Whatcom Watch Online
May 2001
Volume 10, Issue 5

Cover Story

After 100 Years, Padden Creek May Again See Daylight

by Wendy Scherrer

Wendy Scherrer has lived in Happy Valley for the past 25 years and has worked on the restoration of Padden Creek and its fish runs since 1985. Scherrer has a B.S. in Environmental Planning and has completed graduate studies in Landscape Architecture and Education. She is current chair of the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association and executive director of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.

from "A Brook in the City" by Robert Frost

...The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run.
And all for nothing it had ever done
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep

Not many people today know about the Padden Creek tunnel. Since 1892, a section of Padden Creek has been flowing through an egg-shaped brick pipe under the bottom of Happy Valley in South Bellingham.

The tunnel is almost one-half mile long (2,310 feet) and carries the buried stream from 22nd Street at Old Fairhaven Parkway to where it dumps out in Fairhaven Park near 17th Street.

It is thought that Padden Creek was routed into the dark, six feet by four feet tunnel to prepare the valley for the anticipated construction of the Great Northern Railroad, which was proposed to end in Fairhaven. Putting the creek in the tunnel facilitated the draining of the wetlands in the lower valley, and the carrying of both surface drainage and sewage from the surrounding land and homes. It was probably one of the earliest public storm-water systems in what is now Bellingham.

Weekly World, October 2, 1891
. ...the work between Seventeenth and Twenty-first streets should be begun at once, and awarded in time contracts. A tunnel through which the tunnel would pass should be made, and the council appropriated $20 for the expenses of such investigation. It was ordered that 310,000 bricks would be sufficient for the work..

Weekly World, April 29, 1892
. The sewer tunnel is now driven in about 300 feet. The work is all in solid rock, and is being driven night and day by three shifts of workmen. The blasting is all done at night..

Weekly World, June 24, 1892
. A communication from J. J. Donovan protesting against having the line of the sewer tunnel done by contract was read. The protest stated that it was almost impossible to get honest work done by contract in a dark tunnel..

Weekly World, November 25, 1892
. Unusually heavy rainfall Friday did considerable damage, especially in Happy Valley and along Padden Creek. The rush of water...was so great that the creek overflowed its banks and spread out over a large area..

Reveille, November 17, 1902
. Engineers. verbal report showed sections No. 4 and No. 5 were ready, and Happy Valley would soon be thoroughly drained..

Happy Valley Tunnel Length and Cost (1892)
Length: 2,696 feet
Cost: $27,102.05

Padden Creek Watershed

The Padden Creek tunnel is now part of the City of Bellingham public works storm-water drainage system, as it collects runoff from Happy Valley and underground pipes that drain from Western Washington University southward. In addition it channels all of Padden Creek around houses and under Fairhaven Parkway.

Padden Creek and its tributary Connelly Creek drain the watershed defined by Lake Padden and Samish Hill to the east of I-5, Sehome Village and Western Washington University to the north, and the entire Happy Valley and Fairhaven neighborhoods on the south and west.

Padden Creek, approximately two-and-a-half miles long, takes a dive underground in the tunnel, after which it flows through Fairhaven Park, continuing downstream to its estuary between Harris Avenue and the railroad tracks, where it enters Bellingham Bay.

Padden Creek is typical of most Western Washington streams which flow through urban areas. With little regard to fish or fish migration issues in past years, the stream was already straightened by 1892, cleared of its riparian vegetation, put into ditches, buried, culverted, and changed to fit around land uses driven by the growing neighborhoods.

The estuary was filled and hemmed in by train tracks to accommodate what was the largest salmon cannery and largest cedar mill in the world. The estuary is now approximately one tenth of its original size.

Creek Is Home to Trout and Salmon

We know that cutthroat trout, coho, chum and Chinook salmon, and steelhead all have been observed in the stream, both spawning and rearing downstream of the tunnel, at least over the past 25 years.

Local neighborhood kids spend countless summer days fishing the pools of this tiny stream for beautiful cutthroat trout. Padden Creek also is the destination as a favorite field trip for southside school children, joggers, and families to watch the spawning salmon return to the creek within Fairhaven Park each fall.

Bellingham Technical College students have maintained salmon egg boxes in the creek in past years. Larrabee, Happy Valley, Lowell, and Bellingham Cooperative Elementary Schools have all raised and released salmon fry annually into Padden Creek from classroom aquariums. As each child carefully names and pours a little fish into the stream, a wish is made for its safe return to Padden Creek.

The Padden Creek corridor, below the tunnel, serves as a living classroom to hundreds of students from southside elementary, middle and high schools throughout the school year. Although there have been numerous fish kills over the years in Padden Creek, lots of people have observed its ability to rebound with the return of spawning salmon, cutthroat trout and steelhead to renew its nutrients and life.

Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and the Salmon and Steelhead-Trout Unlimited folks have made considerable investment to install fish ladders, baffles, and log structures from Fairhaven Park downstream. Efforts from many cooperative partners have attempted to restore successful fish habitat and water quality in this stream.

But fish currently cannot get past the upstream end of the tunnel due to hydraulic constrictions. Until the tunnel issue has been addressed, migration of fish upstream and downstream in Padden Creek will not be successful.

Groups Join Together to Daylight Padden Creek

An effort to address the problem of the Padden Creek tunnel has been initiated by a grassroots coalition. The Padden Creek Alliance, made up of citizens, public city officials, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Happy Valley and Fairhaven Neighborhood Association members, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists, has been meeting since 1997 to figure out how to "daylight" Padden Creek, that is, to remove Padden Creek from the existing tunnel and restore it to an above-ground stream.

The Padden Creek Alliance approached Mayor Mark Asmundsen and the Bellingham City Council, which passed a resolution in 1998, to fund a feasibility study to perform planning-level designs for natural channel alternatives to the Padden Creek tunnel.

Feasibility Study Nears Completion

Alternative stream routes were analyzed to address flood control, fish habitat, fish passage, permits, and funding sources for the Padden Creek daylighting project in a feasibility study costing over $50,000 performed by Seattle consulting firm R. W. Beck, Inc.

The study exploring the feasibility of daylighting Padden Creek began in spring 2000 and is currently being finalized. It explored the following alternatives:

1. Construction of a new stream channel to be aligned on the north side of Fairhaven Parkway.

2. Construction of a channel aligned on the south side of Fairhaven Parkway.

3. Use of the existing tunnel for a high flow diversion channel in conjunction with a modified north or south alignment.

The design criteria for this project included:

Other issues included minimizing the disturbance of utilities, controlling the slope of the stream to minimize sedimentation, minimizing road closures during construction, minimizing the length of culverts, and increasing neighborhood acceptance of the project.

The consultants performed three approaches to stream channel design for the feasibility study, including the analytical, reference reach and empirical approaches.

The analytical approach employed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. hydraulic model (HEC-RAS) to determine channel hydraulics (stream-flow depth and velocity) for a variety of flows.

The reference reach approach used the reach of Padden Creek downstream from the tunnel to provide a template for a starting point for the design of a new channel.

The empirical approach involved classifying the stream based on generalized criteria previously established for a variety of stream types.

The iterative design procedure considered:

1. Characteristics of the existing channel.
2. Selected design flows that included the channel-forming flows (one-and-a-half year peak) and the 100-year flow.
3. Alternative routes.
4. Stream slope and form.
5. Typical cross-sections.
6. Models of stream-flow characteristics.
7. Size and type of new culverts for fish passage.
8. Bed material size and composition.
9. Parameters for properly functioning riparian conditions.
10. Considerations for salmon habitat creation.

Daylighting Cost Estimates

After a review of the layouts, profiles, impacts to existing properties, utility conflicts, and cost estimates, the north alignment has been the alternative recommended by the consultants. The bad news is that the cost for the northern alternative is estimated to be $4,011,400 while the southern alignment will cost $4,587,700.

It is now the challenge of the Padden Creek Alliance to take the information from the feasibility study and decide what is the next step. There is no single source of money known to fund such a large project.

Because the daylighting of the creek would solve both flooding and fish passage problems, it is likely that a combination of funding sources targeted for fish passage, salmon recovery, land acquisition, riparian restoration, and flood control will be explored.

Also, some Padden Creek Alliance members feel that there may be cheaper alternatives available to be considered and will be exploring how to achieve fish passage methods with less cost.

Over the next few months, the final study will be produced, along with a presentation to the Bellingham City Council on the findings. In the meantime, the Padden Creek Alliance volunteers will continue to work on ways to restore healthy fish runs and "daylight" this stream.

What is the price of having salmon in our backyard within the City of Bellingham? Will we wait another 100 years to fix a problem caused in 1892? This will be a question to be seriously pondered by many in the Padden Creek Alliance as well as in the City of Bellingham as we continue to work on the daylighting of Padden Creek.

Interested individuals who would like to help out or to join the Padden Creek Alliance may call Wendy Scherrer at 715-0283, or e-mail: nsea@nas.com.

Cover Story

City of Bellingham Impedes Citizen's Access to Direct Democracy

by Peter Tassoni

Peter Tassoni recently moved back to western Washington after a ten-year hiatus in Utah. Peter has been active in preservation issues since graduating from the University of Washington in 1988.
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series on initiatives and referendums in Bellingham and Whatcom County.

Ballot initiatives and referendums are forms of direct legislation by citizens. In Bellingham there are no written rules for governing the behavioral biases of government entities.

For example, if the City of Bellingham does not agree with an initiative or a referendum, it can throw up administrative obstacles until the petitioner is defeated. These obstacles run the gambit from petition content to ballot title text and all lead to confusion and dispersing misinformation.

The Bellingham Bay Art Center, Hoag Pond, Proposition One, and G-P Water Rate lead the list of examples with the city storm-water referendum possibly joining it.

City Sues Citizens

For example, the city wanted to spend public funds in an attempt to sue the petitioners for a declaratory court judgment in the case of the 1999 Drinking Water initiative (Proposition One) and the 2000 Georgia-Pacific Water Rate referendum. I get uneasy whenever government sues its citizens.

The city defended its proposed pre-emptive maneuver as pay a little now (declaratory judgment) versus pay a lot later (trial litigation). On April 16, 2001 the City Council voted for a declaratory judgment on the Storm-Water referendum. The Storm-Water referendum petitioners intend to keep fighting and a face-off in court is due soon.

The city sued Tim Paxton, Larry Williams and Marian Beddill in 1999 over Proposition One. Last year, the petitioners on the Georgia-Pacific Water Rate referendum declined the city's invitation to be sued.

City Facilitates What It Agrees With

On the other hand, when the city agrees with a proposal like last year's civic field improvements, they help facilitate its placement on the ballot. This saves the petitioner a lot of work.

Or the City of Bellingham can overstep its mandate as when it violated the City Charter by using public funds and staff to create and distribute propaganda fact-sheets about the Bellingham Bay Art Center.

The city prosecuting attorney and the city administration can hinder or help citizen legislation through the bureaucratic process and through the writing of ballot titles. Citizens don. t control the process nor can they write the official ballot title and description. This is not a fair playing field.

Next Month. Part Two
A quick course in the initiative and referendum processes.


Hundreds Expected to Participate in Annual Bike to Work and School Day Day

by Megan Artz

Megan Artz, originally from Seattle, has been living in Bellingham for ten years and works for a local nonprofit organization.

How can I convince you to ride your bike more often? Put your car in the shop? Guarantee you sunshine? Offer flat terrain and no head winds? Maybe some acknowledgment for your efforts?

Although daily sunshine and flat roads may be a stretch in Bellingham, I. d sure like to persuade you somehow. Not enough people are considering the bicycle as an efficient, healthy, money-saving, stress-reducing alternative to the automobile for daily trips around town and as a possible commuting choice. Although bicycling as a form of transportation has become more popular, especially in a conveniently sized city like ours, America's roads are increasingly traveled by automobiles. Instead of stepping into your four-wheeler, consider the freedom of using just two.

Environmental Costs of Cars

Cars may be very useful for occasional needs but certainly aren. t always necessary for daily tasks. Our habit of using motorized vehicles comes with thought-provoking statistics about their levels of human and environmental damage. In case you aren. t familiar with such data, here are some samples to ponder:

If I were to pose a bicycle as the solution (much like the dusty, flat-tired one in your basement) you might roll your eyes and list all those reasons for driving anyway. You would tell me you simply do not have the time, talk about helmet-hair that resembles an accident scene, and that you would rather eat worms altogether.

Benefits of Bicycling

As much as bicycling in our rainy city may sound unappealing, imagine the difference and weigh the benefits:

As difficult as it may seem to ride a bicycle in the city, other rewards await you. Ask your employer for bathroom, shower and locker accommodations in exchange for that spendy parking space. Make your schedule work for you on your bicycle; your day may become organized and sane rather chaotic and harried. Become a "Smart Commuter" by cycling or using other forms of alternative transportation at least once a week and receive discounts from many local merchants (contact 676-6974 for more information).

As you can see, cycling is good for you, the community, the environment, and is much more fun than eating worms. It's more fun than driving too. So how do you start? I. ve got the perfect opportunity to get you pedaling.

National Bike To Work and School Day is Friday, May 18

The number of local participants in this event has grown exponentially each year. In 1999, 350 cyclists pedaled Bellingham streets on Bike to Work Day. Last year a whopping 700 people stopped by support stations around town. This year event organizers expect 1,400 people to leave their cars at home find happiness in the saddle. You certainly won. t be alone.

To recognize and support cyclists. efforts, Bellingham's Bike to Work and School Day committee members and volunteers will staff seven support stations around town. Visit one or more of the following stations between 6:30. 10:00 a.m. to enjoy an oasis of free goodies, hot beverages, coupons, and the companionship of your fellow cyclists:

In preparation for the event, free tire repair will be offered Saturday May 5 and 12 at the Bellingham Farmers. Market. Let us "Pump You Up!" Affordable helmets, available through the Brain Injury Association, will also be for sale.

If there's a will, there's a way! Join us for Bike to Work and School Day, Friday, May 18, 2001.

Local History

City and Port Create Bellingham's First Salt-Water Park

by Aaron Joy

Aaron M. Joy recently graduated from Western Washington University with a B.A. in Sociology. He is the part-time librarian for The Bellingham Herald.
Editor's Note: This is the tenth in a series examining Bellingham's parks. It is based on the book "A History of Bellingham's Parks," available at the Whatcom Museum store and Henderson's Books.

Created: 1971
Location: foot of Harris Avenue at Post Point
Area: 2.3 acres
Originally called South Terminal Marine Park.

Most property in Fairhaven's downtown and terminal area has the distinction of once being owned by Dirty Dan Harris, the infamous jack-of-all-trades and Fairhaven's mythological founder. The secluded acreage of grass and rocks preserved as Marine Park is no exception, and probably has Harris. footprints stamped into its ground.

County's First Official Cemetery

In 1862, when the development of Fairhaven was beginning to occur, Harris sold the land (now Marine Park) to the county and it became the first official cemetery in Whatcom County. The bodies were later transferred to the newly- established Bay View Cemetery in 1889.

In 1904, as work crews refigured the bluff, it was discovered that not all the bodies had been exhumed as thought. These additions were moved to Bay View. The waterfront area became labeled Graveyard Point or Dead Man's Point until the turn of the century when it was renamed Commercial Point, a more fitting name for an area that was to become home to the Pacific American Fisheries, the largest packers of canned salmon in the world and an innovator in salmon-packing technology.

The lot was purchased by the Port of Bellingham in 1966 from the Pacific American Fisheries, which was going out of business and selling off its assets. Neighboring property was also purchased by the port and two years later the commissioners voted to develop the area as Bellingham's first saltwater park.

Joint Effort to Create Park

Five years earlier, state laws had changed which now allowed port commissions to create and own parks not subject to parks department control. Though the port could act independently of the city parks department in the creation of the new park, the Bellingham Park Board was allowed input into the plan. The park board, in mutual respect, offered the services of the parks department to help with maintenance after the park was opened. The port planned to operate the park under the rules for other city parks.

The proposed blueprint was designed by Franz Gayl, former airport supervisor, and was quickly approved by both the port and park boards in 1970. No changes were made to the original design.

Shelter and Landscaping Funded by Port

The port paid for the $75,000 construction of a shelter building and landscaping. DeWilde's Gardens was the landscaping firm, while Norm Olson was the shelter building's architect and Frank Pomeroy was the accepted bidder for the construction work.

On February 6, 1971 Port Commissioners Robert Hyldahl, Peter Zuanich, Sr. and Port Manager Tom Glenn had the honor of dedicating the new park in a ribbon-cutting ceremony "a dream come true for the Port of Bellingham." The modestly-sized park, located within walking distance of Fairhaven but yet secluded away at the edge of the water, has as its focal point a shelter house and has as its main asset the view it affords of the San Juan Islands.

In 1991 the Port Commission discussed turning the park over to the parks department to remove the upkeep costs from the port's tight budget. Commissioner Pete Zuanich was against the idea, feeling that "it would lose its identity." If you turn it over to the city, in a matter of years the port's role would be forgotten.. The transference of property never occurred.

A Park for Watching Sailboats and Sunsets

In 1998 the park was subjected to a successful $250,000 expansion project which made it a "more user-friendly park." The project included a new sidewalk lining a new realigned parking lot and landscaped entrance.

The 2001 port budget contains $585,000 for improvements to the shoreline at Marine Park. At the April 3 board meeting the commissioners appropriated $75,000 for the design and permitting of the improvements. It is part of the port's access-the-water projects.

Today the park is part of the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park. 56 acres that contain a revitalized shipyard, the Alaska Cruise Terminal, the Amtrak Station, Padden Creek Marine and other maritime businesses. Each year the park is also crowded as the climatic finishing line for the annual Ski to Sea race.

The secluded park has also become a favorite area for watching sailboats, kayakers and the sun setting over the distant islands. As one student once said to The Bellingham Herald, "The cheapest date I ever had cost 99 cents. My date and I watched the sunset at Marine Park. The 99 cents was for a bottle of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider."

Lake Padden Golf Course and Park


Local Recording Artists Collaborate with Musicians Around the World

by Russell Hugo

Russell Hugo is originally from a small town south of Olympia, WA. He has lived in the Bellingham area long enough to discover that we have some of the best hiking in the Northwest. He has also enjoyed the opportunity to write for music/video related publications over the years.

This month I had the opportunity to speak with Dean and Dudley Evenson, two local musicians who have worked to all ends on furthering their work and art. They are co-founders of Soundings of the Planet, a local world and relaxation music label, started in 1979 and still going strong.

Russ Hugo: Please introduce yourselves and describe what genre of music you would affiliate with the most.

Dudley and Dean Evenson: We are Dean and Dudley Evenson. About 20 years ago, we discovered a new form of music that reflected our spiritual yearnings and connection with the earth. It was peaceful, instrumental music played with our acoustic instruments of flute and harp. We made tapes of our music and added the natural sounds of the desert where we lived. Later, we discovered other people were making this music and it came to be called new-age music. Today, many people refer to the music we make as healing music or world music.

Q: What instruments do either of you primarily play?

Dudley and Dean: Dean plays silver flute, alto flute, native flute, digi-horn (wind synthesizer), and keyboards. Dudley plays Celtic harp, angel harp, tanboura, Tibetan bowls, and does vocal toning.

Q: You both have been writing and recording for over twenty years and have established a large and loyal fan base in the meantime. What brought you both into the music and recording as a profession?

Dudley and Dean: Dean has played flute since he was 10 years old. In the 1970s, we were involved in portable video and created many hundreds of hours of videos of that decade, of what we saw as the emerging consciousness. In 1979, we decided to move over into the audio field, as video had no technology that allowed for distribution. We decided to form a record label to be a "voice for the earth" and share our vision of peace. through-music through the music we were creating.

People soon discovered that the music had healing effects and began to use our Sound Healing series and other music in the emerging "healing arts" such as massage, reiki, acupuncture, chiropractic, tai chi, feng shui, etc. Even Grammy award-winning country singer, Naomi Judd, discovered our music (Ocean Dreams) and used it to help heal herself from her life-threatening liver disease.

Q: Both of you and "Soundings" were originally located in Tucson, Arizona. What brought about the move to such a strict change in climate? And when did you make the move a reality?

Dudley and Dean: We started Soundings of the Planet in Tucson, Arizona and in that very grounded, earthy environment, we were able to build and develop our business to a viable system of creating and distributing our music and that of several others of our extended family of musicians such as Scott Huckabay, Tom Barabas, and Singh Kaur.

After almost 12 years in the desert, we yearned for water, trees, and mountains, and decided to move to the Pacific Northwest. Of all the places in the country, we found this jewel of a place where the forest and mountains meet the sea and the people are kind and caring.

Q: I can remember something that you mentioned being involved in that was directly related to the purchase and protection of open spaces and wetlands. It always struck me as a fantastic idea that should stay in the forefront of local thought; what was/is the story behind this?

Dudley and Dean: When we first moved here over ten years ago, we found ourselves in a pristine valley in the south-side forest. Soon, we heard about the Chuckanut Ridge development that wanted to build 1400 multi-family homes in the second growth forest here.

We and many neighbors and people who enjoyed the Interurban Trail rallied together to form a non-profit group, Interurban Neighbors. We brought people together, put out newsletters and made videotapes to raise awareness of the negative impacts of this development. When it became clear that if we wanted to save the forest we would need to buy it, we worked with a broad-based community coalition and mounted the Beyond Greenways campaign to purchase land all over the city for open space uses, trails, and sports fields.

The Beyond Greenways levy passed by a 70 percent margin and will eventually raise $20 million for land preservation.

Q: A few years ago you took a trip to Tibet; this journey eventually became inspiration for an album and much more. Looking back how do you view your experience?

Dudley and Dean: Our relationship with the Tibetan community has been profound. In 1993 we took a workshop in Arizona with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibet. The next year we traveled to Tibet itself for our 25th wedding anniversary and recorded the sights and sounds there.

It was a remarkable journey and was inspiration for the album "Ascension to Tibet" that is being re-released this year with a CD ROM video of the Dalai Lama and images from Tibet. We also were fortunate to be able to include the Dalai Lama's "Green Tara Chant" on our album "Prayer, A Multi-Cultural Journey of Spirit," which is a collection of prayers from around the world. We have met him several times. He loves Dean's beard!

Q: With the prospect of Georgia-Pacific and Intalco closing there are many fears and concerns, mostly economic, over the actual benefits compared to the risks of closing the plants. Is there anything that you would like to throw into the hat of ideas?

Dudley and Dean: Bellingham is a unique place. Many people, like ourselves, could live anywhere but choose to live here because they love the natural environment. There is an incredible pool of mind power and creativity here that can be tapped to create economic opportunities. With computers and high-speed Internet technologies, people can live here and plug into a global economy. Our mind power is our greatest resource and is less likely to waste our natural resources and create pollution!

Q: The Lummi nation has had a large role lately in your work, your close relationship with the late Lummi elder Cha-das-ska-dum Which-ta-Lum, and the upcoming "Power of Hope" gathering. What is the "Power of Hope" gathering's main focus? And your views on any of the current issues facing our neighbors?

Dudley and Dean: When we first moved here, we were introduced to a Lummi spiritual elder, Kenny Cooper, who became a close friend and musical collaborator. His Indian name was Cha-das-ska-dum Which-ta-lum.

We were fortunate to record his drumming and chanting over the years and included him on a number of our albums (."Arctic Refuge," "Prayer," and "Peace Through Music Collection" as well as our "EcoSampler Video"). Last April, we did a number of sessions with him in our studio. He passed away several months later.

We were privileged to work with his music and release it as an album called "Native Healing" featuring Dean Evenson and Cha-das-ska-dum. We also brought in Lummi violinist Swil Kanim and trance guitarist Scott Huckabay whose heritage is Chirachaua/Apache. Marguerite and April Which-ta-lum, his wife and daughter added their harmonies to his chants. Local percussionist Jason Darling kept the beat.

The "Native Healing" album is being released at a concert and benefit auction for "Power of Hope," a multi-cultural program of teen empowerment through the arts that Cha-das-ska-dum helped bring to Whatcom County.

Proceeds from the sale of the album will go to the project and there will be an exciting live and silent auction featuring local arts and crafts and other unique offerings.

This event will be held at the Aftermath Hall (Holly and Broadway) on Friday, May 11 starting at 5:30 and will be a celebration of the special music of Cha-das-ska-dum as well as a powerful way to support this wonderful project for our local teens. Most of the artists on the album will be there plus Dana Lyons and Tim McHugh who were close friends of Cha-das-ska-dum.

We encourage people to come out and support this very positive project. It is one of the most creative and far-reaching programs we have come across and we hope to see it expand in its scope to be able to reach out to more of our local youth. For the past two years, they have held their weekend retreats for teens in the Wex-li-um Hall on the Lummi Reservation so it has involved more of the Lummi youth.

Q: Dudley, I believe you are currently in the middle of working on a book about the history of Soundings of the Planet and your adventures together. Would you care to share your thoughts on the project?

Dudley and Dean: I am finally making some progress on this book, which I have been working on for many years. It is called "Living the Dream" and is the story of our lives and adventures since we met in 1968 in Manhattan's East Village. I want to share the principles we have discovered and what we have learned in the process. Of course there will be lots of images and we intend to create a CD ROM of the many videos we made along the way.

Q: Of the three past interviews I did, you seem to be close friends with all of them: Dana Lyons, Tim McHugh, and Akaraka. In reality maybe I would just like to hear on how you see the current scene as opposed to when you first came to the area.

Dudley and Dean: We first met Tim McHugh and Dana Lyons during the Gulf War. We heard Tim playing at a rally and invited him to our studio to record. We began his album when the bombs were dropping on Iraq.

Dana and Tim spent many evenings around our dinner table, providing light-hearted and conscious support to our kids and us as we all struggled to understand what was happening with our country. Over the years, their careers have blossomed and they have reached out far and wide with their eco-music.

Akaraka is another band near and dear to our hearts. Most of the members have a close working relationship with Soundings of the Planet and live near us in community Phil Heaven, Bob Paltrow, Burke Mulvany, Jason Darling, Jamisa Noelle, Melissa McConnell. We are blessed to have created a sort of intentional but spontaneous community in these Northwest woods!

Q: To end it off, you have had the opportunity to work and play with so many talented artists, various events and venues, do you have one or two favorite stories you wouldn. t mind touching on?

Dudley and Dean: Years ago we traveled to the Soviet Union as "citizen diplomats" to perform Peace Concerts and collaborate with Soviet musicians.

We met a remarkable Russian pianist named Sergey Kuryokhin who was an amazing light of avant-garde creativity in the midst of a rather serious and intense culture. We were privileged to perform and record with him and even host him in Tucson on his first U.S. tour. He stretched the envelope of creativity and made us laugh.

Another musical light in our lives, was our decade-long relationship with heavenly vocalist Singh Kaur (also known as Lorellei). From our first connection with her in Tucson, to spending time with her in Maui, and recording here in our studio, we were honored to help her manifest some of her musical dreams.

Both Sergey and Singh Kaur passed away a few years ago but they both leave a lasting legacy of their incredible music and will always have a special place in our hearts.

Our vision continues of building cross-cultural bridges of peace through music. We hope to form a foundation that will carry the Sound Healing concepts to the world and train other musicians to take "Peace Through Music" into schools across the country and use music to help young people lift up their spirits and heal the ills of our world.

For more information on either Soundings of the Planet or Dean and Dudley Evenson: www.soundings.com or (1-800-937-3223)

The Evensons will be performing on Friday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m., Aftermath Hall (Holly and Broadway).


Tidepool: News for the Rain Forest Coast

by Ed Hunt

Ed Hunt is editor of Tidepool and works from his home in Grays River, Washington. He grew up in Lyle, Washington, a small town in the Columbia River Gorge, where he graduated from high school in a class of 18 students. He holds a degree in experimental psychology from Washington State University.

Somewhere between your local newspaper and the national news mega-sites there's Tidepool.org. a savvy internet news filter for people who live in the Northwest. Tidepool's editors are up at 4:00 a.m. every morning surfing more than 40 on-line news sources from Alaska to Northern California. Links and summaries are created to all the important stuff. news about ecology, community development and our economy. and it all ends up on one easy to use web page. or in your morning email.

More importantly, Tidepool.org is focused on a bioregional community. A bioregion is a geographic area that has the similar climate, soil, flora and fauna. Ecological systems in a bioregion are interrelated and dependent on each other. Humans too live in bioregional communities that cross state and even national borders. Often the people who live in the same bioregion have more in common, than people do in other parts of their state.

Our Rain Forest Bioregion

Tidepool focuses on the Coastal Temperate Rain Forest Bioregion of North America. what we like to call the Rain Forest Coast. It's the wet side of the mountains from Southeast Alaska down to Northern California including British Columbia, Washington and Oregon along the way.

We use a bioregion as our focal point because we want people to understand that they live in a bioregional community, and that we can learn from the mistakes and successes of others within our bioregion. Tidepool also includes national and indeed global news. when it pertains to our bioregion. After all, we. re citizens of the world, but our feet are planted here in the rain forests of home.

Ecotrust: Creating a Conservation Economy

Tidepool is a project of Ecotrust, a Portland, Oregon based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the creation of a conser-vation economy in the bioregion. Instead of working to protect natural integrity in the face of an incompatible economy, Ecotrust focuses on creating a new economy that is based on working within natural systems. Its goal is essentially reintegrating human economies back into the ecosystems they inhabit.

Ecotrust works in both urban and rural areas to support entrepreneurs whose work improves environmental, economic, and social conditions.

This unique organization was created ten years ago by a small group of people who realized that economic and ecological systems are mutually interdependent. Yet they soon realized that they needed to add social equity to their focus on the ecology and economy of the bioregion. Including social equity helps ensure that conservation-based development has positive benefits for all members of the communities in which Ecotrust works.

Tidepool readers will recognize Ecotrust's "triple bottom line" in how we organize the news. Our bioregional news is filtered into environment, community and economy sections. Ecotrust sees Tidepool as a great tool for improving communication in the bioregional community, and spreading the word about the struggles and successes of the conservation economy.

Tidepool's Reader Services

Tidepool.org also helps its readers understand the connections necessary to create a conservation economy through our original news and commentary, which appear on a weekly basis. Tidepool.org also features book reviews, archives and other resources to help you learn more about things like salmon, invasive species and growth management.

We also have links to tons of on-line newspapers and magazines and other places to help you do your research. You can email your elected officials, find your watershed, or sign up to have Tidepool's links delivered by email each morning.

We do all of this with a journalistic fairness. In selecting our stories, we don. t inject our opinions and we don. t leave out stories that we don. t agree with. When we give you our opinion, it is clearly labeled as such.

This comes from my background as a journalist and as someone who grew up in a small town in the Columbia River Gorge. For six years I worked as a natural resources reporter in Southwest Washington before hiring on to launch Tidepool in 1997.

How Tidepool Came About

Tidepool was actually invented by author and journalist Richard Manning while researching a book. It was sort of an in-house way of keeping up on salmon and forest issues around the bioregion at first, but soon Dick and the folks at Ecotrust realized that it was a potentially powerful tool for all the people of the bioregion.

We took Tidepool to the public in August of 1997. We had very little budget and a staff of one, but Tidepool's readership has grown by leaps and bounds. mostly by word of mouth. Journalists, activists, teachers, students, consultants, resource managers, public officials, biologists, foresters, oyster farmers and fishermen all now rely on Tidepool to tell them what's happening up and down the coast every weekday morning.

Today we get about 64,000 page views a month! Those readers tell us they like Tidepool's ease of use and comprehensive coverage of the Northwest Rain Forest Coast. They like that Tidepool is free and carries no advertising.

Financial Support for Tidepool

So how do we pay the bills? Ecotrust. which is supported by private grants. funds Tidepool from its general budget. Last fall we ran our first on-line pledge drive. just like a public radio station and the response was wonderful. We also get help from underwriters such as ShoreBank Pacific, Portfolio 21, Whole Earth Magazine, and Paramatrix.

Managing Editor From Whatcom County

Last year we added staff too. Tidepool.org hired Whatcom County native Derek Reiber as managing editor. A natural resources journalist and editor, Derek started out his career writing stories for Tidepool as our first intern.

Derek and I are working on all sorts of new services to provide our readers. services we hope will not only inform our readers but also help them communicate and work with each other. Tidepool's strength seems to be that it uses the internet's ability to conquer geographic boundaries without losing sight of the fact where we live defines who we are and what we care about.

You see, we live in a bioregion we call the "Rain Forest Coast." Folks who live here have things in common with each other. rain, salmon, forests, growth, rivers and watersheds. We care about a lot of the same stuff. We can learn from the solutions and mistakes of our bioregional neighbors.

We can work together across state and even national borders. But first, we all have to start out on the same page.

We think that page can be found every weekday morning at 9 a.m. at Tidepool.org.


Plant Yourself a Native Prairie

by Veronica Wisniewski

Veronica Wisniewski is the proprietor of Wildside Growers, a native plant nursery and landscaping service.

Old-growth forest ecosystems are the most celebrated endangered ecosystems, yet they fail to be the ecosystems facing the most rapid degradation and disappearance. Our lowland native prairies are unsung flowering jewels that daily face being overrun by exotic aggressive weeds and by bulldozers, and exist largely in remnants throughout the Northwest. Unlike an old-growth forest, which one cannot expect to establish in one's lifetime on any scale, the native prairies lend themselves well to the garden setting.

In Victoria, British Columbia, where prairie awareness is higher, public areas and private gardens. even full yards. have been devoted to these plant communities. Spring is a pleasing kaleidoscope of pink satin flower and white cerastium fading to purple camas and yellow spring gold highlighted by all manner of plants and colors. Native bunch grasses provide the backdrop to this spring display. For a look at a native prairie, visit the balds overlooking the sound at Washington Park in Anacortes or Pass Island or Goose Rock at Deception Pass State Park. Taper tip onion (Allium acuminatum), shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum), camas (Camassia quamash), and bare-stem desert parsley (Lomatium nudicaule), may still be in bloom.

Typically, the blooming season lasts from late March into June coinciding with the onset of the summer drought at which point the flowers disappear and the grasses turn brown in dormancy. Consequently, an appreciation of a dry grassy meadow, or supplemental planting of later-blooming species that will tolerate site conditions is necessary.

Necessary Site Conditions

A native prairie requires good drainage and sun or very light shade. Garry oak (Quercus garryana) is sprinkled about many native prairies offering dappled shade. Most of the bulbs and fleshy-rooted perennials don. t mind the winter wet, but will rot if submerged regularly.

A raised bed with drainage constructed with a soil mix well amended with sand would accommodate a prairie garden on a soggy lot. Hillsides, with their built-in drainage, often offer good conditions for prairie gardening. In fact, many prairie remnants are found in such areas because they are less suited to development.

I recommend starting with a small area and planting densely. Dense plantings, once established, help keep weeds down. Because plant availability may be limiting, spread the seed from bloomed-out plants to help fill the site in over time. Prepare the site with the sheet-composting method described in the March issue to suppress germination of weed seeds in the soil and kill mat-forming grasses that may be present.

If planting in the spring, potted stock will be your only alternative. For a fall planting, bulbs and bare-root stock can supplement potted plants. The site may be sown with seed, but the ability to distinguish germinating desirables from undesirables is necessary. The patience to wait as long as three to five years for some species to bloom is essential. Camas, lily, onion and brodiaea seedlings all look like grass the first year and weeding is necessary to keep the invasive plants from taking over. The bulb-producing plants can compete with weeds once established, but keeping weeds from getting a toehold pays off in the long run.

Camas, armeria, ball-head cluster lily, Oregon sunshine, nodding onion, blue field gilia, spring gold, bare-stem parsley, the sedums and yarrow are easy to grow and available from a number of growers making them good species with which to start. Plants can be installed in clusters for the look of drifts of color or alternated with different species to create a patchwork of leaf shape and color.

Plugs of grass can be set among the flowering perennials. Grass seed can be sown or grown in plugs and planted into the site to control placement. Seed is available from local native seed vendors. Smooth prairie star, rosy sea blush, Western buttercup, field chickweed, and blue-eyed Mary are easy to grow and come readily from seed, but are less readily available. Since they are common, small collections of seed can be multiplied on site.

Some prairie gardeners mow their meadow in July and again in late fall or early winter to ensure maximum sunlight reaches the flowering plants by reducing the vegetative mass. By July, flower seed has ripened and mowing serves to disperse it, thus increasing the future flowering plant population.

A Final Note on Trees and Shrubs

Garry oak and manzanita grow in gnarled open forms that add a third dimension of interest to the prairie garden. Garry oak was once common here and deserves an increased presence as does manzanita. The smaller stature and slow-growing habit of Garry oak make it a good candidate for the urban setting. With its peeling red bark and ever-bluegreen foliage, it is surprising manzanita isn. t found in the local backyard more often.

Annuals, Perennials and Grasses Found in Native Prairies

Prairie Annuals
Rosy Sea Blush Plectritis congesta
Blue-Eyed Mary Collinsia grandiflora or parviflora
Blue Field Gilia Gilia capitata
Large-Flowered Collomia Collomia grandiflora

These are best sown as seeds into your remember the 1 in 20 rule (seed from 1 of 20 plants in a population) to avoid depleting wild populations. You can grow out a small amount and increase your population from your domestic stock over time.

Prairie Perennials
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Nodding Onion Allium cernuum
Sea Pink Armeria maritima
Douglas Aster Aster subspicatus (late summer bloomer)
Harsh Paintbrush Castilleja hispida
Field Chickweed Cerastium arvense (not the garden weed)
Broad-Leaved Shooting Star Dodecatheon hendersonii
Few-Flowered Shooting Star Dodecatheon pulchellum
Oregon Sunshine Eriophyllum lanatum
Gumweed Grindelia integrifolia
(good late summer bloomer)
Smooth Prairie Star Lithophragma parviflora
Bare-Stem Desert Parsley Lomatium nudicaule
Spring Gold Lomatium utriculatum
Yampah Perideridia gairdneri
Western Buttercup Ranunculus occidentalis
Pacific Sanicle Sanicula crassicaulis
Spreading Stonecrop Sedum divergens
Oregon Stonecrop Sedum oreganum
Lance-Leaved Stonecrop Sedum lanceolatum
Broad-Leaved Stonecrop Sedum spatulifolium
Satin Flower Sisrynchium douglasii
Prairie Bulbs or Corms
Hooker's or Taper Tip Onion Allium acuminatum
Ball Head Cluster Lily or Ookow Brodiaea (Dichelostemma) congesta
Harvest Brodiaea Brodiaea coronaria
Great Camas Camassia leichtlinii
Common Camas Camassia quamash
White Fawn Lily Erythronium oregonum (likes part shade)
Chocolate or Rice Lily Fritillaria lanceolata
Tiger Lily Lilium columbianum
Death Camas Zigadenus venenosus

Do not collect bulbs or perennials from the wild. This depletes populations and most often the plants do not survive the transplant shock. Many a guilty party can testify to the latter. Buy from reputable growers or grow your own.

Prairie Grasses
Brome Bromus carinatus
Blue Wild Rye Elymus glaucus
Idaho Fescue Festuca idahoensis, roemeri
Prairie Trees and Shrubs
Manzanita Arctostaphylos columbiana
Madrone Arbutus menziesii
Garry Oak Quercus garryana
Red-Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum


What Do We Know About Mercury in Lake Whatcom?

by Tim Paxton

Tim Paxton is a board member of the Clean Water Alliance and an advocate along with many others for an immediate development moratorium in the watershed until the mercury source and other problems are addressed and corrected.

Some Lake Whatcom fish are now "officially" contaminated with mercury. As of April 2001, an official state Department of Health advisory exists for certain fish species in Lake Whatcom. Do not eat smallmouth bass or yellow perch from the lake.

The original advisory was for all humans to avoid eating these fish from the lake, but the Whatcom County Department of Health and Human Services decided at the very last minute to limit the health advisory to pregnant women and children under six years of age. This was over the objections of Jim Johnston, a state fish biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife who wanted the advisory to include everyone.

Sources Are Unknown

The sources of mercury are undetermined at this time. It could be from airborne sources; it could be coming from above the diversion dam; it could be from numerous dump sites in the lake. It could come from all these sources. Interestingly, the highest levels are coming from Basin 3, the large southern basin which contains more than 90 percent of the water in the lake. Contamination is highest near Austin Creek (Sudden Valley) and near the diversion dam inflow at the south end of the lake.

Who's Watching Out for Residents. Health?

Since 13 of the fish tissue samples exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency National Toxics Rule human health criterion of 0.825 mg/g (parts per million), the Washington State Department of Ecology should add Lake Whatcom to the Section 303(d) list for mercury in tissue.

The Environmental Protection Agency standard for treated drinking water is two parts per billion of mercury. The city found 4.1 parts per billion in a sample of untreated Lake Whatcom water in 1995, 0.5 parts per billion in a 1996 sample and 0.6 parts per billion in 1998.

This fact begs the question: Where was the health advisory for the 600+ residents who drink water directly from Lake Whatcom when the mercury contamination in 1995 was twice the Environmental Protection Agency's current limit? What about swimmers who used the lake that year? Who is watching out for your health?

Background on Mercury

First, some background on mercury. Methylmercury (MeHg) is the organic and most toxic form of mercury, a liquid silvery metal. Organic mercury (such as methylmercury) is produced in the environment from inorganic mercury by certain types of bacteria in the sediments.

The amount of methylmercury produced and taken up by organisms is influenced by a number of other factors, including organic carbon concentrations, pH, and sulfate levels. The burning of fossil fuels and waste results in the release of sulfate-forming chemicals which can produce acid rain, which decreases the pH of lakes and streams and so further exacerbates ambient methylmercury levels.

Accumulation of Mercury in the Food Chain

Inorganic and elemental mercury can be very dangerous if inhaled or ingested. However, organic mercury, specifically methylmercury (MeHg), is of special concern to people and wildlife due to its ability to take part in biochemical reactions, build up in the food chain, and remain in the body for long periods of time.

Along each link of the food chain in contaminated systems, the concentration of methylmercury in the tissues of successive species increases, a process called bioaccumulation.

The initial and most important step in this process is the efficient uptake of inorganic mercury by bacteria in a lake or stream. These organisms, which form the base of the food chain, convert the mercury into methylmercury. This form of mercury can then be taken up by algae (phytoplankton).

When zooplankton and insects consume the phytoplankton, they gain not only energy, but store methylmercury as well. Zooplankton and insects are consumed in large quantities by amphibians and then in turn by small fish and other aquatic species. Small fish and other aquatic species are consumed by predator fish (bass and Kokanee), birds (eagles, osprey) and mammals (your cat or dog).

Unsafe Human Consumption Levels

It takes a surprisingly small amount of mercury in the water to contaminate fish to unsafe human consumption levels. A medium to high capacity coal-burning power plant emits approximately 250 pounds of mercury a year from its smokestack. An additional 50 pounds a year results from the cleaning of coal for the plant.

An average 500 ton-per-day municipal waste incinerator, operating with typical emission controls, releases approximately 310 pounds of mercury into the atmosphere every year. Such emissions may sound small, until one considers that the annual addition of only 0.002 pounds of mercury, less than 1/70 of a teaspoon is enough to contaminate a 25-acre lake to the point that the fish in that lake are unsafe to eat.

Biological Effects of Mercury Contamination

Laboratory studies have indicated that mercury contamination can cause significant effects in a number of fish and wildlife species, including:

Mercury has also been implicated in the death of great white herons and has been observed in high concentrations in bald eagles in Florida.

New Guidelines Expected

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing revised national guidelines for mercury levels in water, which are due to be released in the next year. It is likely that the new recommended criteria will be more consistent with standards created for the Great Lakes region.

Indeed, in the Mercury Report to Congress released in 1997, the United States Environmental Protection Agency calculated the safe standard for wildlife to be 0.91 parts per trillion of mercury in ambient water. This value is even lower than the protective Great Lakes standards.

Remember, some Lake Whatcom ambient water (untreated) had mercury contamination at the level of 4.1 parts per billion in 1995. This is about 4,500 times as much as the proposed new safe standard (0.91 per trillion) for wildlife. More news will certainly be coming regarding mercury contamination in our Lake Whatcom drinking water reservoir.

Commissioners Discuss Proposal That Tenants Pay Prevailing Wage

by Daniel M. Warner

At the April 17 work session, the commission discussed the proposed "lowest and most responsive bidder" matter that had been presented to them several weeks ago by John Servais. Mr. Servais commented briefly on the idea and introduced members of the Carpenters. Union (from Longview, Washington) who also spoke to the proposal.

The basic point of Mr. Servais. proposal is to ensure that wages paid for all construction work done on port-owned property be at a living-wage rate, that includes health care and pension benefits for the employees.

Any port tenant making leasehold improvements would, under this idea, be required to hire general contractors who picked subcontractors based on a 20-point criteria list. In addition to requiring information about living-wage amounts, health care and pensions, the list includes items such as the bidder's experience, compliance with Fair Labor Standards Act, years of operation, deadline compliance, and so on.

Port staff made a presentation and observed that they could find no port or similarly-situated government entity that forces its tenants to adhere to certain pay standards. The port itself, when it contracts out work, does pay the "prevailing wage;" this proposal would mandate similar payments by tenants.

There was considerable discussion and concern along these lines:

The commission recognized the validity of some of the concerns. Chairman Douglas Smith said the commission would discuss this further.


Far-Reaching Impact on Local Economy from Port Activities

by Daniel M. Warner

Daniel Warner has been compiling information for the Port of Bellingham voting charts (facing page) since the August 1, 2000 meeting.

Approximately 4.43 million dollars distributed from our local property taxes each year goes to the Port of Bellingham. It is the primary local public agency in the state dealing with local economic development. It has a broad range of authority to further compatible development of industry, commerce, trade and recreation in Whatcom County.

The basic outline of the public port authority was established by the state legislature in 1911. A major legislative purpose in allowing the creation of port authorities was to break the railroads' monopoly on waterfront transportation access. Since 1911 port districts have been formed in 33 of Washington's 39 counties.

The formation of a port district, with or without navigable waterways, is subject to the approval of the voters in the proposed district. The districts are governed by a three- or five-person commission.

Stupendous Victory

In a Whatcom Watch article (June 2000, page 15), Loralyn Brandt noted that "the Port of Bellingham was created in 1920 to attract business to our then slacking economy." Other ports had been created in the Northwest, and pressure soon came for Bellingham to hop on the bandwagon. Most of this pressure came from the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce whose committee obtained enough signatures for the issue to be placed on the ballot. The chamber pushed to approve the issue by focusing on Bellingham's proximity to Alaska, Vancouver Island, and the Orient as a unique feature.

When the Blaine Chamber of Commerce gave up its opposition to the issue, it appeared that it would succeed, but now it was up to the voters. In September of 1920, the people of Whatcom County passed the measure by a 77 percent margin, 77,944 to 23,000. The Bellingham Herald stated that it was "...the most stupendous victory for any project ever launched in Whatcom County."

Port Basics

In Whatcom County the port district is co-equal with the county boundaries. (Some counties have more than one port district in them.) Within the county-wide district there are three sub-districts, co-extensive with the County Council districts.

Each commissioner is elected to a four-year term and is paid $200 a month plus $70 a meeting up to a maximum of $7,200 total. They are eligible to receive the same medical and dental benefits as port employees. They are not eligible for retirement benefits.

Financing Port Activities

The port operates, of course, on money. It collects the money to spend on furthering the projects outlined in its yearly strategic plan. Usually the commission approves a concept. The executive director proposes a course of action to execute the plan, and the commission approves the method of execution. Often that involves entering into a contract with a consultant after which a specific plan of action is developed. Then port money is expended to further the plan.

The port may issue tax-exempt bonds. That is, it borrows money from large financial institutions who sell the bonds to other institutions and the public. The port issues, in effect "IOUs" promising to repay the money over time and uses that money for its projects. A port may. and the Port of Bellingham does. levy an annual tax on the assessed valuation of property within the district.

Self-Sustaining Activities

The Port of Bellingham, since 1994, has divided up its operations into two main parts. One part is self-sustaining. That is, no tax money is spent on this part. All the money spent comes from the operations themselves. In this category, called "enterprise operating divisions," are the:

Airport, providing 14 percent of the enterprise revenue, about $1.5 million income, and about $259,000 "cash flow" (surplus of revenues over expense).

Small Boat Marinas providing 40 percent of the enterprise revenues, about $4.5 million in 2001 with $2.35 million cash flow.

Marine Terminals (freight and passenger) providing about 13 percent of total enterprise revenues, some $1.8 million in revenues and $280,000 in cash flow.

Properties (the port rents space to tenants), about 33 percent of the port's "enterprise activity," or $3.4 million in revenues and $2.2 million in cash flow.

Cash flow, totaling about $3.4 million in 2001, is used to pay an appropriate percentage of the administrative overhead ($1.37 million), debt service on capital investment in facilities, and a cash reserve.

Public Benefit Programs

The second chunk of the port's budget is the "Public Priority Programs". These are activities undertaken by the port for public benefit for which it is unable to recoup all its costs through user fees (though some costs are offset by user fees). Therefore, the port's tax levy is used to fund parts of these expenses.

The port is authorized by law to tax up to 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for general port purposes, and it can tax beyond that for general obligation bonds.

It can also have special levies (collections) approved by the voters that are not subject to that limit. And it can also collect property taxes for Industrial Development Districts.

The Port of Bellingham will collect about $3.24 million in regular-levy taxes, and about $1.2 million in General Obligation bonds, for a total of $4.43 million collected from the property tax.

The port is not collecting the full amount of tax that it is authorized to collect. It's at about $2 million less than the present legal limit. There is no special levy or Industrial Development District tax income.

Where Does Our Tax Money Go?

Of the $4.3 million collected in tax money, 44 percent goes to debt service, 20 percent goes to operating expenses of the public priority programs, and 36 percent goes to public priority capital projects. The tax money covers three categories of expenses:

Public Access: This includes parks, boardwalks, beach access, boat launches, and community buildings. About $1.9 million will be spent to enhance these facilities in 2001. An additional $457,000 is a tax-payer subsidy for the on-going maintenance and operations of these facilities. Facilities include the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, the Squalicum boathouse, the Tom Glenn Common, Blaine boathouse, Fairhaven Marine Park and Zuanich Point Park.

Environmental Remediation: This includes port properties, Bellingham Bay, and other clean-ups. Approximately $900,000 will be spent in 2001. An additional $183,000 supports the staff costs and on-going environmental education programs around the port.

Economic Development Activities: In 2001, $6.1 million will be spent, mostly on infrastructure projects. An additional $471,000 will be spent to provide resources for other municipalities and agencies to craft comprehensive economic development plans, provide technical expertise and advise on site development and regulatory matters.

Perspective on the Port

This article has provided a sketch of the Port of Bellingham's finances. The port commissioners. main function at the twice-monthly port meetings is this: they give the executive director approval to spend money by authorizing him to enter into contracts.

The port commissioners are running a business; they are the elected board of directors, supervising the execution of the policies they developed in their strategic plan.

Because the port staff is. or appears to be so far. competent, there isn. t much dispute about whether the execution is acceptable or not. In fact, in nine months of reporting on the port, I have never seen a dissenting vote before March 6. There are a fair number of abstentions due to appearance of fairness concerns.

The thing to scrutinize, then, is not the dry business that goes on at the regular meetings. Rather the important area for scrutiny should be the development of the yearly strategic plan, for it is there that a philosophy, an ethic, is injected into the system.

Whatcom Watch Online
NorthWest Citizen