Whatcom Watch Online
September 2001
Volume 10, Issue 9

Cover Story

City Embroiled in Controversy Over Fairhaven Tree Removal

by Ken Wilcox

Ken Wilcox arrived in Bellingham in 1980, too late for a beer at The Kulshan. He works as a writer and environmental planner at the Terminal Building in Fairhaven.

Part 1: Fairhaven History

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 16, 2001, the ringing buzz of a freshly oiled chain saw cut through the dawn silence of Bellingham’s old Fairhaven historic district. When the buzzing stopped, a healthy stand of 30-year-old street trees had been reduced to nine dead stumps. Pleased with their work, the city crew mopped up and left the scene by mid-morning. Over the next twenty-four hours, the Fairhaven community fell into shock as news of the little disaster spread.

Local locksmith, Hue Beattie, wandered into Fairhaven for a ten o’clock cup of coffee that morning and was stunned to find the trees missing. He knew them well. In the early 1980s, Beattie worked at the creaky-floored institution known as Tony’s Coffee, on the corner of 11th Street and Harris Avenue.

“The trees were small and a bit scraggly then,” he told me, “so I took care of them.” He watered them. He would use the grounds from Tony’s cold-brewed coffee to mulch the trees. Beattie said he would have preferred native trees instead of sweet gums, but just having trees on the street made Fairhaven a much friendlier place. He recalled a local landscape architect insisting that the sweet gums made very fine street trees. When others gave up looking after them, Beattie was the guy who kept them alive.

Sweet Gum Trees Planted Around 1973

The planting of the trees, in about 1973, was the inspiration of Fairhaven developer, Ken Imus, whose ambitious dream of a lively and prosperous Fairhaven was just beginning to unfold. The city prepared a list of approved species and Imus did the rest. He hired a jackhammer to punch holes in the sidewalk, and purchased enough trees from deWilde’s Nursery to line Harris Avenue from 13th to 10th, as well as 11th Street from Mill to McKenzie, plus a few along 12th.

“In those days,” Imus said, “you just talked it over with the city. I don’t recall any paperwork.” The chopping of the trees three decades later, however, did require a permit, which the city issued to itself after the trees were already cut.

Harris Avenue’s missing trees are (or were) known to botanists as Liquidambar styraciflua, widely regarded as attractive, resilient, and fast-growing trees with fragrant, maple-like leaves. Mature sweet gums can reach four feet in diameter and 120 feet in height.

It is a popular street tree and a choice ornamental, with some medicinal value as well—;not to mention its historic use in chewing gum. But the tree is much more common in its native habitat along the eastern seaboard than it is in the Pacific Northwest.

Lofty Vision for Historic District

Imus doesn’t remember the exact time the Harris Avenue sweet gums were planted, but 1973 is in the ballpark, he said. John Servais, an Internet consultant and community activist who lives a few blocks up the hill, agreed. He told me that when Imus arrived on the scene in 1972, he wanted street trees planted to complement his lofty vision for “Fairhaven Village,” an enterprising remake of the entire south-side historic district.

Imus quickly bought up eight old buildings and other properties and embarked on a major overhaul of the Mason Block, soon to be known as the Marketplace, at the corner of 12th and Harris. His plans were ambitious, to say the least—and they schismatized the community.

“The ideas boggle the mind,” pronounced The Bellingham Herald, “...underground tunnels, sky bridges, Laurel and Hardy type movie houses, the scent of freshly baked goodies wafting in the air.” Some found the vision appetizing. Others gagged. And some were concerned about the effect Imus’ plan would have on a very different kind of Fairhaven that, minus Imus, was already taking root.

Small-Business Enclave and Blue-Collar Bars

By 1970, a boomed and busted Fairhaven had begun to re-emerge as a countercultural, small-business enclave peppered across several blocks of boarded-up buildings and blue-collar bars. Hippie Western Washington State College students, intellectuals, old farts, fishermen, working stiffs, and anti-war protesters were chugging lugs harmoniously at the Kulshan Tavern on 12th Street, across from Win’s Drive-in.

Then the Fairhaven Tavern replaced another pub two doors down. The Fairhaven was started by two brothers and a sister from Seattle whose business there may have become too busy to be fun anymore. The new bar, unfortunately, became an immediate success.

Across the street, Cal’s was still good for a dangerous beer with a biker, while bandage and gauze were readily available at the stalwart Fairhaven Pharmacy on the corner, founded in 1889, and unmoved from 12th and Harris since 1929.

Fairhaven Abuzz with Spirit

In this pre-Imus era, shortly before the Harris Avenue street trees were planted, Fairhaven was abuzz with spirit. Wild ideas for a better world spilled from the beer mugs and into the streets. Minimalist entrepreneurial energy began to fill the vacant places up and down Harris Avenue. A bead shop snared one empty space, a pottery shop another.

On the street, artists and craftspeople sold their inimitable creations to passersby. John Blethen’s pizza-famous Toad Hall diner opened in the basement of the bank building across from Tony’s Coffee House. Bank Books took the prime spot upstairs. The Community Food Co-op was born just down the hill in the Good Earth building at 1000 Harris (in the space now occupied by the Artwood Gallery). A community garden was tended nearby.

Richard Navas and others began the Fairhaven Mills cooperative in the same area and began lugging thousands of pounds of grain up and down flights of stairs. The famed Northwest Passage, “fortnightly journal of ecology, politics, the arts, and good healthy livin’,” also opened its headquarters at 1000 Harris.

Protesters and Drano

In 1970, old Fairhaven was certifiably funky. Except for the new decade, everything else was late ’60s. The Vietnam War was escalating as the U.S. invaded Cambodia in April, a week after Earth Day. A few days later, the National Guard shot and killed four antiwar protesters at Kent State University. In response, Bellingham marchers stopped traffic on I-5.

The same year, “Patton” won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the red-hot Bellingham Bells baseball club was named National Semi-Pro Team of the Year. Huxley College of Environmental Studies opened its doors in 1970, when a can of Drano sold for sixty-six cents.

In October 1971, Tony’s Herbs, Coffees, Tea and Spices shared a grand opening with Fairhaven Bicycle on the ground floor of the Terminal Building at 11th and Harris. Groom’s Hardware was still selling useful stuff in the Knights of Pythias building on 11th Street, the space that Village Books would occupy a decade later.

Treeless Streets

Terry Brainard, an early ’70s long-hair bartender at the Fairhaven, recalled a barber shop on 12th—and the mad hair-cutter chasing him down the street flailing a pair of sharp scissors. Among the old buildings, blackberries, and treeless streets, there were also a print shop, greasy-spoon café, and Pluto’s allegedly scruffy pub, which combined with the rest to form “the hip mecca of the West,” as reported by The Bellingham Herald.

In 1972, the Herald acknowledged that Fairhaven’s old buildings had been silent until “the counterculture discovered Bellingham.” A special September edition invited college students to visit the bars, shops, and eateries of Fairhaven, noting also that rural Whatcom County was especially attractive to the “organic commune set.” A disgruntled Countian’s letter to the editor complained about the new Northwest Mecca: “we need a law [to] get rid of the hippies... I’m ready to take things into my own hands.”

Growth and Gadflies

On the south side of town, Chuckanut Drive’s “Bicycle Sunday” events attracted hundreds of cyclists, while the Valley (a.k.a. Old Fairhaven) Parkway was well under construction. Across town—and across a relatively new Interstate 5—Fred Meyer Inc. was filling a deep ravine for its sprawling new department store. Greater Bellingham was showing signs of a growth spurt.

It was an interesting year. In 1972, one year before street trees, give or take, Ralph Nader made headlines by accusing members of Congress of selling out to lobbyists and big corporations. On the front page of the Herald, he called the Nixon administration “easily the most corrupt in history.” The Herald called Nader a “self-appointed national gadfly.”

A few days later, the paper endorsed Nixon and his re-election bid to the Presidency—on the same day that The Washington Post reported the FBI’s confirmation of “spying and sabotage” in the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. In downtown Bellingham, dozens of antiwar demonstrators staged a sleep-in in front of the Federal Building.

The news then was almost all Watergate, Vietnam, and the upcoming election. Dan Evans was seeking reelection as Governor, Slade Gorton as State Attorney General, and Democrat, Barney Goltz, was running for State Representative.

In 1972, the Whatcom County Bar Association welcomed several new attorneys to its ranks; among them, Dean Brett, Larry Daugert and David Syre, future founder of the Trillium Corporation. Brett and Daugert opened an office above Tony’s (in the space next to my own office today). In an absolutely unrelated incident a few days earlier, a Cheney, Washington, judge issued a restraining order to stop that city from cutting down its street trees.

“Chase Off the Hippies”

Having turned a fortune selling Fords in California and Texas, Ken Imus returned to Bellingham in 1972 and found that the quaint little Fairhaven he remembered from years past had somehow changed. Clearly, the place had gone to the dogs. To reclaim it from the hippies and the smothering blackberries, he bought a number of buildings and empty lots outright, including the bank building that once housed the Fairhaven Herald, precursor to the current newspaper, and which, in the early 1970s, was occupied by Toad Hall and the bookstore. Both businesses soon closed.

If Imus’ intent was to “chase off the hippies,” as some have suggested, he was successful. Imus admits that his project was “a disruption to the countercultural movement,” but that his approach was “low-key” and focused more on cleaning things up (literally), and making Fairhaven “a pleasant place” to work and shop. After redoing the Marketplace, a quiet boycott against Imus and his grand plan stifled his ability to attract tenants, and much of that building remained vacant for years.

In 1972, “Fairhaven was bustling with hippie entrepreneurs,” said Servais. “Imus basically forced them out. They didn’t fit his vision.” Some persevered, others gave up, pissed off that some rich guy could shake up a community like that. When a bulldozer arrived one day, unannounced, to clear out the community garden, the gardeners peaceably resisted, claiming that they still had a valid lease with the former property owner

Gardeners Hauled to Jail

The gardeners insisted that they should at least be allowed to collect the plants and produce they had cultivated. Instead, they were promptly arrested, charged with trespassing, and hauled away by the Bellingham Police Department on a rented city bus. One witness later recalled someone racing down the street with a wheelbarrow to salvage some of the rich topsoil.

Attorneys Dean Brett and Larry Daugert may have watched the situation unfold from their office above Tony’s, then offered to defend the gardeners—or the “Fairhaven Eight” as they would later be remembered. Jay Taber, one of those arrested, imagined the young attorneys looking out the window exclaiming “Clients!” Someone managed to locate a black-and-white video camcorder and filmed the incident from the Terminal Building [above Tony’s].

Taber said that the police were a bit rough with some of the garden defenders, although in hindsight, “it wasn’t really that big of a deal.” Eight young men were hauled to jail, while one gardener was rather miffed that the police refused to arrest her just because she was a woman.

In court, the police implied to the judge that some kind of mini-riot had taken place, said Taber. The defendants brought in a logic expert from the university to prove that the police story was false. He added, “I remember the judge saying something like ‘That’s all very nice, but I’m not interested in logic!’”

Multi-Story Skeleton Still Eyesore

Imus pushed on with his plans and soon broke ground for a five-story brick building adjacent to the Marketplace that would provide even more retail space for the “Village.” Far from completed, complications arose that brought construction to a halt. The multi-story skeleton still stands as one of Fairhaven’s more familiar eyesores.

The Waldron Building across from Win’s was to be renovated in the mid-’70s, after the tavern leases ran out. The Kulshan and the Fairhaven would have to go. Imus worried that too many bars could make the Village seem a bit too “honky-tonk,” even if Fairhaven’s more distant past is rife with dance halls, saloons, and brothels. Even the Terminal Building, which does not belong to Imus, began as the Sideboard Saloon and billiard parlor in 1888. In 2001, it is still home to Tony’s Coffee and remains Fairhaven’s oldest commercial building.

Despite the complications, Imus demanded quality construction and finish work in the buildings he restored, and he outfitted them with genuinely historic furnishings and appurtenances.

“A labor of love,” he called it. “I want my personal influence felt in the design,” he told the Herald, “good or bad.” While the Marketplace (now known as Sycamore Square) is “kind of proper,” there are other buildings that look poorly constructed, he said. “Leave ‘em like that, that’s part of the charm.”

Historic Fairhaven Saved From Wrecking Ball

If Imus seemed a bit arrogant in his reinvention of Fairhaven in the early ’70s, he can surely be credited with bringing the community at least two lasting accomplishments. Not only did he inspire the planting of some classy street trees along Harris Avenue nearly thirty years ago, he may have single-handedly saved historic Fairhaven from the not-improbable wrath of a wrecking ball. That’s how Gordy Tweit, the retired pharmacist at Fairhaven Pharmacy, sees it.

Gordy has collected Fairhaven paraphernalia for decades and happily shares his historic booty with interested citizens on a weekly basis. “I grew up with Kenny,” he told me. “A very sharp fellow... a top salesman.” Gordy has observed the changes in Fairhaven as much as anyone. He began working at the pharmacy on 12th and Harris as a delivery boy in 1941. The pharmacist at that time had also begun as a delivery boy, as had the one before that, and the one before that.

After World War II, Fairhaven was a bustling town with a sawmill, boat works, shipping terminal, a fishing industry, and dozens of other businesses, hundreds of workers, and thousands of nearby residents. By the mid-1950s, the downtown mill had bought out the south side mill and shut it down to squash the competition.

Three hundred employees simply left town to look for work elsewhere. A series of setbacks closed many businesses and nearly turned Fairhaven into a ghost town. A store, a few bars and the pharmacy stuck it out through the latter 1950s and into the 1960s, while vacated buildings were boarded up.

When the hippie entrepreneurs brought life back to a few of the old buildings in the late 1960s, Fairhaven seemed to be on the road to a renewed, albeit subdued, prosperity. Would it be enough to preserve Fairhaven’s standing history, its marvelous old architecture, no one can say. If not for Imus, less visionary developers and speculators might well have arrived on the scene to demolish the more forlorn-looking structures, then begin anew with some kind of contemporary tacky replacements. Tweit credits Imus with preventing that atrocity from happening.

Sweet Gum Trees Symbolized Divergent History

Within a year of completing his initial purchases, Imus approached the city about street trees. The sweet gums were planted, and that was that. Regardless of what anyone thought of Imus’ vision of the Village, the planting of the trees was well received by almost everyone, even if Fairhaven had essentially been a treeless city since it was first platted in 1883 by the legendary “Dirty Dan” Harris. Dirty Dan, it is said, looked as bad as he smelled. Nevertheless, his name is immortalized in Fairhaven’s main thoroughfare, as well as a nearby, upscale restaurant.

The planting of the trees, non-native and innocuous as they might have seemed to those city workers who cut them down in the spring of 2001, marked an important transformation in the history of Fairhaven—from an era of wild ideas on the part of the hippie artists and entrepreneurs, to an era of wild ideas on the part of Ken Imus. In the heartwood of those trees, history diverged.

Through the intervening years, the “old Fairhaven” spirit spread as the unofficial boycott against Imus subsided, new businesses emerged, and new energy arrived on the scene to contribute to the Village idea. Village Books, the smitten creation of Chuck and Dee Robinson, now serves as much as an anchor to culture and commerce in Fairhaven as anything Imus has been able to craft in thirty years—even if the Imus family owns their building.

Ken Imus’ Influence on Fairhaven

Imus’ wild ideas are evident today throughout Fairhaven: in the refurbished buildings, the double-decker bus shipped here from England, a cobblestone walkway, the new hotel on 10th Street, the remaining street trees, and much, much more. Of course, others have made their mark as well in the creation of diverse businesses and the construction of new buildings designed to preserve the overall historic theme.

Yet in the duality of Fairhaven, Imus’ mark is significant, and he seems content to accept the credit with the criticism. “Some day I hope to sit up there on the hill,” he said, “and look down at this place and perhaps feel good about having played some small part in it.”

Hippie Entrepreneurs Today

As for the lingering influence of the hippie entrepreneurs, Tony’s Coffee remains a chief landmark, though Tony himself did not stick around long. Fairhaven Mills, Good Earth Pottery and the bike shop are still groovin’ in 2001. The food co-op moved downtown and has become one of the most successful grocery stores in Bellingham. Some of Fairhaven’s funky energy relocated to LaConner in the 1970s and prospered.

The old bars are gone, as are the days of gigglesmoke and spontaneous tunes by the South Fork Bluegrass Band at the Kulshan. No one stands outside a pub anymore, ready to tap on the window when the cops come by, so everyone inside has time to douse the mooters and hide the roachclips.

In time, the Northwest Passage, hippie Fairhaven’s alternative newspaper, simply drifted away. Yet many of the writers and laborers who created and sustained the paper over its short life are the real humans that experienced these treeless streets three decades ago. Among the familiar names and faces, some have since earned law degrees. One is now a Washington State Appeals Court Judge.

Others continued on as successful writers, including a national correspondent for the Seattle P-I and senior cultural writer for the Portland Oregonian. Some published books. Others became teachers, nurses, broadcasters, musicians, or took up commercial fishing. One went to work for a “little company called Microsoft.” One helped organized a home for people with AIDs, while still another works for the Lummi Tribe trying to save the salmon.

City Acknowledges Tree Cutting Folly

Bernard Weiner summed those years up well in a recent commemorative issue of the Northwest Passage: “What we loosely call ‘The Sixties’... was an initiatory experience for so many of us. It bathed us in pain and confusion and ecstatic wonder, it wounded us with cynicism and anger, it called on us to experience ourselves in extremism—sometimes numinous ecstasy, sometimes unbelievably difficult despair—and make it through to the other side. For those who did emerge from the fires burnished by the flames rather than having been destroyed and broken by them—and we all know friends who got fried in and by ‘The Sixties’—it transformed us into better, fuller human beings.

Like the people, the times are still a-changing in Fairhaven.

The city has acknowledged its folly in cutting the trees (to make more room for cars) and has since involved the public in its plans. Street trees will be planted again on Harris Avenue. In the fall, perhaps.

Next month — Part Two

Cover Story

Facts and Figures Don’t Lie Regarding SE2

by Marlene Noteboom

Marlene Noteboom is a member of GASP (Generations Affected by Senseless Power), a dairy farmer’s wife, and a Lynden resident.

NESCO corporation has returned with their second revised application for a proposed 660 megawatt natural gas fired energy facility. GASP, Generations Affected by Senseless Power, and their 90,000 shared air shed supporters remain opposed to this project and continue to support the EFSEC’s earlier unanimous decision, 11-0, to deny this permit.

Minor Revisions

NESCO’s minor revisions have not adequately addressed many problems and are merely proposing “reasonable mitigation” should studies show it is necessary. Many studies would not be completed until just prior to actual construction and the determination of reasonable mitigation appears to be a company decision. Obviously, the company is more concerned with obtaining a permit and then negotiating problems as they occur.

Elements of this project continue to threaten our community’s well-being. Of major concern is air pollution. Although they have seemingly removed the backup diesel firing (of 15 days), the amount of pollutants emitted into the lower Fraser Valley air shed using only natural gas continues to concern citizens on both sides of the border.

False Sense of Security

We should not allow NESCO’s claims of a “72 percent decrease in emissions” to be interpreted incorrectly. The elimination of backup diesel fuel burning from their original application is the primary reason behind this apparent improvement in emissions, not better technology. The primary source of pollution still continues to be natural gas for 365 days per year.

By comparing the original application for natural gas firing (calculated to 365 days) with the revised application, the only apparent decrease is in NOx (nitrous oxides). However, SO2 (sulfur dioxides) shows a dramatic increase because of the recognition of the higher sulfur content in natural gas while other criteria pollutants exhibit no change.

Toxic pollutants show an increase in formaldehyde. Twisting words and figures into favorable catch phrases may first appear impressive, but does little to disguise the facts.

Water Consumption

Another primary concern is water consumption. The maximum requirement for SE2 is still approximately 1 million gallons per day and the Sumas-Abbotsford aquifer, which underlies an area of approximately 100 square miles, is the source of this water.

Contrary to NESCO’s claim that “farmers in and around Sumas do not use water from the aquifer,” numerous raspberry, dairy, potato, and strawberry farmers exist beyond the proposed one-mile zone of influence and still reside and make a living atop this water resource. Will NESCO compensate (mitigate) possible losses for a raspberry operation five miles outside “the zone” when and if the irrigation dwindles to a trickle?

If water quality of Sumas City wells is affected, SE2 proposes to install additional water treatment facilities for control of nitrates in the City of Sumas public water supplies. Once again residences outside “the zone” or beyond public water supplies may also be adversely affected, but will have little or no recourse, unless NESCO also creates vast networks of public water supply systems.

Flood Hazard Determinations

Possible contamination of water supplies increases during flooding events, known to occur in Sumas 14 times in the last 65 years. The 1990 Veterans Day flood resulting from the Everson overflow caused approximately $7.4 million in damage.

Given the discrepancies between flood hazard determinations for the City of Sumas and Whatcom County for a 100-year flood, common sense dictates additional flood modeling long before an EFSEC recommendation is determined. In the event of substantially increased risks, NESCO will “evaluate and reasonably mitigate adverse off-site impacts.”

The Everson overflow covers a 10-mile course and flows into Canada, where transportation and farmland is also substantially impacted by floodwaters. Is NESCO able to “reasonably mitigate off-site impacts” or will a smaller “one mile zone of influence” once again predominate?

Transmission Lines

Additionally, NESCO’s recent failure to provide a $7.5 million deposit to B.C. Hydro securing connection to the Canadian substation raises the question of Whatcom County transmission lines. The revised application clearly states that “if PSE or others purchase the S2GF power for transmission via the PSE or BPA transmission system in Whatcom County, the power would be transmitted through new 115 KV (or other appropriate voltage) transmission lines.”

This renews community concerns of property devaluation and stray voltage that may ultimately affect quality of life in Whatcom County.

Overshadowing NESCO’s financial gains are health risks, natural resource depletion, reduction of real estate values, agricultural losses, and increased damage expenses. The Nooksack Valley and Fraser River basins remain the wrong location for such a power plant. EFSEC should once again vote no.


Shift Gears on World Car Free Day

by Donna Merlina and Dan Remsend

Assert your freedom from your car! You can walk, ride a bike, skate, or ride a WTA bus for free!

For most Americans the thought of getting around without a car is pure heresy! For decades our society has focused on the car and developed our communities accordingly. The automobile industry spends $14 billion a year, conveying images of shiny vehicles floating though grassy pastures or over mountain tops, ignoring the realities of traffic jams, pollution, stress, expense, and 45,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

Consequences of Automobile Dependence

World Car Free Day is a global movement to call attention to the consequences of our automobile dependence and a chance to explore our options. It’s a day to reflect on the automobile’s costs to our health, safety, economy, environment, and community. It’s about people changing their travel habits by incorporating healthy modes of transport into their daily routines.

Citizens around the world celebrate Car Free Day with growing success and for a variety of reasons. Cities in France and Italy ban private motor vehicles focusing on pollution and health issues. Bogota, Columbia, has elected to close 70 miles of road space to motor vehicles for seven hours every Sunday, with over two million cyclists, walkers, joggers, and skaters claiming the streets.

We Intend No Harm

When we drive, we do not intend to harm others or the environment. Many of us are unaware of the negative impacts of automobile use. However, if we’re serious about improving the health and livability of our communities and our environment, we must become aware of the full social, environmental, economic, and health costs of driving.

Northwest Habit of Solo Commuting

State Legislative Session

Environment Weathers Lackluster, Marathon Session

by Washington Environmental Council Staff

Reprinted with permission from Voices, the quarterly publication of the Washington Environmental Council.

The 2001 Legislative Session has fallen one day short of eclipsing the 164-day record of 1977. The following is a review of the leading environmental policy and funding outcomes from this nearly seven months of legislative effort. In a word, Washington’s natural environment “weathered” what has been an extraordinarily tiring and lackluster session.

Energy, water, shorelines, budget and, of course, transportation, were the significant environmentally related policy challenges facing a divided legislature. The political landscape was rigged for paralysis with a House of Representatives evenly divided, a Senate nominally controlled by Democrats with a one-vote edge, and a low profile and moderate governor overly cautious with his political capital.

This political landscape was further strained by an urban/rural tension—unnecessarily exacerbated and exploited by some lawmakers—that saw legislators of the state’s economically depressed areas fighting lawmakers principally from the Puget Sound crescent on an array of issues, notably the environment. Following is a quick overview and report card on the most high profile of those issues.

Stream Side and Shoreline Protection

A slew of bills sought to delay, weaken and eviscerate the new science-based protections that were adopted by the Department of Ecology last November. To date, improving shoreline protection is the one issue on which Governor Locke has taken a strong and consistent stand to protect the environment.

In the face of intense political pressure, the governor remained steadfast on two key principles: preserve the integrity of the new shoreline guidelines, and maintain state authority to review and approve local shoreline plans to ensure the state’s interests are protected.

The House Democratic caucus also deserves credit for efforts to arrive at a compromise respecting the governor’s principles while trying to meet the concerns of rural lawmakers. Representatives Mark Doumit (D-19), Kelli Linville (D-42) and Hans Dunshee (D-39) deserve special mention for their extraordinary efforts. Ultimately, however, the business and developer lobby killed any hope of a compromise and as well the funding package to implement the new rule.

Water Management

While the Washington Environmental Council agreed with the principles articulated in the governor’s strategy, we voiced strong concerns about his water bill (HB 1832) before it passed.

While HB 1832 contains modest good government and fish provisions intended to encourage better stewardship of the state’s water, the bill was designed principally to speed the processing of water permits—limiting the ability of the state to protect its water interests over the long term.

One of several key issues yet to be resolved is restoring and protecting stream flows for fish. Through the work of WEC and others, the governor already has committed to emphasizing this issue in the 2002 legislative session.


The primary obstacle to a transportation deal continues to be resistance from lawmakers of economically depressed areas of the state who oppose raising any form of tax (i.e. a gas tax increase) that will in turn benefit the economically prosperous ֪ and congested ֪ portions of the state.

WEC worked with a variety of interests, including member group Transportation Choices Coalition, to promote a common sense agenda to devote one third of new transportation monies to choices, such as transit, passenger only ferries, carpools, and other efficient means of moving people.

A tentative deal, which eventually failed, would have devoted 18 percent to choices. Representatives Ruth Fisher (D-27) and Ed Murray (D-43) deserve mention for their efforts to promote this more balanced package.


The alleged energy “crisis” created a powerful catalyst to create a more sustainable, clean and affordable energy future. Seven months later, the crisis has largely evaporated and the legislative response seems to be similarly hollow. WEC supported member group Northwest Energy Coalition’s Clean and Renewable Energy package that would have furthered conservation and renewable energy resources.

Instead, an omnibus energy bill (EHB 2247) was signed into law that contained modest provisions for renewable energy and investments in low-income energy assistance. Unfortunately, the bill also contained tax breaks and permit short cuts for large thermal power plants that threaten to offset the potential gains.


Tax-cutting initiatives and an economic slowdown placed a complicated and constraining noose around the state budgeting process. This contributed to gridlock over a budget deal that finally was broken only two weeks before a state government shutdown.

The Senate budget was the essential winner and many programs such as an oil spill response tug, critical areas updates, a strategy to phase out harmful toxins, and a state program to set instream flows received funding. Capital investments in fish and wildlife habitats as well as water resources were also beneficial.

Washington Environment Council Legislative Report Card

Water: C-

Governor Locke’s water bill (SHB 1832) was designed principally to speed the processing of water right applications and expanded local control over changes to water decisions, thereby overturning an environmental lawsuit. These setbacks may be somewhat offset by modest good government and fish provisions intended to encourage better stewardship of the state’s water.

Shorelines: (Incomplete)

A mountain of bills designed to weaken environmental protection were thwarted, primarily because of Governor Locke’s strong stance on the issue. The business and building lobby strenuously blocked any reasonable compromise that would have given local governments more flexibility and time to implement new state rules. Such a compromise was politically necessary to receive substantial new funding.

Budget: B+

In a tight budget year, several important programs received funding, such as an oil spill response tug, critical areas updates, a strategy to phase out harmful toxins, and a state program to set instream flows. Capital investments in fish and wildlife habitats as well as water conservation and fish projects were also beneficial. A glaring failure of the legislature was to better fund implementation of new shoreline protections.

Transportation: (Incomplete)

A tentative deal that would have provided 18 percent of new revenue to transportation choices fell apart during the third special session. While far below the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommended one-third for choices, such an investment would be a solid step toward a more balanced transportation system. The governor and legislative leadership remain undecided about calling the legislature back for a fourth special session to resolve this unfinished but critical business.

Energy: C

The omnibus energy bill (EHB 2247) contained modest provisions to promote renewable energy development and investments in low-income energy assistance. Unfortunately, the bill also contained tax breaks and permit short cuts for large thermal power plants that threaten to offset the potential gains.

Puget Sound Wins in Long Session

by Bruce Wishart

Bruce Wishart is the south sound director for People For Puget Sound.
Reprinted with permission from Sound & Straits, the quarterly publication of People for Puget Sound.

The earth moved, capitol columns cracked, and legislators seem intent on dragging the session on until winter (they’re back in another session as this goes to press)—but with the end of the special budget session, Puget Sound came out better than expected. Bad legislation that would have gutted shoreline protection was staved off, a rescue tug was partially funded, and $800,000 was secured to begin the phaseout of toxic chemicals.


One of our very top priorities this session was to prevent legislation from passing which would have overturned the new shoreline guidelines approved last November. Even though the business community, agricultural interests, and, in some cases, local governments joined to support more than a dozen bills that would have weakened or eliminated the shoreline guidelines, we were able to rally enough support and stop these bad bills from becoming law.

The state Senate passed a particularly onerous bill, ESB 5378, that would exempt most counties from shoreline guidelines. Even though this bill passed the Senate, almost all Democrats and three Republicans voted to oppose it—despite strong advocacy for the measure by Senate leadership. The strong vote against the bill meant that the concepts were “dead on arrival” in the House, and so a major victory for conservation groups.

Grassroots action was a critical factor in our success. We sent thousands of shoreline valentines to legislators in February, sent 200 folks to Olympia for citizen’s lobby day, and encouraged citizens to make non-stop phone calls and emails on this issue.

Although we were able to fight off bad legislation, we were unable to secure funding to help local governments update their shoreline rules to meet the new shoreline guidelines. This funding issue will be a hot topic next session.

Neah Bay Rescue Tug

Funding for the rescue tug stationed at Neah Bay over the last winter ran out June 2, 2001, leaving a huge gap in oil spill prevention in the north Puget Sound marine waters. A recent study by the Center for Biological Diversity found that, with one major oil spill, our local orca whales face a 94 percent chance of extinction—even more reason to maintain a full-time rescue tug at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The tug, the Barbara Foss, recently proved its worth twice in two days. It was called out to assist a tanker carrying two million gallons of gasoline on April 28, and called out the next day to assist a tanker carrying caustic chemicals (industrial lye). These “near misses” put a large exclamation point on the call for a permanent full-time tug.

The final state budget provides $1.7 million for oil spill prevention—including about $1.5 million to fund a rescue tug at Neah Bay for 200 days in fiscal year 2002 (the fiscal year runs from July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2002). This partial funding is lots better than nothing, but we’re encouraging Senator Patty Murray to come up with additional funds to keep the tug stationed 365 days—because accidents don’t just happen 200 days of the fiscal year.


Most of our urban bays and waterways are polluted with toxic contaminants, and conservation groups have been working to get the state to clean up these contaminants and phase out their use so the Puget Sound remains clean and healthy. The state Department of Ecology took the initial step by developing a strategy to phase out the use of the most persistent toxic chemicals like mercury, dioxin, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Toxic chemicals also affect Puget Sound’s ecosystem and local orca whales—now among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. Persistent toxic chemicals work their way up the sediments, into the forage fish, and then into the salmon orcas eat. So with each meal, the orcas take in a toxic load. The toxics affect the orcas’ immune and reproductive systems. In 1999 ten percent of the local orca whale population perished and seven local whales are missing this year and presumed dead.

The $800,000 in the final budget will help implement the state’s strategy to phase out the most persistent toxic chemicals. It will allow the state Departments of Ecology and Health to work with the public to develop practical and cost-effective strategies that minimize the environmental and health effects associated with toxic chemical exposure.

For more information, go to www.pugetsound.org, or contact Bruce Wishart at 360-754-9177, bwishart@pugetsound.org


Volunteerism vs. Regulation: Salmon Recovery in Whatcom County

by Wendy Scherrer

Wendy Scherrer is executive director of Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association. She first started volunteering to restore Connelly Creek, a small local salmon stream, in 1986.

Do you think that community-based salmon recovery in Whatcom County can succeed? Are salmon more likely to be saved through more volunteerism versus more regulation? Many people who are actively involved in salmon recovery tend to have firmly held beliefs regarding the volunteerism versus regulation issue — they value either volunteerism or regulation highly—but not both.

More volunteerism, alone, will not restore salmon and watersheds—but neither will more regulations. We need our laws, but we need the people of Whatcom County to do more than the individual laws require, and that is why volunteerism is more than just a “feel-good” element of our salmon recovery efforts.

Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association

Consider what Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) is trying to accomplish. In 1990, the Washington state legislature established the Regional Fisheries Enhancement Program. This effort empowered 12 local nonprofit groups to provide leadership, a structure, and funding for citizens to volunteer for salmon recovery.

NSEA was established as the nonprofit organization in Whatcom County to encourage citizens to engage in community-based salmon recovery activities, under the direction of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Along with preventing extinction (the legal realm of the Federal Endangered Species Act), NSEA hopes to restore watershed health and self-sustaining native salmon populations in Whatcom County, thereby ensuring that salmon will be a vital part of our ecosystems, economy, and culture. No one knows if the effort will be successful, as we are in the infancy of our methods of trying to restore the watershed. Now consider the relative merits of regulation and volunteerism, diligently applied as tools to help accomplish our efforts for salmon recovery.

Laws Alone Are Not Enough

Let’s start with regulation. Our lives are permeated with laws. Environmental protection laws regulate activities including fill and removal, fishing, forestry, agriculture, water use, water quality, land use, and endangered species protection. Local, state, and federal laws are an essential foundation to conserving natural resources and to our societal well-being.

Are regulations like these needed? Certainly. They guide acceptable social and economic behavior and they describe minimum standards for ecological health.

But government and laws alone will never be able to achieve goals for salmon recovery in Whatcom County, especially as the focus of environmental protection shifts to non-point pollution and cumulative effects of development on private and urban lands.

Citizen Commitment

The best hope for restoring whole healthy watersheds requires that all of us who live in Whatcom County, be personally, spiritually, and economically committed to the challenge. If we are merely trying not to break the law we may just do the minimum required—and that just won’t be enough to restore and conserve healthy watersheds that will support people and salmon into the future.

Now let’s examine volunteerism. Who are these volunteers? They are Whatcom County farmers, timber industry foresters, biologists, tribes, teachers and students in local schools, Conservation District and Forest Service specialists. They are individual landowners, small and large business owners, boards of directors, environmentalists, industry lobbyists, government bureaucrats; they are people of every age, economic group, employment, and political party.

Volunteers are, or need to be, all Whatcom County residents. And this is crucial, because the challenge of conserving or restoring healthy watersheds will not be accomplished solely by a few sectors of our population.

No Simple Solutions

In a world where people often look for simple solutions to complex problems, it is often suggested that saving salmon is primarily the responsibility of loggers, or farmers, or fishers, or the tribes, or the people who build houses, or the bureaucrats, and so-on.

Saving salmon and restoring healthy watersheds will require willing participation of all of us, neighbors in our Whatcom County watersheds. Saving salmon is not just someone else’s responsibility—it is yours and my responsibility.

And what is volunteerism? Volunteerism is a forest landowner repairing culverts and a dairy farmer planting trees in riparian areas. It is an orchardist or suburban homeowner, both being careful with applications of fertilizers and pesticides. It is a fisher who catches and releases that endangered spring chinook salmon or the teenage ATV rider who stays out of the stream bed on the South Fork.

It is a warehouse employee or neighborhood member who plants trees on a Saturday morning. It is all of us — practicing sensible conservation, innovation, partnering, and seeking solutions.

Volunteerism Has Significant Promise

Too little money, inertia, complacency, confusion regarding the current science, fear of change, failure to respect different social value systems, and the over-simplification of problems and solutions will always be challenges to salmon recovery. Volunteerism—not law—has significant promise in moderating the impact of these obstacles, by engaging people in a spirited positive manner rather than a compulsory one.

Is more regulation or is volunteerism the best approach to restoring salmon? Both regulation and volunteerism have limitations and power. Together, volunteerism and regulation have far more to offer than a sum of their individual parts.

Experiment in Democracy

NSEA’s work to engage citizens in voluntary watershed restoration and salmon recovery activities in Whatcom County is an experiment in democracy. We are inviting citizens to organize, focus their energy on common interests, and make sure that the best of Whatcom County’s environmental heritage is passed on to our children.

As we are inspired by watching the miracle of salmon coming back to our streams again this fall, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association invites all of you who live and work in the Whatcom County community to volunteer to be responsible in helping to recover salmon populations in our own backyard. Please contact NSEA at 715-0283 if you want to want to join the local effort as a volunteer for salmon recovery.

Recent Accomplishments of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association

Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association,
2445 East Bakerview Road. Bellingham, WA 98226

Local History

Fouts Park Once Site of Whatcom County Courthouse

by Aaron Joy

Aaron Joy, a local historian, journalist, playwright, sociology graduate of WWU and Mayor’s Arts Award recipient, is currently acting in “Musical Comedy Theater of 1940” at the Theater Guild in October.

This the fourteenth 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: 1990
Location: 1800 H Street
Area: 1.4 acres

In 1873, the name of William Henry Fouts, a Seattle transplant from Iowa, first appeared in the history of Whatcom County. At forty dollars a month, he was the first school teacher at the newly-created Marietta School District Number 13, teaching three students for a three-month term in a small shack. He was one of the few college-educated teachers in the region at the time.

While teaching in Marietta the Fouts family resided in what was nicknamed the “Head House,” today known as the Pickett Home on Bancroft and F Streets. It was the former residence of General George Pickett of Fort Bellingham and later of Gettysburg fame.

First Public School Teacher in Whatcom

During this period in history, the Sehome school district included the communities of Sehome, Whatcom, Lummi Island, Bellingham and later Fairhaven. Fouts wasted little time in spearheading a movement to divide the district into pieces and open a public school in Whatcom.

Whatcom School District Number 15 was unanimously approved and Fouts was given the honor of being the first public school teacher in Whatcom. A small building was purchased on Division Street (destroyed by a fire, stakes remain in Whatcom Creek at the Maritime Heritage Center as the only reminder of this road) and moved to the corner of D and Sixteenth (Clinton) Streets.

When the school opened in 1874, many of its students were the children of early pioneers, such as Captain Henry Roeder and Edward Eldridge. These children eventually became civic leaders in their own right, such as Victor Roeder and historian Lottie Roeder (Roth). Like Marietta, school lasted for only a three-month term. Along with the new Whatcom school, there was also a Sehome and a Bellingham school, both created with the district division.

County Superintendent in 1858

While teaching at the Whatcom school, Fouts also held the post of county superintendent, a position created in 1858 before Whatcom County had any school districts, schools or children to educate. The Sehome school was the first school opened on Bellingham Bay in 1861, near the Sehome coal mines. At this time Whatcom County comprised both Skagit (established 1883) and San Juan Counties (established 1873).

Though the division of the Sehome School District helped create a new school, the division was not harmonious. Funding was unevenly divided and no town could adequately support their school alone. This led to protests and agitation for the reunion of the school districts, which occurred in 1878 against the wishes of Fouts. His protesting ceased when he was appointed one of three directors of the new consolidated district.

Fouts has never been considered a particularly colorful historical figure (partially since he has been depicted as a large, dark, quiet family man), nor was he greatly involved with Bellingham Bay affairs, such as many of his contemporaries like Henry Roeder, C. X. Larrabee or Cyrus Gates. But he was passionate and a hard-working resident.

Fouts’ Wife Purchases “Wild Land”

In 1890, the estate of Minnie Peabody, the half-Indian daughter of pioneer settler Russell V. Peabody, was settled by the public sale of eight acres of “wild land” bequeathed to her by her father. Having previously expressed the interest to buy some land “just for the fun of it,” Martha Fouts, the wife of Henry Fouts, was informed by Captain Roeder of the upcoming estate sale.

For the sum of $175 she acquired eleven acres, finally selling it undeveloped years later for $28,000. In 1890, one block of the tract on H Street, which was ideally located on the prospering and fast growing Bellingham Bay, was sold for $4,000 to Whatcom County for the site of the new county courthouse.

Site of E Street Courthouse

The first courthouse was the “E Street courthouse,” built in 1858 during the Fraser River Gold Rush with bricks imported from California. This is the oldest brick building north of California. Overcrowding and unsafe conditions led to the need for the new courthouse to be built.

The new building was designed by Willis A. Richie (1864-1931), an architect of many public buildings in Washington and Oregon, including many courthouses, schools and a hospital. Most of his buildings have since been demolished or altered beyond their original form.

The Jefferson County Courthouse in Port Townsend is one of the few remaining Richie buildings that retains its original look, which is a typical Richie design and similar to the Whatcom County Courthouse.

Building Purchased for Fifteen Dollars

The H Street courthouse, after many years of productive use, when it was beginning to show its age, was purchased by California investor, Peter B. Peterson, for a bid of $15 in 1950. The building was demolished in 1955. The current courthouse opened in 1950 on Grand Street, as a key part of the budding civic center of downtown Bellingham.

Courthouse Property Turned Into Park

In 1978, a maintenance garage on G Street, that once neighbored the H Street courthouse, was demolished. This was the first step towards turning the former courthouse property into a park. The new neighborhood park was dedicated in 1979.

After much debate the park was named after William Henry Fouts, a historical figure who had not weathered the test of time as well-known as many as his contemporaries, but whose impact deserves mention. Alternate names included Peabody Square (after Russell V. Peabody) and G Street Square or Park.

Next month — Part Fifteen: Big Rock [Garden] Park

Environmental Protection

Hearings Board Decision Puts Shoreline Protection Rule on Hold

by Tom Geiger

As you know, the Washington Environmental Council has been working for over 30 years to protect shorelines around the state. And as you may also know, on Monday, August 27, the state Shorelines Hearings Board put on hold the new shoreline protection rules (which the Washington Environmental Council and others worked for five years to get adopted) that went into effect late last year.

Today’s headlines say “Shoreline Rule Tossed Out.” But, things are often not as they might appear, so we wanted to clarify what the board’s decisions actually were and what it means for shorelines protections. Discussions are on-going as far the best next steps. It is possible that we may appeal the boards ruling.

Deeply Split Decision

First, the Shorelines Hearings Board ruling was a deeply split decision. Essentially, they made nine decisions: five were in our favor and four were against.

Second, the vast majority of the environmental protections of the rule were indeed upheld by the Shorelines Hearings Board. The aspects of the rule that were struck down by the board were largely procedural. Unfortunately, these led to the rule being rescinded for the time being.

Third, we strongly disagree with the board’s decision that the Department of Ecology exceeded its authority when it provided an optional way for local governments to comply with both the state Shoreline Management Act and the federal Endangered Species Act at the same time.

We think that this entirely optional method would have been helpful for those cities and counties that wanted to have a new shoreline plan that complied with the Endangered Species Act. We also feel that makes sense to the majority of people in the state who want to help recover our threatened salmon and is actually what business often calls for—streamlined government.

What Happens Next?

There are several possible scenarios coming out of this decision. One would be to appeal the rulings that went against us (this could be done by the state, us, or both). Our attorneys will be evaluating this over the next couple of weeks. It is also very possible that the gravel mining industry and other industry and builder groups will appeal the decision on the points where they lost. Despite their rhetoric of victory, much of the substantive safeguards in the rule were upheld.

Another approach would be to not appeal the decision and for the Department of Ecology to readopt the rule within the direction provided by the Shorelines Hearings Board. Again, this would include the strong environmental protections that were upheld by the board. This process would also include yet another round of public hearings.

Either way, we feel strongly that there will be new and improved protections for shorelines in Washington.

In sum, we are disappointed that the board’s ruling has put on hold improved shoreline protections, but we remain optimistic that the state will move forward with these safeguards.

Finally, check out the following web sites for additional information: news.theolympian.com/stories/20010829/HomePageStories/96965.shtml
or if you want to read the decision yourself, go to the Environmental Hearings Office web site:

Brief Summary of the Shorelines Hearings Board Decisions

Five decisions (#3, #4, #6, #8, and #9 in bold) went in our favor, the other four against. The votes are listed with the majority opinion number first and the dissenting number second.

1. The board ruled that the use of the Endangered Species Act in the guidelines was beyond the Department of Ecology’s authority. (4-1)

2. The board ruled that Ecology violated the Administrative Procedures Act when they decided after the close of the public comment period to rely on the Endangered Species Act consultation. (4-1)

3. The board upheld the properly functioning conditions policy (which we feel provides good environmental protections). (3-2)

4. The board upheld the restoration policy. This policy acknowledges the importance of restoring degraded areas in addition to preventing further destruction of places that have already been damaged. (3-2)

5. The board struck down the “Letter of exemption.” This letter from the Department of Ecology to local governments who follow a more protective aspect of the rule would have essentially assured that they were in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. (5-0)

6. The board upheld the new gravel mining regulations for mining near shorelines. (3-2)

7. The board decided that Ecology violated several requirements by not preparing a small business economic impact statement and by not submitting a cost-benefit analysis and implementation plan for public comment. (4-1)

8. The board found that the shoreline guidelines should not be invalidated due to an alleged unfunded mandate. (5-0)

9. The board found that the shoreline guidelines do not conflict with the state’s Growth Management Act. (5-0)

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