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.
Friends of Whatcom County should be applauded for their achievement in getting a petition for a referendum executed in a mere week. It is evidence of the volatility of the issue and the participatory passion of the electorate here in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
The statistics from Friends of Whatcom County green sheet #1 distributed in late November of 1999 cited various reputable sources for Georgia-Pacific West pollution discharges. Georgia-Pacific West ranks second for carcinogenic airborne toxins and ranks sixth for carcinogenic waterborne toxins among all the pulp and paper mills in the United States.
Georgia-Pacific Wests discharges into the air and water have dramatically increased in the 1990s (25 percent and 395 percent respectively). But Georgia-Pacific West counters that 70 percent of its Toxic Release Inventory is nitrates and its effluent is no worse than the standard concentration for drinking water or what the waste water treatment plant in Fairhaven releases.
Doug Tolchin noted that this referendum petition raised community awareness and created a loud protest in the process. He wants people to press their issues before the city council.
Referendum Petition Filed
All new taxes must go on the election ballot for city voters to decide. However, city council members can change, without voter approval, utility rates. Friends of Whatcom County filed a referendum petition (January 2000) in reaction to the new water rate the city negotiated with Georgia-Pacific West (December 1999).
The county auditor agreed that the referendum contained the necessary correct signatures for validity (March 2000). But the referendum wont be on the ballot because the city declared the water rate fee structure cannot be challenged with direct legislation from the electorate. Then City Attorney Dawn Sturwold wrote, based on legal precedent, the ordinance challenged in the referendum was not subject to referendum, and therefore, should not be placed on the ballot.
Authority to Set Water Rates
This opinion is supported by the 1957 State ex rel. Haas v. Pomeroy, 50 Wn.2d 23 court decision found in Initiative and Referendum Powers of Cities in the State of Washington produced by the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington. It states an ordinance setting utility rates for a municipal-owner water system, which is being financed by revenue bonds, is not subject to referendum because the authority to set utility rates has been given to the city council.
First, the authority to set utility rates is granted to the city council by the city voters with the adoption of the city charter. Second, the temporary or specific setting of utility rates is deemed an administrative matter, not legislative. Third, the transmission line for Georgia-Pacifics industrial water was financed with revenue bonds issued by the city. Therefore, the new industrial water rate ordinance is ineligible for direct legislation action.
Bellingham city government operates under a city charter. The new contract with Georgia-Pacific expires December 21, 2002 and contains a clause that allows the city council to initiate changes at any time. Although the twenty-year revenue bonds for the Georgia-Pacific transmission line were paid off in 1999, Bellingham still has $26 million outstanding in revenue bonds for waterworks projects located upstream of the Georgia-Pacific industrial water diversion line. The Nooksack River diversion supplies water to the joint-use facilities, where waters intended for industrial and potable uses are separated. Thus, there are still outstanding revenue bonds related to the Georgia-Pacific industrial water supply system.
Higher Water Rates
The city council negotiated a new water rate charged to Georgia-Pacific that is greater than the rate in the expired contract. It includes penalties for excess water use and provisions to fund maintenance projects. Georgia-Pacific will pay over a million dollars for its industrial water this year. This is a 25 percent increase in revenue for the city coffers.
The moot Friends of Whatcom referendum petition contained the statistic that Georgia-Pacific uses 80 percent of the citys water but contributes only nine percent to the total revenue collected by the city. This is true and false. Georgia-Pacific pays two different rates for its two different water types.
Georgia-Pacific pays for 80 percent of the joint-use facilities cost and full cost for its industrial water supply. Georgia-Pacific pays the identical rate for its potable water like all other commercial users in downtown Bellingham.
City Prohibited From Making a Profit
The citys cost in providing potable water is much greater than industrial water, and consequently is billed at a ten-fold higher rate (93 cents hundred cubic feet versus 9.5 cents). The city can only charge utility rates to cover its costs, not to make a profit.
The industrial water diversion is charged at a rate consistent with the costs of operating, maintaining and improving the line. The city cannot by law charge rates greater than their costs for providing services, whether industrial or potable grade. The city cannot profit from having a monopolistic control over waterworks systems.
Flexible Rates in Long-term Contract
However, instead of creating another long-term contract with Georgia-Pacific that would lock in water rates and benefit Georgia-Pacific over the long haul, the city council chose to renegotiate a new water rate that can be revised by the city council as service costs change. It allows the city council to legally charge a higher rate for the water Georgia-Pacific uses and provide incentives for conservation by installing prohibitively expensive water surcharges.
City Council Votes on Referendum
Sensitive to their constituents, some city council members proposed to place the referendum on the ballot nonetheless. Unlike the initiative for Proposition One from last year, the voters are not creating a new water rate. The referendum only allows voters to ratify or reject the ordinance the city council passed. It cannot make up a new rate to be applied to Georgia-Pacific. By law, the voters have no authority to single out any entity for regressive taxation or monopolistic profiteering.
The council members reasoned that if the referendum were ratified, it would become a moot point like last years Initiative Proposition One failure. However, putting any referendum on the ballot that is irrelevant sets a dangerous precedent for future direct action legislation and usually incurs a legal debt on the city before a judiciary decision is reached through the trial and appeal process. However, the city council motion did not pass.
Volunteer Needed to Be Sued
Then the city council proposed to get a declaratory judgment on the relevance of the referendum from Superior Court, but the city needed someone to sue. Government suing the citizenry is always a risky proposition and a public relations nightmare. But the city council persisted.
Doug Tolchin declined the citys invitation. However, Larry Williams volunteered himself on the condition that the referendum be placed on the ballot. His condition conflicted with the intent of the declaratory judgment and invalidated his offer.
Without a volunteer from the citizenry willing to incur the $5,000 cost of a legal defense, the city could not get its declaratory judgment from Superior Court. The action died. The water rate referendum 2000 will not be on the ballot this fall.
Friends of Whatcom County
Doug Tolchin, Larry Williams and Tip Johnson, supporters of the referendum,
want a dramatic rate increase that would force Georgia-Pacific to invest in
better technology and decrease its water usage and pollution generation.
The Water Use Referendum 2000 offers statistics that if the water rate were increased ten-fold, Georgia-Pacific would be forced to invest $30-40 million into best available technologies that would reduce pollution discharges. The referendum offers Georgia-Pacific the following savings: $15 million/year on water and another $3-10 million/year in reduced steam, organic matter, anti-foam agent, maintenance, effluent treatment and power requirements.
These petition supporters assert the higher water rate could translate into more tax revenue and water for Bellingham but perhaps a little less profit for the Georgia-Pacific shareholders. Georgia-Pacific West argues that its cost of operation is higher than its competitors and any additional unfair cost increases would close the plant that employs 860 persons.
The Means and the Ends
However, the referendum is irrelevant. The city council cannot arbitrarily target individuals, whether corporate or citizenry, for unfair pricing practices. It must work within the confines of its charter. As do we, the voters. Direct legislative action has been a successful method to give the citizenry a participatory voice in our representative democracy.
In this instance, the means to accomplish an end is just a valid as the validity of the end. The city council has no authority to regulate pollution created by Georgia-Pacific. The city council is not in the business of profiteering. The new water rate has reduced water usage at Georgia-Pacific by 13 percent. It is a start. But there is much more yet to be done.
Reference: Initiative and Referendum Powers of Cities in the State of
Washington Municipal Research and Services Center, Kirkland WA 1994.
Note: the Municipal Research and Services Center in Kirkland and its information is available to city and county employees making legal decisions. It is not available to the public or corporate entities. However, I found this pamphlet in the Bellingham Public Library and it played a significant role in my understanding of the direct legislative process.
by Robyn duPré
Robyn duPré coordinates education and advocacy on water issues for RE Sources.
On September 21, the Washington State Department of Ecology held a public meeting in Bellingham to discuss their new draft Strategy to Reduce Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxics in Washington State. This was the first of what will be five meetings on this issue around the state.
A Vague Document
This has the potential to be truly groundbreaking effort. If adopted, Washington would be the first state in the nation to have such a strategy. Unfortunately, the way it looks now, well be the first state in the nation to have a vague document with lots of nice flow charts and discussion about breaking down barriers and moving forward collaboratively. What it doesnt have is any specifics, time lines, or teeth.
The evening started with an informal Open House during which the public could peruse displays about the subject. The displays, however, consisted of some items laid on a table with little signs that said: Dioxin, Mercury, etc. The items were things like tennis shoes that light up (contain mercury), firewood (burning it in your backyard creates dioxin), plastic bottles (backyard trash burning creates dioxin), motor oil (creates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), etc.
The take-home message here: PBTs are a consumer and personal lifestyle problem, not a corporate responsibility problem. This personal responsibility aspect was emphasized by an Ecology staffer who spoke of the need for public education. I am all for public education and personal responsibility, but I did feel that the role of corporate responsibility was virtually ignored in this part of the program.
During the public meeting component of the evening, a brief presentation was made and then the floor was opened for questions and comments. It should be noted that this was not a formal hearing. There was no recording of the comments, except for a list of general concerns generated on a flip chart. If you commented at the meeting, do not expect to have your comments captured. I strongly urge you to submit a written comment letter to ensure that your concerns are accurately captured.
No Teeth, No Time Lines
Most of the public comment was focused on the lack of specifics of the plan and what seemed to be an unwillingness of Ecology to hold corporations accountable for their toxic legacies. When the plan was criticized for having no specifics, no teeth, no time lines, and for including an inadequate list of chemicals to be phased out, we were told that this was intentional so that Ecology could start with something small and get it through the legislature.
They maintain that this is simply a strategic framework through which they can to approach the problem, not the actual plan. Rather, the specifics will be laid out in Chemical Action Plans, which will take the agency yet more years to develop (meanwhile we, our children and the natural world continue to be exposed to toxic and bioaccumulative chemicals).
Leaning on Legislators
There was an interesting discussion of legislative strategies. Ecology staff encouraged, well almost begged really, people to lean on their legislators to approve the strategy and appropriate funding support for Ecology to work on PBTs. They have an uphill battle to sell any strategy and really want strong public comment and strong lobbying.
Of course, we encourage you to read the plan and decide if you can support it first. But, regardless of whether you like this particular plan, do lean on your legislators to take the PBT issue seriously and let them know we want strong action to end toxic, bioaccumulative discharges within the very near future.
Please check out the plan and submit written comments by October 30. The strategy is available at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/pbt/pbtfaq.html. For a printed copy, contact Jean Witt, Ecology Publications Office, 360-407-7472, email@example.com. You may want to copy your comments to your legislator along with a note about how important this issue is to you.
What drove Ken Wilcox and Karen Durham to run as Independents in the 42nd Legislative District?
by Al Hanners
Al Hanners is a writer, naturalist, and retired geologist with degrees from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Both Ken Wilcox and Karen Durham have been long-time residents and Democrats in the 42nd Legislative District of northern Whatcom County.
Ken Wilcox is running for Position No. 1 to oppose Robert Imhoff, a Republican very recently retreaded as a Democrat.
Karen Durham is running for Position No. 2 to oppose Kelli Linville, who also is officially running as a Democrat.
So why are they running for the Legislature as Independents? For starters, neither had ever run for a public office and they made up their minds to run after it was too late to file as Democrats. However, that explanation falls far short. Friends say they were driven to run as Independents.
Regardless of their specific reasons, the situation is perhaps best understood in terms of how the split in the Whatcom County Democratic Party came about, and what made it possible for Republicans not only to run as Democrats but to take over much of the Whatcom County Democratic Party structure.
We will examine who is who in the right wing and who is who in the middle-of-the-road wing. There is no left wing of the Whatcom Democratic Party. That wing, if not extinct, has no visible leadership.
The Birth of Whatcom Democrats Right Wing
In our two-party system where the election winner takes all, it is vital to capture swing votes in the middle. The two parties move forward and backward with the mood of voters like a couple dancing the waltz.
Labels do matter, as experienced doorbellers know. One of the most frequently asked questions, even in officially non-partisan races, is what party the candidate belongs to.
Roughly 40 percent of voters are yellow-dog Republicans and 40 percent are yellow-dog Democrats. They may be uninformed of the issues, but they would rather vote for a yellow dog than for a candidate not of their party. Once party affiliation has been identified, the campaign is to capture swing voters in the center.
The 42nd Legislative District covers northern Bellingham. More importantly, it covers northern Whatcom County, the home of rebels who want to secede from Whatcom County. The Democratic right got a real lift from Kelli Linville campaigns under the tutelage of Ted Perry and Lois Clement for whom winning is everything. They moved to the right and Kelli Linville won. Copycat candidate Georgia Gardner, and now Robert Imhoff, followed.
The Eleventh Commandment Role in Party Capture
The Democrats eleventh commandment is this: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Democrat. Success at the polls plus the eleventh commandment were hard to resist and the right wing captured the Whatcom Democrats party organization.
As the Democratic principle to support public interest, not special interest, fell away, more and more of the Democrats traditional working class supporters stopped voting. They felt that neither party represented their interests.
Absentee Voting: A Shot in the Foot for Middle-of-the Road Democrats
Alarmed by their dwindling working class base, the Democrats pushed for absentee voting to make it easier to vote.
Their leaders refused to listen to Democrats who warned that their working class voter base would not return because the party no longer represented their interests, not because of inconveniences in poll voting.
More importantly, Democrats warned their leaders that absentee voting would greatly increase campaign costs, expenditures more easily covered by prosperous Republicans than the Democrats.
Besides, a lengthened absentee campaign would require large sums of money early in campaigns for mailings, for radio and TV, and for print adds before Democrats had time to raise the funds through nickel and dime contributions.
Thus absentee ballots stifle grass root campaigns and the right wing Democratic Party power structure flourishes. Did the right wing leadership use absentee ballots to tighten its leadership, or did they just have dumb luck?
As the Democratic Party moved farther and farther from its traditional position of supporting the traditional Democratic principle of being on the side of public interests, not special interests, Democrats began to seriously question the practical value of the 11th commandment.
After all, who is a Democrat? Does a disingenuous label make a Democrat? Or is some adherence to traditional Democratic Party principles required? For a number of Democrats, the line of acceptable behavior has been crossed. They are no longer bound by the 11th commandment. They welcomed Ken Wilcox and Karen Durham as their saviors. Now they will not have to abstain when voting in November.
Whos Who in the Whatcom County Democrat Right
We already have mentioned Kelli Linville, Ted Perry, and Lois Clement as early movers and shakers in the Right Wing. They are still active. What is more, Kelli Linville admitted that she is a Republican. It happened this way.
When an article in Whatcom Watch I had written accused her of having the worst environmental record in the state legislature, she telephoned me and persisted in attempting to get me to recant. I didnt budge. Finally she said, other Republicans have worse records. Kelli, Im sorry that I said that. But thanks for admitting you are a Republican.
Georgia Gardner came out of her Democrat closet and revealed her true colors when she fought for a $24 million tax break for the proposed Sumas-2 electrical generator plant at Sumas. That tax break would be $1 million per job created.
Governor Gary Locke thought that was a bit much and vetoed Gardners bill for the tax break. The Whatcom County Democratic Caucus voted with no dissent to support Governor Lockes veto.
And after trying to make Whatcom County the armpit of the United States by pushing for the heavily polluting Sumas-2 power plant, Gardner had the gall to run for the State Commissioner of Public Lands, an elected official with a key role in protecting the environment.
She was soundly defeated in the September primary. Gardners future home in politics is unclear, as she has offended many 42nd District Republicans and Democrats.
Also, we must mention Bill Gorman, the current head of Whatcom Democrats, and Nelba Sunel, the long-time Democratic chair of the 42nd Legislative District.
Will Imhoffs position in Democratic politics be ephemeral? Some think so but he is a survivor, so dont expect him to go away.
Whos Who in the Whatcom Democrats Middle-of-the-Road Wing
Larry Estrada, an active Democrat, is being mentioned as a candidate for replacing Bill Gorman as the head of the Whatcom County Democratic Party. He did a remarkably good job as Chairman of the Resolutions Committee of the last Whatcom County Caucus. Many Democrats at the caucus were surprised and pleased by the quality of the issues that were voted on.
Maggie Hanson is one of the leaders, although she denies it. She is a long-time Democrat who has worked on campaigns for many Democrats. She not only is the Democratic State Committee woman from Whatcom County, she is a fighter. She fought for the job and got it in spite of the right wing control of the Whatcom County Democrats. Also, she is a businesswoman, a good example off the middle-of-the-road Whatcom County Democrats. She purchased rental properties on credit, plowed back earnings, and now makes her living managing rental properties she owns.
Karen Durham also is a long-time Democrat who has worked on many Democratic campaigns. She was active in the League of Women Voters but resigned recently to run for the Legislature. She used to manage the Farmers Market in Bellingham and still can be seen there on Saturdays where she runs a booth.
Zetta Bracher is one of the Whatcom County Democrats who is faithful to the party and has worked for years on many campaigns and issues. She is working toward a party better serving public interests.
That is a short, lonely list, and Im sure I omitted some deserving Democrats. Still, it simply confirms right wing control of the Whatcom County Democrats. Is that one of the reasons Ken Wilcox and Karen Durham are running as Independents? Some Democrats think it is.
State Ballot Measure
Three-thousand citizens, from Bellingham to Spokane, took to the streets with petitions to gather signatures for Initiative 713. As a show of their support for restricting the use of body-gripping animal traps and poisons used for commerce and recreation in Washington, volunteers kept the pressure on for five months, gathering thousands of signatures every week.
Thanks to their incredible dedication, the campaigns initial goal of 235,000 signatures was surpassed and more than a quarter of a million signatures were finally submitted to the Secretary of States office on July 5th. With a final count of 261,268 signatures, Initiative 713 is assured a place on the November ballot.
I-713s successful all-volunteer signature drive reflects the overwhelming support it has received from Washington citizens who acknowledge that steel-jawed leghold traps and other body gripping traps and poisons are inhumane and indiscriminate. More than sixty Washington State veterinarians, humane societies, and citizen, animal protection and conservation groups, have endorsed I-713.
Body-gripping traps kill or injure thousands of targeted wild animals and non-target species such birds-of-prey, songbirds, and endangered species every year.
Trappers themselves admit to catching as many as ten non-target species for every target animal trapped. Their web sites proudly display photos of non-target species inadvertently caught in traps.
Trapped animals can suffer from severe injuries for hours and even days. Some animals will resort to chewing off their own legs in order to escape.
Secondary deaths from wildlife poisons pose a serious threat to wild and domestic animals. Secondary poisoning occurs when other animals feed on a poisoned carcass because most poisoned animals 90 percent according to one government report will not be recovered and the poison does not degrade readily. The United States Department of Agriculture acknowledges that non-target victims include badgers, ringtail cats, skunks, opossums, raccoons, bears, bobcats, crows, ravens, and porcupines.
Contrary to opponents claims, I-713 does not ban all trapping. It prohibits the use of cruel traps for commercial and recreational purposes only. Exceptions allow the use of certain body-gripping traps to protect human safety, private property, livestock, or threatened and endangered species or for wildlife research.
Now that I-713 is on the ballot, its imperative to get the VOTE YES! message out to Washington citizens. This is a critical juncture for the campaign and volunteers are needed more than ever. I-713 opponents are well-financed and must be countered with a media blitz prior to the election in November.
Straight from the Mouths of Trappers
“While a [trap] set should always be made to target a specific animal, with a conventional trap, you’re likely to catch anything that comes along” (The Trapper & Predator Caller, September 1997)
“I think we should not deny that we catch other critters sometimes. I caught a dog once but he did not die.... The old lady down the road who owns the dog was ticked off, but what is new…. Trapping and Yapping, Bobby Dean.” (from an on-line trapper discussion group)
State Ballot Measure
by Glen Hallman
Glen Hallman is a member of the No-745 Whatcom County Committee.
What if all school districts were told that the way to improve education was to mandate that they spend 90 percent of their budgets on just school buildings? And the proponents of this idea were builders.
Or what if hospitals were told that they had to spend 90 percent of their budget on bedpans as the best way to improve medical care? And the companies pushing this idea made bedpans.
How about if we told the army that they could only spend 90 percent of their budget on tanks as the best way to defend our country? And, surprise, tank manufacturers supported this idea.
Politics Motivated by Greed
We would immediately recognize these proposals as extreme and absurd special interest politics obviously motivated by greed.
So why are we seriously considering Initiative 745 which forces the state, all 39 counties, 276 cities and 25 transit districts to spend 90 percent of their money on roads?
Asphalt Paving Industry
Could it be that the asphalt paving industry, which spent over $500,000 to put I-745 on the ballot, stands to profit from the passage of I-745? They want you to support a measure that mandates spending 90 percent of our transportation dollars on roads, takes away local control of transportation dollars and eliminates our transportation choices. Their solution wont help our traffic problems; it will only help the asphalt paving industrys bottom line.
I-745 mandates that 90 percent of all state and local transportation dollars go to roads. Under this rigid formula only 10 percent of all transportation dollars including locally approved and collected funds could legally go to public transportation. Washingtons transportation problems need solutions that include both good roads and public transportation for local communities. Spending 90 percent on roads is not a solution.
Shrinks Local Control of Tax Revenue
I-745 also tells communities throughout the state that their votes to spend local sales tax revenue on local transportation needs no longer count. This runs counter to a common sense idea called local control.
Citizens throughout the state have voted over thirty times to spend local tax dollars on local transportation solutions. Here in Whatcom County we voted to support a transit system, with our local tax dollars. Initiative 745 would in effect overturn our vote.Local Communities Cut Out of Decision-Making
Equally troublesome is that 745 leaves it up to politicians in Olympia to decide how best to spend local transportation dollars, prohibiting communities from addressing their unique transportation needs as they see fit. Do we really believe that we will get back our local dollars from Olympia, given the political clout the Puget Sound area has? We shouldnt let Olympia decide how to spend our local tax dollars.
Transportation Choices Restricted
And finally, I-745 takes away our transportation choices and leaves commuters with only one option to drive.
People need transportation choices. Initiative 745 takes away those choices by significantly cutting funding for transit, passenger ferries and rail. Today, Whatcom Transit provides almost 9,000 rides per day. Initiative 745s 90/10 split to roads will take away our transportation choices and tie the hands of leaders in Whatcom County to determine what is best for us.
A transportation plan that works for Bellingham probably wont work for Seattle or Spokane. But I-745 does not allow the flexibility needed to serve different communities.
Washingtons transportation problems need a solution that requires both good roads and transportation choices, not an extreme formula. Our transportation problems need a solution that allows local communities to use their tax dollars as they see fit, not a top down approach that gives Olympia even more control. We need a solution that offers transportation choices that give people the freedom to choose how they travel.
Broad Opposition to I-745
I-745 is opposed by a broad coalition of people and organizations - including the Washington State Council of Firefighters, League of Women Voters, American Planning Association, Washington Short Line Railroad Association, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Washington Conservation Voters, and the Washington State Labor Council. All told over 70 organizations from across the state have endorsed the No on I-745 campaign. All agree that I-745 is bad for Washington and its the wrong way to get us out of traffic.
For more information visit the No on I-745 website at: www.no745.org or call at: (206) 343-4491. We need your assistance to defeat I-745. If you can assist locally, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Michael Frome
About the Author Michael Frome, Ph.D., is a frequent contributor to Whatcom Watch. He came to Bellingham in 1987 to teach at Western Washington University, retiring from there in 1995. Prior to coming to Bellingham, he pursued an illustrious career as author, educator and tireless guardian of the environmental commons. Over the years he has served as a featured columnist in Field & Stream, Los Angeles Times, Western Outdoors, Defenders of Wildlife, and American Forests. His books include Battle for the Wilderness, Chronicling the West, Strangers in High Places, Regreening the National Parks, and his latest, Green Ink - An Introduction to Environmental Journalism.
Former Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin declared in Congress: No writer in America has more persistently and effectively argued for the need of national ethics of environmental stewardship than Michael Frome. Tim McNulty in The Seattle Times (September 22, 1996) wrote: Michael Frome has had a singularly influential effect on the quality of discourse over conservation in America.
Born in New York City, Michael served as a World War II navigator, flying to distant corners of the world. He began his writing career as a newspaper reporter for The Washington Post and other papers.
In recent years he has combined writing with teaching. He has taught at the universities of Idaho and Vermont, Western Washington University, and Northland College. Though retired from teaching, he continues to lecture at various institutions. The University of Idaho established in his honor the Michael Frome Scholarship for Excellence in Conservation Writing.
The longer I live in Bellingham the more clearly I see the gap between promise and performance by the city council and city administration in protecting the quality of life here. Positive action almost always follows awareness and pressure by concerned citizens rather than official initiative or leadership.
Yes, the city conducts exercises in visions and goals that look good on the surface. For example, Visions for Bellingham, a glossy brochure published by the city in 1992, declares: Bellingham continues to retain its natural green setting by protecting unique natural features and public open spaces, creating greenbelts and preserving wooded hillsides in and around the city.
But Bellingham does not retain its natural green setting. It is losing open green space, at a frightening rate, in every part of the city. It does not protect unique natural features. It does not preserve precious wooded hillsides.
Forested Hannah Creek Watershed Threatened
If indeed the city did those things, it would have acted in defense of beautiful upland Park Ridge, the last heavily forested area in the Hannah Creek watershed outside of Whatcom Falls Park, a rare natural sanctuary within the city, a recreation area popular with mountain bikers, hikers and birdwatchers.
Instead, the planning commission and then the city council last year caved in and approved the ill-conceived 172-unit Birch Street Subdivision on 79 acres off Lakeway Boulevard. Now we neighbors as the Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge have been obliged to bring legal action with our own money against the city, the very government we underwrite and that professes to serve us.
When we first rallied on behalf of the natural green setting in our backyards, it appeared like a very local neighborhood issue. Now I recognize the same thing is going on everywhere and that what affects one neighborhood affects the entire community.
Consider that of fifty-two residential developments proposed for construction in 1999 every one of them was determined by the city to have no significant environmental impact. That doesnt make sense except as a ploy to circumvent state law and give developers what they want.
University Avoids Public Review
The city is like a puppet with Western pulling the strings, complain citizens of Happy Valley while Western Washington University readies to bulldoze their neighborhood in its campus expansion. They too have entered legal action, challenging a memorandum of agreement conveniently contracted between the city and Western Washington University in order to avoid a public review and to violate the Growth Management Act.
Even when the planning commission requested details of proposed road approaches to the university, Western failed to furnish details. But the planning commission approved the memorandum of agreement without any public hearing, and the mayor signed it. Westerns expansion must be guided by an open public process, insists the Happy Valley citizens group. Our success will mean that all neighborhoods can plan their futures safely in knowing that state and local agencies must also obey the law.
Environmental Impacts Ignored
The Concerned Citizens of Park Ridge also brought suit to insure the city obeys the law, in this instance to require a complete environmental impact statement before approving the Birch Street Subdivision.
The planning commission in June 1999 had identified major issues including public safety, traffic on Lakeway Boulevard, storm water management, housing density, and preservation of neighborhood character and failed to deal with them, after which the city council did the same.
And just east of us, across the county line, in a very similar case the Geneva Neighborhood Organization has filed suit to restrict the proposed Cedar Hills West subdivision, which would add 94 homes to 40 acres at the top of Oriental Avenue. I shudder to think of impending massive Lakeway traffic the planners and politicians ingeniously ignore.
Cleaning up Lake Whatcom Neighborhoods face the same prospects, whether for success or failure, and are more likely to succeed when working together. Certainly we need to press the cleanup of Lake Whatcom, since we all drink the water that comes from it water declared by the state Department of Ecology as seriously degraded with disease-causing organisms, largely due to urban sprawl.
That is why early in September I joined a rally of citizens on the steps of City Hall in support of the proposed water rate hike to buy undeveloped land and development rights in the Lake Whatcom watershed.
The city council had just delayed its vote, which led one speaker at the rally, Myron Wlaznak, of Silver Beach, to declare, The recent history of Lake Whatcom has been study and develop, study and develop, and Ken Wilcox to add, I remember in the early 80s talk about buying land in the Lake Whatcom watershed. And here we are still talking and lollygagging. Finally, a week later, the city council approved the water rate increase.
Weve had enough lollygagging, more than enough double talk and put-downs by planners and politicians, more than citizens concerned with their community should be required to endure.
Hannah Creek Critical to Health of Whatcom Creek
In the July issue of Whatcom Watch, a reader, Rodney Lund, wrote to the editor: What tragic irony that our Bellingham City Council can be so dedicated to the restoration of the natural environment at Whatcom Falls in the aftermath of the Olympic Pipe Line explosion a year ago that destroyed one end of Hannah Creek, while at the same time being blind to the devastating impact of the Pennbrook Companys planned development of 172 lots at the other end of the same stream.
He is absolutely right. Hannah Creek is critical to the restoration of Whatcom Creek. Whatcom Creek is home to Chinook, coho and chum salmon, and to steelhead and cutthroat trout, with a fish hatchery at the stream mouth. Other tributaries Lincoln, Fever, Cemetery and Park creeks already have been severely compromised by development. Hannah Creek is a main tributary to Whatcom Creek, so it is essential to preserve the headwaters above the pipeline.
Whatcom Creek Restoration
The city apparently is preparing to publish its Whatcom Creek restoration plan. We will do our best to make sure that everyone can participate in reviewing and commenting on this plan, promises Clare Fogelsong, the environmental specialist in charge. Our goal is to reach a comprehensive agreement without winding up in a courtroom. We will do a lot of educating of the general public about how they can make changes that benefit salmon.
Yes, we should make changes. Salmon are the ultimate in loyal neighbors. They swim thousands of miles from the ocean to return to the stream tributaries where they hatched in order to spawn a new generation. Bellingham faces no greater opportunity or challenge than the restoration of salmon to Whatcom Creek and tributaries.
Use Greenways to Preserve Forest
The best way to do it is to acquire the land by purchase and keep it free of sediment, metals, oils and nutrients, runoff from roads and roofs which are inevitable with the Birch Street Subdivision. One way to acquire it is to include it as part of the gift requested of the pipeline company in the Whatcom Creek restoration program. And other avenues are open as well.
Greenways could well prove the best avenue. In May 1990 Citizens for Greenways sparked Bellingham to vote overwhelmingly to create an integrated system linking natural areas, wildlife habitat and migration corridors, biking and hiking trails, and future park sites. Since then Greenways has proven its value as a network of public sites open to all and as protection of woods, wetlands and tidelands.
Park Ridge belongs in Greenways. It is rich in forests, water and wildlife. The Whatcom Independent Mountain Pedalers (WHIMPS) advises that Galbraith Mountain accessed via Park Ridge on the Ridge Trail is one of the preeminent mountain bike areas in the entire country. Acquisition would insure a virtual corridor of greenbelt between Whatcom Falls and Lake Padden.
True, it costs money to buy land in the public interest, but considerably less than underwriting the costs connected with development communities are forced to bear. Open space has proven repeatedly the best investment.
Keep the City Green and Living
Walking in the woods we hear the tree family say: We believe in urban growth. Let us keep on growing. And mother bird: Weve been building our homes here for centuries. They may be voiceless in decision making, but its hard to ignore their plea: If you destroy woods and streams and turn us out, can there be good life left for anyone? Better by far is to keep the city green and living, beautiful and diverse in all kinds of creatures. Here at Park Ridge we have the opportunity.
by Marian Beddill
Marian Beddill is a retired civil engineer and consultant on land and water development and has lived in Bellingham since 1991.
At the September 26 Whatcom County Council meeting, a proposed Urban Growth Area designation for Sudden Valley was brought forward as a solution without a documented problem.
If the designation is approved, the Sudden Valley Community Association could pursue incorporation as a city and, if successful, start collecting taxes. The proposal did not specify what problems or needs Sudden Valley is wishing to address by becoming a city.
I acknowledge that they do have problems, but I cannot support this action as the way to deal with them. Fundamental for me are the avoidance of new urban-like development in the watersheds, and action on the ground to remedy existing pollution, documented or probable.
Sudden Valley Problems
One of the basic problems in Sudden Valley is the old leaky sanitary sewerpipes, yet very little has been done to fix them.
In dry weather, the toilet-flushing, shower and kitchen-drain flow goes through the sanitary sewer pipe network relatively well. It runs via the Lake Whatcom Boulevard interceptor sewer-main pipe and pumps into the Bellingham city system, and on to treatment at the Post Point sewage treatment plant, the only one run by Bellingham.
The pipe and pumps are generally big enough to pass the flow even when it is at the daily peak. But in rainy weather, water from housetop gutters, streets and wherever also flows into the sanitary sewer pipe network.
The extra amount of water overwhelms the present interceptor sewer-main pipe and pumps; then those pipes and manholes back up, fill to overflowing, and run into the streets, creeks, and the lake. This is one of the causes of contamination of the lake from urbanization.
Remedies for Sudden Valleys Sewer Woes
The solution requires that all these things be done:
Why Not an Additional Sewerline?
For many years, Water District #10 and Sudden Valley have been trying to ignore this solution, and instead have been proposing the construction of a new larger pipeline from there to Bellingham, the latest version entitled the Lake Louise Interceptor.
My problems with that project are two. It does nothing to resolve the infiltration and leaks problem. And the pipe size (diameters and pump capacity) as designed is so large,that it would be able to not only carry all the present flow, but also all the future flow for about 4,000 more homes than are there right now, permitting full urban buildout of the area.
Sneaky Way Around It
Ask, if you want, the technical calculations. It is this sneaky business of trying to quietly provide extra capacity that is absolutely intolerable, since it is contrary to the obvious need to not build in the watersheds. If ever completed, it will then be used as the argument to allow new construction.
by Marian Beddill
I can already read the proud announcement: [pseudo-non-quote] Sudden Valley, Washington. August 12th, 2006. The City of Sudden Valley announced today that with the completion of final certification of the new sewer pipe system, building permits will be accepted beginning next Monday for new home construction in those divisions whose lot-owners have already been notified.
Other divisions will be released for building permits as soon as minor associated works have been completed. We are glad that the city can now build all the homes on the homesites originally platted back in the 1960s, said Mayor Sly Deal.Remaining work needed is the trenching of the streets to install the other upgraded utilities, and the traffic lights at those major intersections where the accident rates have exceeded the allowable limits.
We dont really believe that the relatively small amount of toxic discharges from the new powerplant at Agate Bay will affect the health of our residents, he said, since the extra power is really needed for the new homes and businesses here and at South Bay.
And we are also pleased that the county has issued citations and fines to the owner and contractors building the petroleum products pipeline across the lake from the valley, after the disastrous erosion damage in last springs storm destroyed so much of the open trenches and carried that tanker truck into the lake. I am confident, however, that the Department of Ecology will eventually find a way to place a clean-earth cap over the remains of the truck and its chemical load.
Water Rate Hike
by Al Hanners
Al Hanners is a writer, naturalist, and retired geologist with degrees from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
The Lake Whatcom Watershed land acquisition and preservation ordinance was approved on September 18, 2000 by a five to one vote. Gene Knutson voted no and Bob Ryan was absent. Here is the preamble:
Lake Whatcom Reservoir Watershed Land Acquisition Ordinance An Ordinance amending Bellingham Municipal Code Section 15.08.250 relating to water use rates and increasing the rate up to $5.00 per month for unmetered single-family users and a proportionate amount for metered users to fund land acquisition and other land preservation measures in the Lake Whatcom Watershed and authorizing establishment of an advisory board to guide the acquisition process
Why the Ordinance Passed
Simply put, the ordinance passed because enough members of the Bellingham City Council sincerely believe that something has to be done to protect our drinking water. Residences in the watershed already cause serious pollution. There is great danger of explosive spread of residential development in the watershed in the future unless prompt action is taken. Like making sausage, the process wasnt a pretty one. Only time will tell whether the outcome will be palatable.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Give those council members credit. They bucked Mayor Mark Asmundsons drinking water policy and the City of Bellinghams de facto policy which is this: Treat the water and keep studying how to provide clean drinking water until the Lake Whatcom Watershed is filled by residential development.
Give those council members credit for initially proposing an ordinance under which Bellingham would show leadership by going ahead alone in doing what needs to be done. Bellingham shares the watershed with Whatcom County. It is a well-known fact, after years of trying cooperation, that both Whatcom County and Water District No. 10 are the stumbling blocks to an effective cooperative clean drinking water policy.
Give citizen activists credit. When the City Council backslid and amended the ordinance in the Monday-Night-Switch to give Whatcom County and Water District No. 10 veto power over monetary contributions by Bellingham water users, citizens were literally mad as hell and would not take it any more. Trust in the Bellingham City Council reached zero.
Public watchdogs let the council know that the line of acceptable behavior had been crossed and came down hard on the council. Even some City Council members were outraged and there were sharp words between members of Bellinghams go-along-to-get-along council that has prided itself on working well together. In the end, the council backed down. As the ordinance that passed is worded, others may advise, but the Bellingham City Council has final power of approval.
Whats Behind the Monday-Night-Switch
What conceivable purpose could the Bellingham City Council have in granting to Whatcom County and Water District No 10 what amounts to veto power over water user payments by Bellingham water users to protect their drinking water?
For years, Bellingham, Whatcom County and Water District No. 10 had not been able to reach agreement on an effective policy to protect our drinking water. Was not Bellinghams decision to go ahead the result of years of frustration? Was not the purpose of the Monday-Night-Switch to make the ordinance unworkable?
What is even worse, Water District No. 10 is not just a water distribution agency; it is a sewage agency. Recall that for year after year Water District No. 10 repeatedly spilled raw sewage into our drinking water and refused to correct the problem. Do not be misled by what Water District No.10 says; remember what it has done.
Some saw the hand of the mayor in the Monday-Night-Switch. On the Monday evening of the first reading of the subject ordinance, one reliable Mark Asmundson watcher observed that the mayor opposed the ordinance until it passed; then he instantly switched to supporting the ordinance. That watcher concluded that the mayor thought the council didnt have the votes to pass the ordinance, but instantly switched to supporting it when the ordinance passed the first reading. And another watcher remarked, I wonder when the other shoe will fall.
That shoe fell on the night of Monday September 11, 2000, the night of the Monday-Night-Switch. Interested citizens were gathered on the steps outside of city hall for a rally supporting the proposed ordinance. They were prepared to enter and observe the passage of the ordinance at the third and final reading as scheduled. It didnt happen.
Two City Council members came outside and announced that there had been changes and the ordinance would not come up in a vote that night. There had been rumors that the ordinance had been revised, but for the first time in a year and perhaps the first time ever, the councils packet in which the revised ordinance should have been included, could not be downloaded from the internet. Then John Watts came out and handed out a few copies of the revised ordinance. Fast readers spotted the changes in a moment, were outraged, and the outrage spread.
Council Members Not Responsible for Monday-Night-Switch
Giving away veto power over what is done with payments made by constituent voters is not exactly a career-enhancing act. A direct question to City Council members asking who was responsible for the Monday-Night-Switch did not receive an answer, but the question will not go away. How the Monday-Night-Switch came about is still speculative in detail. Here is some information about council members who are not likely to be responsible. You be the judge.
Gene Knutson voted against the ordinance from the very start. He sincerely believes that it should have been put up to a vote by the people. Thats a noble position which I respect, but isnt it impractical in a council that last year challenged the citizens water initiative in court, a challenge probably responsible for the initiatives narrow defeat in the 1999 election?
Bob Ryan opposed the subject ordinance from the start, his normal position in opposition to expenditures.
John Watts was out of town. More importantly, he is the outstanding member of the council. Without his leadership, many doubt that the ordinance would have reached the first reading and a vote on it. Why would he have tried to make the ordinance unworkable?
Terry Bornneman said he was aware that some changes were being considered, but he said he did not know the changes before the Thursday before the Monday-Night-Switch. I believe not only his words but his body language.
What to Watch for in the Future
The ordinance provides for an advisory committee including members from Whatcom County and Water District No. 10. Watch for efforts to stack the committee so as to make it difficult to achieve the stated objectives of the ordinance. Remember that experts at using that technique to achieve their own agenda probably will be at work.
Watch out for diversion of the $5.00 per month increase in your water rate ($7.50 for single family county users) for purposes other than the objectives apparently stated in the ordinance. Read the fine print! The possibility of diversion of funds depends on the meaning of some words in the ordinance. Citizen activists pointed out to the City Council, the problem and their lack of trust, but in spite of that, the final version of the ordinance retains wording that could result in diversion of funds.
Above all, be vigilant. Remember the wisdom of Billy Sutton, the infamous bank robber. When asked why he robbed banks, he replied, Because thats where the money is. Residential development of the Lake Whatcom Watershed in all its ramifications, and sale of land to stop it, are where the money is.
by Connie Hoag
Connie Hoag represents the second district on the Whatcom County Council.
Outrage is being expressed by the public and intervenors as they discover that the Washington State Department of Ecology, in writing the Draft Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit, failed to even access the public comments made at public hearings, the written comments mailed to the Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), or even the expert testimony in the EFSEC adjudicatory hearings held this summer.
The author of the permit did not even know the correct details of the Sumas 2 contract as to when they could or could not burn oil. He made many false assumptions and drew incorrect conclusions based on those faulty assumptions.
The September 11, Environment Canada report p. 25 states, The predicted impact of S2GF is greatest on Sumas Mountain [in Abbotsford, where 10,000 currently live, with predicted population growth to 50,000], where mortality and morbidity risks will increase by about 10 percent for PM10. This is only one pollutant. This plant will injure more people than it will employ!
Washington State Law: WAC 173-400-040 (5) No person shall cause or permit the emission of any air contaminant from any source if it is detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of any person, or causes damage to property or business.
Chilliwack air quality is already hazardous. The 1999 particulate matter 2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 microns in size) monitoring results from Chilliwack airport show clearly that air conditions there already are causing statistically significant increases in disease and mortality.
Chilliwack Airport Particulate Matter 2.5 Averages in Micrograms per Cubic Meter 1999 Max 24 Hour Jananuary 16 February 9 March 16 April 15 May 11 June 10 July 20 August 20 September 21 October 27 November 11 December 19
According to the Northwest Air Pollution Authority, these numbers are similar to readings on the United States side in temporary monitoring.
Standards for Air Quality
The Environment Canada report states that current objectives for ozone and particulate matter do not adequately protect human health.
They convened experts who set new reference levels for Particulate Matter 2.5. These levels are defined as the lowest ambient concentrations at which statistically significant increases in human health effects have been detected.
They set a 24-hr reference level of 15 micrograms per cubic meter, for the 24-hour average of Particulate Matter 2.5. Chilliwack was above this level 7 out of 12 months. When Sumas 2 burns oil, the plant will add seven to the ambient levels in Canada (Draft Environmental Impact Statement p. 3.1-14), and 10 in the US. When burning natural gas, the numbers added to the ambient levels are three and two. This will raise the levels almost all above 15, and sometimes as high as the low 30s.
Air Emissions And Health Impacts
Dr. Jane Koenig (Environmental Protection Agency researcher and expert testifying before Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council) I concluded [from my research] that an association exists between lung function in elementary school children with asthma and fine particle air pollution levels for the previous day. In sum, my research has led me to conclude that the fine particle air pollution that is projected to be emitted by the Sumas 2 plant poses a health hazard to the public....
This health data is confirmed by studies done by Harvard, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and the Health Effects Institute (funded jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and industry). The British Columbia Lung Association stated that hospitalization rates for heart and lung disease are already up to 50 percent higher in the Abbotsford/Chilliwack area than in Vancouver.
Diesel Oil Storage
A 2.5 million gallon diesel tank will be located in a seismic zone, above the Sumas-Abbotsford aquifer, and near Johnson Creek, a salmon-bearing stream flowing to the Fraser River. (Draft Environmental Impact Statement p. 2-19; City of Sumas Summary of Impacts)
Nearly one million gallons of water per day, (one third potable), will be discharged to Fraser River rather than recharging the Sumas-Abbotsford aquifer.
Landfill (130,000 cubic yards) and a containment berm (for 3.75 million gallons, surrounding the diesel tank) will lead to increased water depths and velocities over existing homes and farms.
Whatcom Countys flood engineer states that costs to Whatcom County, to be borne by county taxpayers, would be approximately $475,000. (draft environmental impact statement p. 2-11; p.2-19; Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council prefiled testimony, Paula Cooper)
Nighttime noise levels in some residential areas could occur at three times the level acknowledged to interfere with sleep. In agricultural areas, up to eight times the noise level that interferes with sleep could occur. (Draft Environmental Impact Statement pp. 3.3-10,11. Every 10 decibels is a doubling of the sound)
Huge Natural Gas Consumption
Sumas 2s gas consumption equals 55 percent of residential use in Washington State. Being only 53 percent efficient, it will waste nearly half that amount. Washington Community Trade and Economic Development expressed concerns over the effect this will have on costs and availability for other consumers and industry. (CTED prefiled testimony, Jim Lazar, p.3)
Carbon Dioxide Gas Emissions
Sumas will produce 2.4 million tons per year of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change, which is recognized as the single greatest threat to the survival of salmon. (Draft Environmental Impact Statement p. 3-1-10; Pacific Salmon Commission)
No Coal Plants to Shut Down
No coal plants will shut down because Sumas 2 comes on line. Deregulation is bringing coal plants out of mothballs because they are the cheapest way to produce power. The nearest coal plant, Centralia, is scheduled for $200 million in improvements. (Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council testimony transcripts)
Power Not For Our County
Whatcom County produces 1200 Mega Watts of power, and consumes only 860 Mega Watts, including Intalco. Washington State is also a net exporter. (Puget Sound Energy, Public Utility District #1, Bonneville Power Administration)
Canada is fighting locating the power lines there. Sumas 2 proponents have proposed alternate routes through Whatcom County.
Forty-eight miles of new high-tension lines will reduce adjacent property values by 20-50 percent. Homeowners, Whatcom County and school districts will lose revenue. (Sumas 2 mailings, Cal Leenstra testimony)
This plant is unnecessary, will harm the environment, and will cause increased levels of disease and death. Say no to Sumas 2.
by Daniel M. Warner
Dan Warner is a 1975 graduate of the University of Washington Law School and is a former County Coucil member. He is currently Professor of Business Law in Western Washington Universitys College of Business.
The company, West Coast Energy, is a North American energy industry headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. It operates a network of natural gas systems.
The Orca Natural Gas Pipeline proposal is to run a 24" high-pressure natural gas pipeline from Sumas, Washington, through Whatcom County, through the Mt. Vernon area, into north Everett and on to the Olympic Peninsula. The overall length would be about 140 miles; the pipe would be buried between three feet and six feet deep. It would initially have one compressor station at Sumas.
In Our County
In Whatcom County, more specifically, the proposal preliminary at this point is to run the line south from Sumas and then in a corridor in what would be between the Mission Road and the Sand Road (if those roads ran on to Sumas). People who live on Van Buren, Nooksack, Tap Line, Mission, Sand, Squalicum Lake, Y, North Shore, Blue Canyon, South Bay, and Cain Lake Roads might wish to pay special attention.
The Impact on the Ground
The company would clear a 60 foot right of way for its pipe. After the pipe is laid, the right of way would be groomed and maintained permanently. The company would regularly inspect the line by aircraft fly overs every week, and on the ground every 6-12 months. It would require immediate access to its easement by workers at any time (no fences allowed except with gates big enough for big equipment).
The first step is an evaluation phase, testing public reaction and environmental and geotechnical feasibility on the proposed route. Thats where things are right now. The second step is identifying the preferred corridor; the third step is deciding whether to proceed; the fourth step is applying for local, state and federal permits. The fifth step is construction, and the sixth step is beginning operations. The company hopes to begin operations by late 2004.
Check out the companys web site at www.orca-pipeline.com
Community Organization in Opposition
Dan Warner and his partner Skip Patten are organizing in opposition. Call Dan at 592-5622 and leave a message if you want to help.
by Christine Jensen
Christine Jensen is a resident in the Lake Whatcom watershed.
On September 11, 2000, the Bellingham City Council listened to public testimony regarding the Watershed Land Acquisition Ordinance. An eight year-old child, soon to be nine, asked his parents if he could speak. He could have stayed outside with one of his parents and younger sibling, but, having been honored for his community service efforts, he was excited that he could contribute to his community. His words were simple, My friends and I swim in the lake, please keep it clean.Public Ridicule
The next morning, on their radio talk show, Brett Bonner and Debbie Schuietema of KGMI, were protesting the acquisition ordinance. As part of their program, they played the childs words on the air. They accused his parents of making the child speak at the city council meeting for emotional effect. Debbie Schuietema mockingly said the child used cue cards. After airing his taped comment again, Brett Bonner said, Oh, hold your breath!
Understandably, KGMI was deluged with complaints regarding the lack of integrity displayed by Mr. Bonner and Ms. Schuietema, and their willingness to not only use a childs sincere statement as an attempt to bash Lake Whatcom preservation efforts, but to mock and ridicule a child. Two days later, Brett Bonner offered his meager apology: I am mad at your parents for putting you in a position where you are taking a political stance, and trying to pull on peoples emotions. So, I apologize if you took it that way. I also apologize that you have parents like that. Bonner also further mocked the child by taping his son and playing his comments on the air, such as Please dont be mean to my daddy, hes a nice man.Right to Free Speech Attacked
Bonner and Schuietema accused the parents of using the child as a straw man around the Lake Whatcom issues. However, in furthering their political platform against any preservation legislation to protect the lake, they actually exploited the child and his comments.
They stated that a child shouldnt have an opinion if he cant pay taxes. Their inability to act with integrity on their radio show was protected by their First Amendment rights to free speech. In the process, they compromised a childs rights, also guaranteed by our constitution as a citizen of this country.
Efforts by the parents to seek resolution with KGMI, to create some sort of character lesson for their child in order to make his painful experience meaningful, went unheeded.Ratings Rule
Bonner and Schuietema exploited a childs sincere innocent statement to further their own negative political agenda. In the process, they attacked his right to speak in a public setting, and attacked the parents for their parenting. They never bothered to find the truth, and were not remorseful upon learning the facts.
Many believe that Brett Bonner and Debbie Schuietema have gone too far on their radio show, in order to maintain their ratings. They feel that the Brett and Debbie show no longer represents a balanced viewpoint, uses erroneous and misinformation to further their political agendas, and treats individuals with whom they disagree with mockery and ridicule.
While Brett and Debbies remarks enraged a large number of individuals within our community, those involved have elected to avoid a formal boycott of KGMI advertisers. A formal boycott would be divisive to Bellingham, and injure innocent working-wage families and businesses.
The following includes a partial list of advertisers whose advertisements are included on KGMIs Brett and Debbie Morning Show. The station refused to release a complete list of advertisers.
If you agree that Brett and Debbies radio show is divisive and destructive to Bellingham, and is not carried out with the integrity and morality we want displayed on our airwaves, call the advertisers and ask them to pull their advertising from the Brett and Debbie show until a more balanced and positive program is aired.
by Aaron Joy
Aaron M. Joy is completing his sociology degree at Western Washington University. He is the Bellingham Herald librarian and authored the Heralds Millennium Milestones 1999 series. He is also the former assistant/substitute manager of the Bellingham Youth Hostel.
Editors Note: The following is the fourth in a series of articles recounting the history of Bellinghams Parks, taken from A History of Bellinghams Parks by Aaron Joy (available for sale at the Whatcom Museum and Hendersons Books).
Location: 107 Chuckanut Drive
Area: 16 acres
Fairhaven Park is Bellinghams fifth official park and was created in 1906 when the Pacific Realty Company donated five acres of undeveloped land, between 14th and 16th Streets south of Julia Avenue, to the city. The Pacific Realty Company was owned by C. X.[Charles Xavier] Larrabee (1843-1914) and Cyrus Gates (1858-1927). Gates was also responsible for donating the land for Arroyo Park.
Between 1906 and 1915 further donations were made, quickly expanding the size of the park. These donations included five acres by the Erastus Barlett estate, a collection of deeds for 10 acres from the Pacific Realty Company, and numerous blocks and street rights of way also from the Pacific Realty Company.
Early development of the park was helped greatly by C.X. Larrabee, who didnt just contribute to the parks development through the Pacific Realty Company, but also contributed under his own name and at his own expense.
As the Bellingham Sentinel wrote in 1917: As we stood there looking around [at the park] we thought of a kindly-faced man whose dream had come true, for he dreamed of a park equipped with all that natural beauty and . No finer monument could be erected in his memory.
Historic Olmstead Firm Designs Fairhaven Park
In 1910, Larrabee commissioned John C. Olmstead, at a cost of 450 dollars, to design blueprints for the undeveloped park. Due to the excessiveness of the plans and a greatly limited budget, the grandness of the design was scaled down and a more basic version carried out.
The original design called for a series of pools interlaced with numerous trails and resting areas. Some of the trails remained, but the pools and resting areas were removed from the plans. The design which was finally carried out, though less grand than Olmsteads blueprint, was still worthy of praise.
As The Bellingham Herald observed in 1935: Not in many cities can a plat of land be found better laid out than Fairhaven Park. It is divided between rough and artistic gullies and an acreage of comparatively level land.
At that time, Olmstead was designing numerous parks for the Seattle area. Thus it was fairly convenient for him to travel north to Bellingham. Olmstead was co-owner of the esteemed Olmstead Brothers landscape firm of Massachusetts, with his half-brother Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr.
The firm, which still exists today, was started by their father Frederick Law Olmstead in the 1870s. Olmstead, Sr., with his creation of New Yorks Central Park in 1857, became recognized as the worlds first landscape architect. He revolutionized landscaping, turning it into a legitimate field of study and work. Between him and his sons, who continued the business after his death, thousands upon thousands of projects across the globe, from estate and business grounds to parks and highways, have been landscaped by the firm.
Petting Zoo, Wading Pool, and Pavilion
In 1914, Larrabee had a pavilion built in Fairhaven Park. This pavilion burnt down in 1937 and was eventually rebuilt decades later. A second fire hit the rebuilt pavilion in 1982 and spurred a third round of reconstruction. The wading pool adjacent to the pavilion was added by Cyrus Gates in 1916.
In 1915, the Larrabee estate, under the supervision of widow Francis Larrabee, who was also responsible for many early contributions to Bellinghams YWCA, contributed $2000 for playground equipment. At this point in Fairhaven Parks history, a small petting zoo existed at the end of 14th Street, also for the enjoyment of local youth. This was in existence from 1908 to 1922, when all the animals were released during the night. The entrance to Fairhaven Park was originally a gated archway made of logs, built in 1915. This eventually rotted and was replaced by the current stone structure in 1925, designed by F. Stanley Piper. Piper also designed the entrance arch to Memorial Park (Whatcom Watch, August 2000, page 8), along with many buildings in town, including the Bellingham National Bank Building.
A Beehive Flagpole
Between 1907 and 1962, Fairhaven Park had the distinction of containing the tallest natural flag pole in the United States, a living limbed red cedar tree with a height of 177 feet. Its flag was 20 by 36 feet and took 20 loyal citizens to carry it into the park when it was first unfolded on Flag Day 1907, on the corner of 11th Street and Harris Avenue.
The flagpole came down in 1962 due to a domino effect between two unrelated events. First, an attempt had been made to landscape around the trees base, but in the process the trees roots were accidentally dug up.
The dead tree, which became the home of four lively beehives, was easily uprooted and toppled in the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. The storm started along the California coastline and ended in British Columbia. With winds averaging about 90 mph, the storm caused much destruction and many deaths. Bellingham Bay was considered one of the safest places on the coast due to the natural shielding of Sehome Hill, only feeling a peak wind of 69 mph.
Fairhavens Automobile Tent Camp
In 1923, part of Fairhaven Park was turned into an automobile tourist camp, similar to the one that opened in Cornwall Park in 1921. This was part of a national tourist movement where tents would be set up next to the cars as an alternative to staying in a motel.
During the peak summer months, both camps received around 800 visitors a month. The camp closed in 1928, a year after the Cornwall Park camp closed. Private interests took up the work of establishing and maintaining auto tourist camps before the trend was replaced by other forms of tourism. The site of the automobile camp is today the parks main parking lot.
Caretakers House Becomes a Youth Hostel
The land devoted to the Fairhaven Park Rose Garden was donated by the Pacific Realty Company in 1915, though it wasnt cleared until 1917. A caretakers house was added to the property in 1918, a position phased out in the 1960s.
In 1990, the residence was converted into Bellinghams only youth hostel, conveniently located near the Alaska ferry terminal. It opened with eight beds and space for a live-in manager. Whatcom Countys other hostel had opened in Birch Bay years earlier. The Bellingham Herald reported in October, 1990, that in the Bellingham hostels first month of operation it was already hosting people from as far away as Japan and England and already is booking weekends in advance.
It is currently being debated how much longer the hostel will remain open. But, until that decision arrives, the hostel has been a comfort to many travelers.
Next Month Part Five Broadway Park
by Kate N. Nichols
After working on the Bellingham Cohousing project for the past four and a half years, Kate N. Nichols and her daughter, Emily, have moved into a Bellingham Cohousing home. This month, Kate heads off to Seattle for a masters degree in whole systems design at Antioch University-Seattle.
The typical American dream is a large single-family home with at least three bedrooms and a two car garage surrounded by a plot of land. The family drives up to the house, pushes a button to open the garage door, drives in and then walks directly from the garage into the house.
Bellingham Cohousing does not conform to this typical American dream, because Bellingham Cohousing offers community. Here a family drives up to the garage, walks across the parking lot, is greeted by neighbors and friends and walks up to their green-built home. They walk into the living room through the back door.
Concept of Cohousing Brought to U.S. from Denmark
The open space living area includes a kitchen which looks out onto a porch and the rest of the neighborhood. The community is characterized by vibrant colors and aesthetic architecture. These attributes reflect the imagination of the Northwest Coastal Craftsman and of the architects, Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, who brought the concept of cohousing from Denmark to the United States.
The community at 2614 Donovan Ave. is Bellinghams first cohousing project.
Cohousing is different from other community developments because:
1. The residents participate in the development of the community so that it responds directly to their needs.
2. The community design encourages resident interaction.
3. Private homes are supplemented by common facilities.
4. Residents themselves manage the community.
5. There is a non-hierarchical structure for decision-making.
6. The community is not a primary income source for residents.
Bellinghams First Cohousing Project Began in 1997
In 1997, four households bought 5.78 acres on the south side of Bellingham. Two other households joined and together they started the design work with the McCamant and Durretts architectural firm in Berkeley, California.
In May 1998, four households from the Whatcom Ecovillage joined the group which partnered with cohousing developer, Jim Leach. Construction at 2614 Donovan began June 1999. Construction was finished May 2000, and the group is now busy landscaping.
Extensive Common Facilities Adds Community Atmosphere
One of the major differences between a regular neighborhood and cohousing is the availability of the extensive common facilities. The original Victorian farmhouse on the property was renovated and an addition was built to create a warm and imaginative common house.
It has a dining room for optional shared meals, a high quality kitchen, a sitting room, a crafts studio, office space and childrens activity rooms. There is also a separate community shared workshop and a teen center.
Finished in May 2000, Cohousing Project Used Green Materials
Bellingham Cohousing group members value quality construction and environmentally friendly materials. Project manager Danny Milman and architect Charles Durrett divide the projects sustainable building innovations into three categories: 1. reduced energy uses, 2. ecological and personal health, and 3. sustainable construction practices.
Some of the reduced energy uses are thicker gypsum board, extensive natural light, shared water heating, low-water use fixtures, compact fluorescent light fixtures and wet blown cellulose insulation.
The most significant savings come from the smaller, attached homes. The average private home at Bellingham Cohousing is 1100 square feet rather than the 2100 square feet comprising the average American home. This conserves the land as well.
Ecological/Personal Health Weighed Heavily in Construction Ethics
The project used non-toxic interior material, underground electric supply lines and low-toxic wood preservative for ecological and personal health. During construction, advanced framing practices were used to reduce the use of lumber.
Gravel driveways and crushed limestone pathways minimize the use of asphalt. The grading maximizes opportunities for the percolation of water. Clustered buildings tuck the houses into the north end of the site, allowing for the restoration of the wetlands on the south end.
One of the greatest benefits of living in cohousing is the convenience of sharing resources. It is definitely a lifestyle choice.
Three Charming Cohousing Homes Available For Sale At Cost
There are still three homes available for sale at Bellingham Cohousing. Until October 20, we are offering $4000 off the price of the remaining homes. The 2-bedroom unit is $144,000 and two 3-bedroom units start at $185,993. The houses are priced at cost and are not being sold for profit.
After October 20, we will start working with a realtor and we will no longer be able to offer the lower price. Visit us any Sunday during our open house from 11 a.m. 3:00 p.m. or by appointment and see this unique neighborhood for yourself.
$500 Incentive BonusCall Today
As an extra incentive, Bellingham Cohousing is offering $500 to anyone who helps a family buy a home in the community. If any family you register (including your own) buys a home, we will send you a check for $500 after the unit closes.
In order to qualify for a $500 reward, get a copy of the form Application to Register Prospective Home Buyer from Bill Hinely. Fill out the form and return to Bill. He will check our records to make sure that the family is not already registered with us.
If you have any questions please call 360/733-3805 or email Bill at:billhinely@AOL.com.
by Daniel Jack Chasan
Daniel Jack Chasan is a Vashon Island writer and attorney.
Editors Note: This is the fifth part of a series on the history of Washington State government and its attempts to circumvent environmental laws. This paper, The Rusted Shield, was commissioned by the Bullitt Foundation and is being reprinted with permission.
When the state assesses water quality, it measures chemical purity rather than biological health.
The Clean Water Act explicitly calls for protecting the biological integrity of the nations waters,1 and calls for an analysis of the extent to which all navigable waters of each state provide for the protection and propagation of a balanced population of shellfish, fish, and wildlife. Yet most states approach water quality as if chemical purity were the only goal.
Biological vs. Chemical Assessments
As James Karr has written, Current programs are not protecting rivers or their biological resources because the Clean Water Act has been implemented as if crystal clear distilled water running down concrete conduits were enough.2 In 1990, the EPA told the states to develop biological standards. Generally, they have failed to do so; Washington has been particularly recalcitrant.3
And yet, as Karr has written, The status of living systems provides the most direct and most effective measure of the condition of water bodies and, thus, the information critical to charting a course for federal and state programs to protect the economic and ecological interests of society.4
The Inconvenient Truth
But the truth could be inconvenient: When compared with strictly chemical assessments of water resources, Karr writes, assessments using biological criteria typically double the proportion of stream miles that violate water quality standards.5
However much money we spend to save Puget Sounds wild salmon, if we do not spend some of it on biological monitoring, we will not know whether or not any given stream provides the biological foundation for a healthy salmon population.
We cannot predict which other organisms are critical to the persistence of commercial or otherwise desired species, Karr has written. Failing to protect phytoplankton, zooplankton, insects, higher plants, bacteria, or fungi ignores the key contributions of these taxa to fully functioning, healthy biotic communities.6
Without biological monitoring, even if we know that a salmon population is in trouble, we may not know why. People who want to log or build in the watershed can blame harvest as the problem. People who want to fish can point to habitat degradation. Government cannot decide rationally where to focus its attention.
Government may not want to know the truth of the biological condition of rivers and streams. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility assert, The fact that using biological criteria will reveal more water quality problems than previously reported explains why biological integrity indicators [have not been] used.7
Government Ignores Non-point Sources
In general, we view the impact of each development project in isolation. By applying technological standards to pollution control, we have inevitably narrowed our focus.
The Clean Water Act was designed primarily to deal with point sources of pollutioni.e., pipes that lead into the water from industrial or municipal sewage plants. It requires National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits for major point sources.8
It does not require permits for non-point sourcesthe kinds of generalized impacts that stem from suburban development, farming, or logging. Yet the cumulative effects of non-point sources pose the major problem in spawning streams and many larger channels.
Pipes and Culverts as Point Sources
Non-industrial sources are not untouchable; the state could deal with many of them under existing law. Any pollutionwhich includes excessive sedimentthat flows from a pipe or culvert is effectively a point source, and has been accepted as such by a number of courts. The pipe need not come from a factory or sewage treatment plant. If it drains a development or logging site, it can be regulated as a point source, thus dramatically reducing the challenge of dealing with so-called non-point sources.
Total Maximum Daily Load
TMDL standardsthe total maximum daily load of pollutants for each water bodycan also be used to address non-point problems. They provide a mechanism for applying the Clean Water Act to the impacts of logging, farming, suburban development, and urban land-use decisions. But individual states must establish and enforce their own TMDL standards, and the states have been slow to do so.
Citizens Sue States
Partly because of this, in 22 states citizen organizations have sued the states and EPA for failing to enforce the Clean Water Act. So far the citizens are winning, 22-0. Under the terms of an out-of-court settlement and a memorandum of understanding with the EPA, Washington agreed to establish a legal TMDL implementation plan.
But instead of moving to comply with the lawand with its commitment to the courtthe state has dragged its feet. Legislation that would have funded the application of TMDL standards has failed twice,9 and EPA has agreed to let the state wait 10 years before it develops standards for logging operations. The wheels of justice grind slowly, if at all.
The state has not dealt well with cumulative effects along its shorelines, either. An international task force has explained that, In 1972, when the Shoreline Management Act was enacted, docks, piers and bulkheads were considered normal, protective and common appurtenances for single family residences that aroused minimal concern.10
While any one single-family bulkhead does little harm, in the aggregate they have drastically altered the near-shore environment. But the law provides no way to address their collective impact. The biggest gap in the current regulatory system is that it does not allow for consideration of the cumulative effects of individual development projects. It encourages development associated with single-family homes.
Shoreline regulations at all levels of government are out of date and do not reflect our current understanding of marine resources and the effects of development.11 Because the act is applied locally by dozens of municipalities and tribes, the approach is piecemeal. No single jurisdiction is in a position to tackle the problem.
U.S. Corps of Engineers Lacks the Will
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has authority to consider cumulative impacts when it issues permits, but the Corps lacks the will to use it: Under the federal Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Corps has the authority and, in fact, the responsibility to consider cumulative impacts of specific activities to the environment. As a practical matter, however, Corps staff say that they do not have the time or funding to take on such a project.12
The Corps is not alone. [M]ost laws require regulators to consider cumulative impacts in permitting decisions, the Washington Nearshore Habitat Loss Work Group noted, but in actual practice, these programs usually continue to review only the immediate and direct impacts of a narrow range of activities.13
In the national forests, the inspector general found that, Cumulative effects analyses for 10 of 12 environmental assessments reviewed were either incomplete or not performed .[S]ome Forest Service personnel believed that if the public did not raise an issue involving a specific resource, it need not be analyzed in the environmental assessment.14
Government often condones or requires actions that are ineffective or counter-productive. For instance, the Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a permit for a sediment retention pond in eastern King County, designed to minimize the impacts of construction on a small fish-bearing stream. The design was fatally flawed, with the stream perched on an unstable bank above the pond. Predictably, when winter storms came the bank collapsed, the stream flowed into and through the pond, and the sediment problem was compounded.15
As required by the Growth Management Act, every county on Puget Sound has adopted a sensitive areas ordinance.16 The Growth Management Act also requires counties and cities to include the best available science in development policies and development regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas.17 If any one wants to destroy wetlands, critical areas ordinances require mitigation. The more valuable the wetlands, the more habitat the developer must create elsewhere. That costs money. But in the case of Class I and II wetlands it turns out to be essentially futile, because their functions are virtually irreplaceable.18
Actually, virtually all mitigation attempts may be futile. A 1998 King County study of 38 mitigation projects found that 97 percent did not work. At nine sites the required mitigation was never done. At 23 others, the mitigation did not meet the Countys performance standards. Five of the six projects that met the standards did not actually replace the functions of the wetlands that had been destroyed.
If replacing the function of lost wetlands was the criterion, only one of 38 mitigation projects succeeded.19 A study of recent mitigation projects might find a higher success rate. Or it might not. No one knows. We do know that developers have destroyed habitat. We know that some of the same developers have spent money to replace that habitat. And we know that in many cases, they might as well have used their money as part of the fill. It was wasted.
King Countys experience with wetlands mitigation has been replicated in other jurisdictions. A federal study of mitigation projects in the Northwest reached similarly dismal conclusions. Researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looked at 17 mitigation sites in the Northwest. [I]t was not possible to determine whether compliance had been obtained in over half (53 percent), they wrote, whereas 29 percent of projects were determined to be clearly out of compliance, and 65 percent were judged not to be functioning well ecologically. Of projects investigated only 18 percent were judged to be in compliance with regulatory requirements.20 That of course begs the question of whether the regulatory requirements were adequate in the first place.
An Arrogant Assumption
The very concept of mitigating wetland loss seems seriously flawed. It reflects an assumption that natural systems can be destroyed with impunity, for financial gain, then recreated in less valuable sites. Some people find that assumption arrogant. James Karr says that mitigation amounts to a license to kill wetlands, and warns that the idea of mitigation has started appearing in discussions about salmon restoration.21
Mitigation Not Implemented
Federal mitigation requirements are not well enforced in national forests, either. The U.S. Department of Agricultures inspector general found that, Mitigation measures contained in 10 of the 12 environmental assessments reviewed were not always implemented.
In addition, mitigation measures were either omitted or incorrectly incorporated into 4 of 12 accompanying timber sale contacts . Generally, mitigation measures were not implemented because district personnel were not familiar with the measures contained in the environmental documents, did not adequately monitor the actual implementation, or did not compare timber sale contracts with the environmental documents.22
Wetlands Continue to Disappear
Mitigation aside, the federal agency responsible for protecting wetlandsthe U.S. Army Corps of Engineershas done little to stem their disappearance. An up-to-date review of Corps records reveals that the agency has cut inspections for possible violations by 40 percent since 1992.
In 1998 it rejected only 3.2 percent of applications for major wetlands projectswhile the nation is losing more than 100,000 acres of wetlands annually. Congressional budget freezes have forced cutbacks in wetlands staff, and Corps employees report that they are pressured to process applications faster and avoid costly enforcement efforts.23
Next Month Part Six
Government Does Not Monitor Enough to Make Sure that People Obey the Law or That Efforts to Restore Natural Systems Accomplish Anything
1 33 U.S.C. sec. 1251.
2 Karr, James,
3 Karr, James, personal communication.
4 Karr, James, Clean Water Is Not Enough, illahee, Spring-Summer 1995
7 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Murky Waters: Official Water Quality Reports Are All Wet (May 1999).
8 33 U.S.C. sec. 1342.
9 Bell, Nina, Northwest Environmental Advocates, personal communication.
10 Broadhurst, Ginny, Puget Sound Nearshore Habitat Regulatory Perspective: A Review of Issues and Obstacles, Puget Sound/Georgia Basin International Task Force, March 1998.
11 ibid., executive summary.
13 Lynn, Bryan, Washington Nearshore Habitat Loss Work Group, Nearshore Habitat in Puget Sound: Recommendations for Improved Management, Puget Sound/Georgia Basin International Task Force (November 1998).
14 U.S. Department of Agriculture, op. cit.
15 Washington Trout, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlifes HPA Process Fails to Protect Salmon Habitat.
16 RCW 36.70A.170 (1)(d).
17 RCW 36.70A.172(1); The statute also requires special consideration to conservation or protection measures necessary to preserve or enhance anadromous fisheries. ibid.
18 WETNET Citizens Report: Local Wetland Protection in Puget Sound, December 1994
19 Mockler, Anna, et. al., King County Department of Development and Environmental Services, Results of Monitoring King county Wetland and Stream Mitigations (August 4, 1998).
20 Linda Storm, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10 and Joanne Stellini, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interagency Follow-Through Investigation of Compensatory Wetland Mitigation Sites (May 1994).
21 Karr, personal communication.
22 U.S. Department of Agriculture, op. cit.
23 Boston Globe, August 8, 1999.