs on the forest floor, to the nutrient-funneling fungi that nourish majestic trees, the web of life in an old-growth forest supports a multitude of ecosystem functions.

But there’s not much old-growth left in the Nooksack River basin, and most of it is up around Mount Baker on federal lands.

At lower elevations, on lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources, there are smaller islands of old-growth drifting in a sea of young clear-cuts. These represent the last of Whatcom’s remaining low elevation old-growth forests. They need protection.

Department of Natural Resources State Lands

On November 11, 1889, the federal government granted lands to the state of Washington for named beneficiaries and the public. Unlike many other western states, Washington retained most of its lands. Today, we have 2.25 million acres of granted lands that raise funds for schools, universities, community colleges, prisons, state institutions such as mental hospitals, and capitol buildings.

In the 1930s, the state received an additional 620,000 acres of logged and abandoned timberlands in 19 counties, and purchased other lands for as little as 50 cents per acre. Today, the Department of Natural Resources manages these county lands to produce revenue for services such as roads, fire districts, and libraries in those counties.

In Whatcom County, there are 96,663 acres of these granted lands, and 38,223 acres of county lands. See above map.

Equity for All Generations

While state public lands are managed for income, they are charged with providing intergenerational equity. This is meant to ensure that all generations benefit equally, and that no one generation benefits at the expense of another. The problem is, that has already happened.

At statehood, much of the granted lands were blanketed with old-growth. The intact forests could have provided healthy ecosystems and reasonable amounts of state funding forever.

But the story played out a bit differently: (See Common School Trust Forest Lands chart and Forest Board Trust Forest Lands chart in the column to the left).

The old-growth forests were converted rapidly to young tree plantations. The clean and abundant water, old forest wildlife, plentiful wild salmon, and steady supply of funding all collapsed.

Today, much less than 10 percent of all Department of Natural Resources state lands have trees more than 100 years old. Compared to what these forests used to be, as measured in centuries, today’s state lands are far different from the prior, natural landscape. It’s hard to overstate the effect on the environment, and to understate the contribution to endangered species listings. In the Nooksack basin, it’s been most pronounced on Chinook salmon, and on the remarkable seabird, the marbled murrelet.

Now a Department of Natural Resources policy is making sure many of these forests don’t grow old again.

Sustainable, Even-Flow Timber Harvest Policy

In 1992, after most of the old-growth was cut, the Department of Natural Resources and its policy board (Board of Natural Resources) adopted the Sustainable, Even-Flow Timber Harvest constraint in its Forest Resource Plan. The Even-Flow constraint meant that Department of Natural Resources would cut similar amounts of timber each year. But since the Department of Natural Resources’s plantations are now so young, letting them grow old would mean less for today’s beneficiaries, and more for tomorrow.

The graph at the top of the facing page shows calculated Department of Natural Resources logging levels over the next 100 years using 50, 60, 70, and 80 year logging rotations. The graph shows that if Department of Natural Resources were to cut at 80 year rotations, it wouldn’t have as much to cut until 2040, since most of the forests are currently younger than 80 years old. Cutting at 50 years old would let the Department of Natural Resources cut more now, and cutting at 60 years old produces a slight increase in the flow of timber over the next 100 years. So they chose the 60-year rotation.

If all of the forests were 200 to 400 years old, or even 140 years old, they could meet the Even-Flow constraint and protect healthy ecosystems. But with the forests at zero to 60 years old, it’s going to take decades upon decades to recover.

Habitat Conservation Plan

Following the Endangered Species Act listings, in 1996 the Department of Natural Resources made a pledge to help recover endangered species and the habitat they depend on. The habitat they need is clean water and older forests.

Department of Natural Resources made its pledge through a habitat conservation plan , where the Department of Natural Resources agreed to extend rotations on some plantations and grow the forest to around 140 years old. The Department of Natural Resources also agreed to protect some, but not all of the remaining old-growth. In all, it’s a good start.

Whatcom’s DNR State Lands and the Marbled Murrelet

The Department of Natural Resources recently put forward a number of proposals to log in and around remnant old-growth patches—5, 10, and 20 acres in size—in the Nooksack River basin. These patches of old-growth are lifeboats for native species and genetics. Since we know that there’s no new Department of Natural Resources old-growth “coming on-line” for many years, it is paramount that the existing old-growth, and surrounding buffer re-growth forests, remain undisturbed.

The Future

So now we’re left with scattered remnants of old forests and lots of young, dense plantations. And we know that older forests are best for providing environmental benefits and stable, long-term revenue for the trusts.

So let’s break out the chain saws and start thinning the plantations. And let’s leave the remnants of yesterday’s old forests for today’s beneficiaries, and for tomorrow’s generations.

Lake Study Must Proceed

by Tom Pratum

As reported in last month’s Whatcom Watch (page 1), Whatcom County Water District 10 in September appealed to Governor Gary Locke to put a halt to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study of Lake Whatcom being carried out by the state Department of Ecology. (The TMDL is a study of the total maximum daily load of pollutants which can enter the lake and not violate water quality standards.)

At the same time, Water District 10 further requested that the lake be removed from the Environmental Protection Agency 303(d) list as an impaired water body. This listing triggered the TMDL study and is in response the presence of anoxic (low oxygen) conditions in basins one and two of the lake.

While anoxic conditions occur near the bottom of many lakes during certain times of the year, those in Lake Whatcom have been increasing over time and do not correlate to temperature or other parameters which may explain their existence. These conditions certainly portend possible nutrient loading problems in the lake resulting from increasing development.

In October, the Department of Ecology, at the request of Governor Locke, responded to this puzzling request in a letter to Water District 10. The very strong evidence for increasing anoxia was restated by Ecology, along with the obvious fact that the lake cannot be removed from the 303(d) list until the TMDL study is done, and the problems found are corrected. The study will proceed. Most of us feel the sooner the better.

However, we are still puzzled as to the motives of Water District 10. Why are they so anxious to stop this study? Wouldn’t it be in the best interest of all citizens to complete the TMDL study and learn from its results how to best manage our watershed? Or, is Water District 10 so intent on complete build-out of their service area that they are blind to the best interest of the public they serve?

Stay tuned, as Water District 10 is unlikely to give up easily in their wild quest to stop the TMDL. Rumors abound that they are preparing to send yet another letter to Governor Locke, this one based on more delusive arguments from their hired gun Joy Michaud of Envirovision (an environmental consulting service based in Olympia).

First Kayak Paddle for Puget Sound Kids Day a Success!

by Britta Eschete and Tara Nelson

Britta Eschete is the outreach coordinator at the Mt. Vernon office of People for Puget Sound. Tara Nelson is a journalism student at Skagit Valley College.

Saturday, October 20, was a day of kayaking, hiking and learning about the ecosystem of Puget Sound for “kids” age 12 and older. Participants traveled from as far away as Port Townsend to Bellingham for the event in Anacortes. The kayak group was composed of Japanese exchange students, first-time kayakers, and those who kayak on a regular basis. The five-hour-long educational expedition was organized/sponsored by People For Puget Sound, Blue Moon Explorations, Padilla Bay Reserve and Eddyline Kayaks.

The day began at South Harbor Park in Anacortes with refreshments and a talk by Ken Hansen, chair- person of the Samish Tribe. People gathered around as Ken spoke of the area’s cultural and spiritual importance and the difficulty of maintaining that connection sometimes in an often fast-paced society. He encouraged all to take a few moments at some point during the trip to be still and imagine how the area might have looked hundreds, even a thousand years before, as Native Americans carried on their day-to-day practices.

Next on the agenda was the flurry of matching people up with boats, “paddle partners” and safety equipment such as life vests and spray skirts. The paddlers were divided into two groups and after a brief lesson on the rudiments of kayaking for beginners and a review for experienced kayakers, all were unleashed into the harbor.

Kayak Pod Headed for Saddlebag Island

With several guides keeping an eye on the “kayak pod,” people embarked on a journey around Cap Sante, across the Guemes Channel, and around the southern tip of Guemes Island to Saddlebag Island.

On this day, the weather was mild and the sea was calm. Areas of the water were clear enough so you could see various sea stars and marine life below, and there was an abundance of floating eelgrass.

Once beached at Saddlebag Island, the group ate lunch and rested on driftwood as various presenters shared their visions and issues regarding the health of the Sound. Topics ranging from the importance of salmon to environmental toxins were discussed by staff of People For Puget Sound (Pam Johnson)and Skagit Fisheries Enhancement (Allison Studley).

Kayakers Partook in Purse Seine

Participants then had the opportunity to hike to the other side of the island while hearing about the island’s vegetation, to partake in a purse seine conducted by Glen Alexander, the Education Coordinator at Padilla Bay. Using a fine fishing net across the surface of about 50 feet of eelgrass beds, the net “caught” hermit crabs, tube snouts, shrimp, pipe fish and sea slugs. All marine life was placed in a bucket of seawater for a closer look, and then gently released back into the bay.

For the trip back to Anacortes, the group split, with some kayakers opting to paddle around Saddlebag Island and some heading directly back to the marina. Upon arriving, there were kayaks to unload and rinse out, various plant and nature books to examine, and a few phone numbers to exchange among paddle partners. Participants voiced their eagerness for future kayak paddles and all left with the feeling that this had been a wonderful way to spend the day.

Pest Control

Protecting Your Home from Carpenter Ants

by Philip Dickey

This is an abridged version of a more extensive fact sheet available in print form from Washington Toxics Coalition. For more information, visit their web site (www.watoxics.org.) Print versions can be ordered from Washington Toxics Coalition either over the Internet or by calling 800-844-SAFE.

Most people don’t think about carpenter ants until they are told the bad news. The shock caused by the discovery of carpenter ants may lead to premature and ill-considered decisions. Despite your vivid image of thousands of ants literally eating your house, the fact is that you probably have plenty of time. Don’t panic!

There may not even be a nest inside the home. Even if there is, a colony consisting of 200 to 300 worker ants is at least two to four years old, and in two weeks they won’t do much additional damage. Carpenter ants are destructive pests, but you should not feel pressured by a pest control operator to schedule a treatment immediately.

Educate Yourself About Ants

Educate yourself about ants and the available control methods. If you decide to hire a professional, look for one who understands your concerns about toxic chemicals and will work with you to select a least-toxic control program. At the same time, plan the repairs and modifications which will prevent recurrence of the problem without additional use of chemicals.

Identification: Collection and Inspection

Carpenter ants are large. Queens are usually about 3¦4 inch long, and workers vary from 1¦4-1¦2 inch. Only carpenter ants which fly to establish new colonies have wings. Several differently colored carpenter ants are found in Washington.

Some are black or black and red, the most common being black with reddish legs. Washington State University Cooperative Extension Bulletin EB 0818 has excellent color photographs of ants and typical damage.

A positive identification requires collecting a few of the largest ants and inspecting them under a magnifying glass. Carpenter ants have a smoothly curved (convex) upper back, while most other types of ants have a notch in this area. Carpenter ants are easily distinguished from termites, too.

Termites Are Rare in Pacific Northwest

Termites have thick waists while ants have thin ones. Termites have straight to slightly curved antennae, but ants’ antennae have a right angle bend in them. In the Pacific Northwest, carpenter ants are common but termites are rare except in drier areas of the Olympic Peninsula and Eastern Washington.

Besides observation of the insects themselves, other suspicious signs include sawdust and debris, rustling sounds in the walls, and trails of ants between the foundation and decayed wood outside the home.

Biology of Carpenter Ants

Like all other kinds of ants, carpenter ants pass through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The whole sequence takes about two months in the summer. Ants are social creatures, living in colonies or nests. Within each nest several distinct types of ants perform different functions.

The largest is the queen, of which there is normally only one per colony. She lays eggs, in groups of 15 to 25, after excavating a small cavity and sealing herself into it. For the first few years, all of the young develop into sterile females called workers. The first generation, fed directly by the queen, remain very small and are called minor workers.

When old enough, they forage for food, excavate the nest, and help raise successive broods of young as the queen continues to lay eggs. These later generations grow larger and are called major workers. Middle-sized workers called intermediates also are found.

After a colony has been producing generations of workers for six to 10 years and numbers close to 2000, it begins to produce winged reproductive ants, both males and females, in the late summer. After spending the winter in the nest, these winged ants leave for a mating flight in the spring. After mating, the males die, but the females select a site to lay their eggs, thus beginning a new colony and completing the cycle.

How to Find the Nest

To assess the extent of the problem and to plan treatment, it is essential to locate the main colony. It is possible that there is no infestation in the house and that the ants you see are merely foraging.

Seventy-five percent of all main nests are located outside the structure, where there is abundant moisture. There may be one or more satellite nests inside a nearby structure, such as your house.

These satellite nests are most frequently found inside walls, in ceilings, under outdoor siding, in wood near foundations, near downspouts or roof gutters, in floors (particularly bathrooms), or in insulation.

Ants Use Electrical Lines as Pathways

Begin by checking the basement, near the foundation and on top of water pipes and electrical lines, which ants may use as pathways. Also check the attic and crawl spaces. Look for the ants themselves and for sawdust-like wood shavings or small slit openings called windows.

Invisible damage inside floor joists can be located by tapping with a hammer or metal rod. A nest cavity gives a hollow ring when tapped and is readily penetrated by a knife blade.

Rustling in Walls

Sometimes a nest in the walls can be identified by the rustling sound made by the working ants. It is loud enough to be heard faintly outside the wall. If no nests are found, it may be necessary to lure some ants into open areas with a bait and then see where they go when the bait is removed. A little honey, jam, or jelly works well.

Even if a nest is located, continue the search. There may be several colonies connected by trails, and you must locate the parent colony in order to get good control. Look for these trails or furrows in the grass which may lead to nests outside the house in woodpiles or stumps.

Nests have also been found in stacks of newspapers or shingles. Don’t neglect tree branches touching the house, which may act as ant bridges. Ants may also use plumbing and wiring to gain entry.

Prevention and Cultural Control

No control program can be effective if the conditions which allowed the carpenter ants to invade in the first place are not eliminated.

1. Eliminate Sources of Moisture. Repair any rotten or weather-damaged wood and make sure that attic and crawl space ventilation is adequate. Inspect gutters and downspouts to be sure that they work and do not leak, and that water is being properly diverted away from the house.

Clean out the gutters before the rainy season begins. There should be no wood in contact with soil at any part of house, porch, deck, etc. Soil should be kept away from wooden structures, particularly supports for decks and porches and door frames. Deck supports should rest on cement.

2. Store Firewood Properly. Firewood piled against the side of the house invites carpenter ants. Firewood should be elevated off the ground and kept as far from the house as practical. Before bringing wood into the house, knock off any insects, and check carefully for any small nests or tunnels.

3. Maintain Trees and Shrubs. Trees and shrubs should be pruned back so that they do not touch the house or garage, including roofs. Stumps should be completely removed.

Physical Controls

If all nests can be located and removed, stray ants captured, access points caulked, and all damaged wood replaced, no chemical treatment is required. A good shop vacuum can be used to capture most of the ants.

Biological Control

Study is underway on biological controls, but nothing is available at this time.

Least Toxic Chemicals

A chemical pesticide is always the last resort, but chemical controls are often required for carpenter ants. Usually these chemicals are applied by professional applicators. Choosing the least-toxic chemicals that will do the job is not always easy, particularly since applicators may claim that they use only “safe” or “EPA approved” chemicals.

(An informed consumer needs to know that pesticides are registered, not approved, on the basis that the benefits outweigh the risks. Registration is not a guarantee of safety, and it is a violation of federal law to claim that any pesticide is safe.)

Dessicants Are Least Toxic Chemicals

The least toxic chemicals for carpenter ant control are dessicants which act by dehydrating the insects. They are usually blown into voids through small access holes. Although not toxic to humans by ingestion, these dusts are respiratory irritants, and a dust mask and goggles should be worn while applying them.

Diatomaceous earth is a dust made from naturally occurring fossilized diatoms. Silica aerogel is another dessicating dust, which is often combined with the botanical insecticide pyrethrum.

Boric Acid Poses Risk

Boric acid is a powder which can be blown into wall voids. It is toxic if ingested, inhaled, or held in contact with abraded or broken skin. In laboratory studies with rats, boric acid was roughly twice as toxic as salt, but it is apparently more toxic to humans; a lethal dose for an infant has been estimated at as little as 5 grams, about 1/5 ounce.

Thus boric acid does pose a risk to children and pets if accessible to them. Placed in wall voids, however, boric acid does not enter living spaces because it does not evaporate.

Insecticide Made From Chrysanthemum

Pyrethrum is an insecticide made from a variety of chrysanthemum flower. It is highly toxic to insects and moderately toxic to mammals as well. The primary advantage of pyrethrum is that it is broken down quickly by sunlight into harmless substances. This would not occur inside wall voids or other dark spaces.

Pyrethrins are the individual chemicals found in pyrethrum. Their toxicity varies widely, but generally they are much more toxic to insects than to mammals or birds. A number of pyrethrin-based products are available.

Recently a whole new array of synthetic chemicals called pyrethroids have come into use. Some examples are cyfluthrin and cypermethrin. In many cases these new chemicals bear little resemblance to pyrethrins. Many have been designed to resist breakdown, thus negating the major environmental advantage of pyrethrum. Because of the similarity in their names, pyrethrum, pyrethrins, and pyrethroids are often confused. Of the three, pyrethrum is least hazardous.

Conventional Chemical Control

Conventional insecticides for carpenter ant control include Ficam (bendiocarb), diazinon, Dursban (chlorpyrifos), and Knox-Out (encapsulated diazinon). Like pyrethrum, these organophosphate and carbamate insecticides work by interfering with the insects’ nervous systems. They are, however, more toxic and more persistent.

A typical application includes using one of these pesticides to kill ants in the nest and then applying a perimeter spray around the house. Conventional chemical pesticides should always be considered the last resort. If conventional pesticides are used, only dusts should be applied in wall voids.

Choosing a Pest Control Operator

If you hire a professional pest control operator, it is important to find one who will be receptive to your concerns about pesticides. Don’t be pressured to make a quick decision. Don’t accept claims of safety at face value. Ask questions.

If the company gets impatient with you, look elsewhere. You might also want to call your local better business bureau to find out if the pest control operator has a good record.

Ask for a written report following the inspection, before you make your decision. This report should explain the severity and extent of the problem and outline the control methods and materials to be used. It should also include the price and clearly state any guarantees the company is making.

Having this information on paper makes it easier for you to assess any potential health impacts from the treatment and helps in comparing bids from different contractors. Some companies have several different types of chemical treatment available. Discuss with them the possibilities of using dessicants or boric acid rather than organophosphate or carbamate insecticides.

For more information on chemical pesticides used for carpenter ant control, contact the Washington Toxics Coalition at 206-632-1545. At present, few pest control operators use dessicants and boric acid, but we expect their numbers to grow, particularly if demand is expressed for such services.

Children at Risk

Mercury in Fish a Nationwide Problem

by Al Hanners

Al Hanners, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a writer and retired geologist.

“Some 60,000 U.S. children are born each year with developmental impairments triggered by fetal exposure to methyl mercury, usually as a result of their moms having eaten tainted fish.”….“If it doesn’t get methylated, mercury doesn’t get into fish,” observes Edward Swain of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in St. Paul.

The quotations above are from the July 7, 2001 issue of the respected weekly magazine Science News and they support the need for the study of mercury in fish in Whatcom County to be jointly financed by the City of Bellingham, Water District 10, and Whatcom County. Now that Whatcom County has refused a contractor with a suspicion of conflict of interest, we can assume that the conflict issue is behind us. This article deals with the nation-wide problem of mercury in fish, how it gets there, and what to do.

How Mercury Gets Into Fish

So, how does mercury get methylated? By the action of bacteria, especially in landfills. For example, a Florida landfill had gas with 1000 times the methyl mercury concentrations ever found in air.

How does methyl mercury get into fish? By first being taken up by plants that are eaten by animals. Fish are at the top of the aquatic food chain and concentrate the mercury to levels dangerous to human fetuses.

Nationwide Airborne Methyl Mercury

The evidence of nationwide airborne methyl mercury is overwhelming. During the disastrous forest fires in Montana in the summer of year 2001, there was concern about the amount of mercury put into the air by burning of trees that had taken in methyl mercury from the air.

Getting The Job Done

Nevertheless, the opinion that significant mercury in fish in Lake Whatcom comes from natural causes dies hard. It is for that reason that I urge the contract for studying mercury in fish give priority to probable causes, not improbable causes. As methyl mercury is airborne, it is important that the proposed study carefully collect and analyze gases from the landfills.

The joint governments were ready to approve a contractor who had worked for a known polluter of mercury. That is not reassuring. It was only when the Clean Water Alliance objected that a different contractor was chosen. Hence, the public taxpayers will have the perception of a fair study only if there is open public oversight.

Whatcom Watch Online
NorthWest Citizen