Whatcom Watch Online
December 2000
Volume 9, Issue 12

Cover Story

County Council Decides How to Regulate Rural Home-based Businesses

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.

On September 12, the Whatcom County Council agreed to throw out the planning commission’s recommendations on rural businesses and only consider the original proposal, forwarded by county planning staff many moons ago. The county planning staff, the technical advisory committee, and the planning commission members had worked almost three years developing the current recommendations, including a new category of rural business.

The planning commission recommendations for Title 20 open up the rural zones for relatively unlimited development under the new rural business classification. However, the planning commission’s recommendations tighten down on the types of products produced by and hours of operation of home occupation and cottage industry businesses, but allow for larger signs up to thirty-two square feet. These recommendations favor franchise style operations in the rural zone.

The council’s substitute version maintains current signage at four square feet and forbids large industrial manufacturing products weighing up to 10,000 pounds. But the council intends to replace conditional use permits with an administrative approval for a quicker, leaner and cheaper process.

The Debate

Sylvia Goodwin, from the Whatcom County Planning Division, indicated that the intent was to eliminate the potentially toxic activities like junk car storage (runoff can contaminate water sources) not espresso stand operations, keep appropriate activity in appropriate zones, and make clear definitions for complaint enforcement.

She presented a simplified comparison between the existing regulations, the planning commission’s recommendation and the county council’s substitute at the October 10 council meeting. Her comparison chart was handed out to interested persons in the audience.

Home-Based Businesses Threatened

Planning commission members Richard Gilda and Sam Weisen testified on October 10 that the council’s version would eliminate many entrepreneurs with its restrictive language. Mr. Gilda argued that even silversmiths and potters would become businessinappropriate activities. Several others testified that their garage-based occupations were threatened and that “providing food for their families was more important than the release of toxic vapors from their welding activities.” Others complained about noises and smells infringing upon their property values and general peace of mind. Council member Hoag told the audience that it is impossible to investigate complaints if there are no thresholds to judge the complaint upon. Legal definitions for noise levels, for example, must be exact to be enforceable. She continued that it was not the council’s intent to limit entrepreneurial activity but rather, that these new regulations would allow more effective complaint resolution by county staff between neighbors. Several council members assured the audience that the county is trying to balance economic opportunity while protecting the property rights of neighbors, and provide for the public good.

Statistics on Rural Businesses Lacking

Mr. Gilda informed me that businesses are not required to have a license to operate, only the appropriate tax filing numbers (Internal Revenue Service, Labor and Industries, Occupational Health and Safety Act). I was stunned. The county has no statistical idea of what types of business activities are occurring in rural zones. Consequently, no Business and Occupation taxes are collected.

The only control mechanism existing is the conditional use permit process. Regulations may be ignored by these undocumented businesses operating throughout Whatcom County because there is no way to know what they are or are not doing.

Protecting Rural Lands

The rural business controversy strikes near the hearts of many folks. But the “economic efficiency” touted in “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” by Thomas L. Friedman distributed by an irate speaker at the October 10 council meeting provides no regulatory safeguards for the public safety or against environmental degradation.

The Growth Management Act (RCW Title 36.70A) contains a Rural Element that governs development to “protect the rural character of the area” and protect “against conflicts with the use of agricultural, forest, and mineral resource land.” However, this element does provide for “intensification of development…to provide job opportunities for rural residents.” Are McDonald franchises appropriate for rural zones? It may be up to our council legislators to decide whether to stress protection or development of our remaining and precious rural lands.

Council member Brenner stressed that she once ran a furniture restoration business that would be illegal under this ordinance because of the hours they kept and the chemicals they used. Mr. McShane stated that he is a geologist working out of his home.

Mr. Gilda vows to fight on behalf of the silent rural poor and the blue-collar residents that would be impacted negatively by Title 20 by having to pay more for changing their oil at a business operating in a industrial zone.

Comment: Tightening up residential business definitions in Title 20 will prevent commercial activities that nightmarishly impact fire prevention, air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution and traffic safety. I live in an area where agriculture and timber practices dominate, although their viability is waning.

But there are appropriate administrative tools, like exemption and grandfather clauses, for current legal commercial activities that can be applied to sign frontage, site size, and activity restrictions to avoid becoming a violator. Title 20 will not terminate the entrepreneurial spirit. It provides a mechanism for guiding sustainable development throughout Whatcom County.

A business that cannot operate within these simple parameters is probably not viable anyway. If relaxation of public health regulations is what is needed to make a business successful, I think there is something wrong with that business.

Conditional use permits and administrative permits processes are appropriate mechanisms for achieving development that is appropriate for the land use designation. County staff must be fair and just in their review process.

Provisions must be addressed for water, sewage, utilities and other infrastructure concerns before irreversible damage is done to the landscape, property rights, and tax base. Fair policing and enforcement of these regulations however, becomes another issue.

Nevertheless, the county is responsible for providing our human right to clean drinking water, proper sanitation, reasonable security, basic education and equal opportunity. Land use designation is forward thinking. It puts appropriate uses in appropriate areas. Sustentation is prudent behavior and always cheaper than mitigation in the long run.

Cover Story

Post Point’s Great Blue Heron Colony: Balancing Wildlife Needs with a Growing Community

by David M. Schmalz

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

The great blue heron turned in her glide, drew in her extended neck, and briefly stalled. Approaching the treetop, she fully extended her wings and fluttered them like a cloak, landing rather inelegantly atop a disheveled pile of branches and twigs. The nest tree. Around this nest tree, there were others. Not many, but a few.

Thus, a potentially high profile wildlife conservation issue has landed on the slopes of Edgemoor in south Bellingham. Within the canopy of the forested belt above the Post Point Sewerage Treatment facility, a small colony of great blue herons has established a nesting site immediately adjacent to property slated for intensive residential development.

In an urban environment, the needs of wildlife and the actions of humans are often in conflict. In this instance, there are the herons, which have newly settled in one of a rapidly dwindling number of locations suitable to their needs for nesting and rearing their young. And then there are citizens, who wish to develop their adjacent land in accordance with the zoning requirements and development standards for the site established by the city.

How these two interests balance and more importantly how successfully they are balanced from the point of view of the herons, will be due, in large part, to the temperament and actions of the developer/property owner, the regulatory authority of the City of Bellingham and the involvement of the greater citizenry of our community.

Much of habitat degradation in an urban setting happens incrementally and involves less charismatic creatures than the great blue heron. Even in the case of such a majestic and emblematic bird as “great blue,” the fact is, there are precious few “must do’s” with regard to the protective measures that are required by law for this species.

Thus, the Post Point herons clearly shine a light on the question of how successfully our community can balance the needs and desires of people with the needs of wildlife. Moreover, the Post Point heron colony, will, for better or worse, provide a strong indication of the value this community places on wildlife and habitat.

Wildlife Needs/Human Desires

The city is currently reviewing a development application for what is being called “The Point at Shorewood,” submitted by Triple R Construction. The subject property is approximately 1.6 acres, located above the toe of the ridge which rises just to the south of the Post Point Sewerage Treatment plant. Triple R proposes to divide the property into eight cluster attached lots with an approximately one-half acre open space tract. Current zoning on the property allows for this configuration, having been changed from single family residential in 1988. The subdivision will place eight lots on the site, that under current zoning for surrounding property would only allow three.

The Post Point nest trees are located on city-owned land directly abutting and below the development site. The city parcel is wooded and steeply sloped toward Bellingham Bay. The portion of the canopy in which the nests are located is near the bluff line, basically at eye-level to the Triple R site.

Nesting Sites

The availability and quality of nesting sites is critically important to local bird conservation. Great blue herons, in particular, are sensitive to noise and disruption, and heron nesting sites are fairly readily abandoned when there are inadequate protective buffers.

In fact, it is entirely likely that some, if not most, of the members of the Post Point colony only began utilizing this site after they were displaced by development pressure from their previous nesting trees near Chuckanut Village. In spring of 1999, clearing for, and initial construction of what was introduced as “Heron Estates” was most likely what caused a five to seven nest colony to be abruptly abandoned there. Construction of one home occurred almost directly beneath a nest tree.

As luck would have it, there was still someplace else for these birds to go. This time. Heron fans were heartened when apparently some, if not all, of the individuals from the Chuckanut Village colony relocated at Post Point. A possible attractant at the Post Point site was an existing single nesting tree, which has been used successfully for the past four consecutive years. Also, the new colony site lies within the same upland forest, bay/cove/lagoon habitat as the former colony in Chuckanut Village — a favorable habitat for nesting and rearing of young. Additionally, the slope and canopy characteristics at Post Point provide some protection from predacious bald eagles.

Feathered Pioneers or Remnant Holdouts?

The Post Point colony is estimated to have between five and nine nests. This small colony raises some interesting questions with regard to its biological status and significance. Are these herons representative of the last of urban breeders in Bellingham, slowly being squeezed out by development pressure and loss of habitat? Or are they representative of what are called, pioneers — or rogues — whose function is to spread out and explore new habitat, dispersing the gene pool from larger more intensive breeding colonies?

While some things are uncertain about this particular colony, other facts remain crystal clear. This is the only remaining great blue heron nesting colony in the city. Moreover, great blue herons, especially nesting colonies and rearing sites, are under tremendous development pressure, particularly when viewed from a regional habitat perspective.

The Regulatory Dilemma

Unfortunately, splendid as they are, great blue herons are not afforded the same sort of protection that applies to endangered species. Although classified as a Priority Species of Concern by Washington State, federal and state regulations are often not enough, in an instance like this, to prevent an individual nest, or even a small colony, from being displaced.

However, the City of Bellingham also has the power to require protection of wildlife habitat and individual species within city limits. In fact, the city, as a jurisdiction, has the authority to seek and require greater site-specific protection measures than federal or state statutes often provide for.

The city is still actively gathering information about the Post Point colony. The Bellingham Department of Planning and Community Development is in the process of drafting a preliminary plat resolution for The Point at Shorewood, which will establish conditions for numerous aspects of the development. It is within this resolution that specific language for heron protection will be spelled out and then administered through one or more of the permits required for the developer to move forward.

According to Chris Spens, senior planner with the City of Bellingham, the city is still exploring options for measures that would protect the herons. Ongoing information gathering includes the mapping of nest trees and the development of a site requirement analysis based on the needs of the herons.

Recognizing that much of Bellingham’s earlier development was often insensitive to the needs of wildlife and protection of wildlife habitat, the planning department now strives to operate under a policy that “leaves room for wildlife.” With this interest in mind, planners are looking at a range of protective strategies that establish varying degrees of assurance that the herons will continue to use the nesting site throughout the development and occupancy of The Point at Shorewood.

Public Land at Post Point

The public property at Post Point is a mix of managed landscape and open space, including the long band of forested bluff which slopes down from Edgemoor above. A portion of this publicly-owned bluff is subject to “windowing” (selective tree cutting and thinning) as provided for through an agreement between bluff-top property owners and the city.

The long-term vegetation management plan for the forested belt includes rotating out deciduous trees and planting of conifers. It has been the city’s intent to maintain significant acreage in a linear belt that will, among other functions, provide wildlife habitat. Now that the herons have arrived, hopefully, their needs will be considered in the actual timing and implementation of this plan.

Among other variables the city is considering is the availability of alternative habitat for the colony, preferably nearby. Clark’s Point, Chuckanut Ridge, and some smaller forested parcels in the vicinity have been identified. The fact that there is a wide range of tolerance among heron colonies, and even among individual birds themselves, further complicates the determination of what level of protection to provide. There is also strong motivation for the city to develop a protective strategy that will engage the cooperation of the landowner/developer, and failing cooperation, can at the very least, withstand legal challenges.

Community Resource — Community Response

Whatever protective strategy for the herons the city comes up with will likely be universally acknowledged as a gamble — something of a crapshoot. A starting point for protection was recently established by the City of Bellingham Hearing Examiner. The hearing examiner is charged with reviewing development applications in terms of their relationship to the city’s zoning laws, building codes, development standards, and comprehensive plan goals and policies.

In her November 8, 2000 decision, hearing examiner Dawn Sturwold approved the preliminary plat proposal under the condition that “ No clearing or construction may occur within 200 feet of any heron nest between March 1 and July 31.” Although this condition only shields the colony from clearing and construction impacts during the breeding season, Sturwold also noted in another condition that:

“At or prior to the time of final plat approval, the City Council may want to review the Post Point Vegetation Management Plan in light of the recent establishment of the heron colony and the assessment and recommendations of Ann Eissinger.* The assessment and other portions of the record for this plat that relate to that plan and the heron colony should be provided to council.”

City Council Should Review Plan

Sturwold’s ruling clearly forwards responsibility for further deliberations on the issue of heron colony protection to the full City Council. And, it is before the City Council that community concerns can most effectively be raised regarding this issue. There are numerous uncertainties related to the likelihood of insuring the success of this breeding colony at the Post Point site. Many are such that, once a protective strategy is developed, codified and implemented, we must all simply wait and see what happens.

However, there remain important aspects of this issue where community involvement stands to play a significant role in determining what level of protection will be afforded the Post Point colony. The North Cascades Audubon Society and a handful of concerned residents have submitted comments to the city on this matter. However, if this particular heron colony and wildlife habitat in general is important to our community, now is the time to inform the city of your views regarding this important wildlife conservation issue.

There is still time, while the planning department is developing protective measures, to add your voice to those who highly value this colony and what it represents for wildlife and our community. A strong public statement will not only likely influence the level of protection afforded this colony; it will greatly strengthen the city’s ultimate position and requirements with broad, citizen support.

Following are some outstanding issues and questions which still require further consideration:

1. Buffers: What size buffers are necessary to protect the colony aside from those established for clearing and construction? How close will structures be allowed to nest trees? What buffers will be provided to shield herons from activities of residents once units are occupied?

2. Monitoring: What system of monitoring impacts to the colony will be put in place? Will it include monitoring of pre-, during and post construction and occupancy? What party will be responsible for such monitoring, and what additional provisions will be provided to increase mitigation in the event of unacceptable disturbance to the colony?

3. Risk: Given the fact that this nesting colony is quite likely comprised of individuals displaced from the Chuckanut Village site, what is different about the protective measures for The Point at Shorewood that will insure a greater chance of success?

4. Philosophical/Ethical: Although slightly less specific, these questions are extremely important for us to ask ourselves as a community, and how they are answered will affect far more than just this colony of herons.

What is the value of this colony to the community? What level of responsibility does the community accept for protection of this colony and critical wildlife habitat in general? Where is wildlife in the minds of the citizens of Bellingham? How well are we, as a community, making the link between healthy wildlife populations, highly functioning natural systems, a healthy environment and a higher quality of life?

Please consider commenting on this important issue, whether to make specific recommendations or to express general support for wildlife and wildlife habitat in our community. The level of public participation in this issue will influence what level of protection this colony will ultimately be provided. Moreover, a strong community response to this issue will likely influence future decisions made about wildlife and habitat protection in our community.

Local History

Lily Pond Saves Broadway Park Land for Future Generations

by Aaron Joy

Aaron M. Joy is completing his sociology degree at Western Washington University. He is the Bellingham Herald librarian. He is currently making his writing and directing debut in two plays this December, and will be appearing as Captain Roeder’s son-in-law Charles I. Roth in some upcoming holiday events by the Little Swan Theater.

Editor’s Note: The following is the fifth in a series of articles recounting the history of Bellingham’s Parks, taken from “A History of Bellingham’s Parks” by Aaron Joy (available for sale at the Whatcom Museum and Henderson’s Books).

Created: 1906
Location: Broadway Park (4.5 acres) is bounded by Broadway, North Park Drive, Cornwall Avenue and South Park Drive. Broadway Park auxiliary (1.7 acres) is bounded by North Park Drive, Briar Lane, South Park Drive and Cornwall Avenue.
Area: 6.2 acres

Broadway Park was created in 1906 when the land was donated to the Bellingham Park Board by the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company. Like the area around Memorial Park (Whatcom Watch, August 2000, page 8), the Broadway Park plat (this includes both the neighborhood and the park) was being developed by the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company for future house construction.

One advertisement by the company, from the 1907 Morning Reveille newspaper, reported that the district, located near a future “100,000 [student] Catholic school,” was “the most prominent part of the city for Sunday ‘strollers’ looking for new and pleasant scenes to please the eye” and had “more hours of sunlight than any part of Bellingham.”

Housing Development Prompts Park

It was believed by the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company that a fashionable and fairly inexpensive housing development (lots priced between $400 and $1,500 in 1907, with the “first fifteen” lots selling for only $650, if the list price was more) would help attract people to Bellingham Bay, thus supplying the company with more potential employees.

The new neighborhood did spur a brief boom in land sales in 1907. An advertisement from the company, in the Morning Reveille of September 13, 1907, reported: “Today Broadway Park plat speaks for itself as the pioneer improved plat, than which there is no prettier location for a home in Bellingham.”

The land that contained the future Broadway Park was deemed unsuitable for building purposes, an action motivated by the existence of a lily pond at one end. As the Morning Reveille advertisement proceeded to outline the future of the park: “Broadway Park, consisting of five acres, is now receiving its first attention from the city park commission who speak enthusiastically of its possibilities as a future beauty spot of the city.”

Due to a lack of funding no immediate development occurred to the park. Its anticipated destiny as a park, blooming with “several thousand bright colored spring” bulbs, soon became only a memory.

Landscaping and Playground

The park lay in such poor and unattractive condition that in 1912 M.L. Handbloom and others submitted a petition to the Park Board to develop the area into a landscaped “playfield and recreation spot.” This time, development was pursued with success, with a design drawn up by “civil and landscape engineer” Everett C. Lyle. Lyle also designed the neighborhood around the park for the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company.

In 1918 the area was officially dedicated as “Broadway Park.” In 1922 a playground was added, the last major piece of development until funding became available in the 1930s through the New Deal’s Work Projects Administration.

In the 1930s a proposal was made by the newly established Broadway Park Bowling Green Club to build a combination clubhouse and restroom in the park, adjacent to the newly built bowling green. There was much skepticism facing this proposal at first by neighbors who objected to having a building constructed in the park. In 1933 the plan was approved and at the club’s expense a building was constructed.

Lily Pond Controversy

In 1941 a petition headed by Mr. and Mrs. Peter Hichman was submitted to the Park Board to drain the unsightly and polluted lily pond. This was later seconded in 1945 by a petition by Evelyn Staggs, to whom Central Lutheran Church was dedicated with her husband Boyd. An emergency ordinance was eventually requested by the Park Board from the City Council to fill the once favored skating hole.

A committee consisting of Bellingham’s health officer, city engineer, street superintendent and city attorney was organized in May, 1941, by Mayor Arthur Howard to further investigate the proposal by the Public Works board to drain the lily pond in Broadway Park. The Park Board wanted to retain the scenic pond comprising the southern end of the park.

At a Public Works meeting Park Superintendent Herb Olson, representing the Park Board, stated that the board believed that the drainage and sewage seeping into the pond was the responsibility of the neighboring property owners and shouldn’t cause the destruction of the natural pond. This was countered by neighborhood sentiment that supported having the pond drained and filled, labeling it as unsanitary, unsightly and a danger for small children.

For decades the lily pond had been more than just a scenic spot, being a popular place for skating on cold winter days, and fishing on summer afternoons. The pond was originally one of the main attractions of the small neighborhood park nestled near the historic Roeder Home. The pond was filled in 1946, with Park Superintendent Herb Olson giving away the water lilies to anyone who wanted a souvenir.

Updating the Park

In 1962 the park’s perimeter was given a string of street lights. These were taken from downtown, which received a more modern system two years earlier. A new restroom building was built in 1971, the same year as a similar building in Roosevelt Park. The last bit of major work occurred in 1984 when the park was extensively renovated.

Book Review

Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Flood Supply

by Vandana Shiva
South End Press
2000 140 pp., paper, $14.00
ISBN 0-89608-607-0

Reviewed by Paul Weideman

Paul Weideman is a freelance writer living in Bellingham.

Tackle this food question: What do pepper, ginger, mustard, soybean, turmeric and Basmati rice all have in common?

Give up?

Corporations have patented each one under so-called intellectual property laws. What precisely does this mean? Well, if you are Dennis and Becky Winterboer, Iowa farmers who sell seed to neighboring farmers, it means you are out of business. A seed company with a patent on a soybean variety sued the Winterboers for violating its property rights.

Indeed, the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) criminalizes seed-saving and seed-sharing.

What consequence does such an agreement hold for 250,000 farmers in India and Pakistan who cultivate Basmati rice for their livelihood?

Essentially, all could be required to pay royalties to RiceTec, Inc., a Texas-based corporation that has patented lines of Basmati rice and grains.

In “Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply,” Vandana Shiva, an internationally-known activist and environmentalist from India, denounces this arrangement as “transforming farmers’ highest duties — to save seed and exchange seed with neighbors — into crimes.” For Shiva, the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) is a theft in which “centuries of collective innovation by farmers and peasants are being hijacked as corporations claim intellectual property rights on these and other seeds and plants.”

“Stolen Harvest” exposes, in sharp focus, the erosion of ecological, cultural, and humanitarian considerations in international food policy, which is increasingly monopolized by large companies. This includes companies like Cargill, the grain giant, whose CEO John Hamilton, summed up the benefits his company might bring into India by saying, “We bring India’s farmers smart technologies, which prevent bees from usurping the pollen.”

In refuting the idea that nature should be privatized, Shiva ably maneuvers between related topics like the morality of the British government’s dismissals of mad-cow disease and the sustainability of export-driven Third World economies. She builds her arguments on compelling, well-documented data.

Chapters like “Soy Imperialism” are parables of the “export first” model advocated by the World Bank. When India banned local processing of mustard oil after a mysterious contamination of the nation’s supply with diesel and industrial oils, the six multi-national corporations that control the soybean trade flooded the Indian market with soybean oil. The poor lost out because of their previous reliance on the less expensive, locally-pressed mustard oil for sustenance and employment.

Commercial aquaculture in India, in which shrimp trawling destroys habitat, kills other wildlife and contaminates the local drinking water supply, is yet another example. Traditional, sustainable methods of alternating rice paddies with shrimp ponds are being supplanted by the destructive trawling operations on India’s coast.

Shiva challenges the sustainability of the “export first” model: is it sustainable to turn the Third World to producing luxury commodities such as flowers, fruit, shrimp and meat for First World consumers? What about those going hungry at home?

Shiva cleverly argues in terms of cost and efficiency. Industrial agriculture, and its analogues in meat and fish production, have massive, if sometimes hidden, costs. Each destroys diverse food sources, consumes massive amounts of energy in water and fossil fuel, and encourages monocultures.

For example, take the pressure on India to export cows in the form of meat. Shiva challenges the efficiency of this choice: after all, two-thirds of the power generated in Indian villages comes from using cow dung, and India would have to spend $1 billion on gas to generate an equivalent power. Milk and fertilizer are, of course, two other useful products depleted in an export scheme.

While none seem to disagree that sustainability in food production in the coming millennium is indispensable, the crux of the disagreement is found in the method of globalization. Shiva believes that free-trade policy, as currently crafted, is an innovative way to steal nature’s harvest, a way to place profits, even at the cost of unsafe or unsustainable agricultural practices, before people.

Finally, here are two good reasons to read “Stolen Harvest”:

First, it is a fine way to commemorate the first anniversary of the protests against the WTO in Seattle.

Secondly, as consumers of luxury items that the global economy in part serves, Americans are the best recipients of Shiva’s message. For those seeking a primer to understand both the local impacts and the grander scheme of globalization, “Stolen Harvest” is a must read.

Stimpson Family Gift Creates Nature Reserve

The Whatcom Land Trust has acquired a 200-acre tract of forest land bordering Sudden Valley. It will become one of Whatcom County’s finest public access natural areas, according to Sharon Digby, the Land Trust’s President. Together with another adjacent 140-acre tract managed by the Department of Natural Resources, the new reserve will form a block of 340 protected acres of majestic old growth Douglas fir and cedar trees, ponds, streams and wetlands in the Lake Whatcom watershed.

The property will be named the, “Catharine C. and Edward K. Stimpson Nature Reserve”, in honor of Catharine “Kitty” Stimpson, a prominent community leader who died in 1998 and Edward K. Stimpson, a physician and community leader who died in 1967. Their seven children gave the Land Trust the key property, a 116-acre parcel that had been in the family since the early 1900s.

The Land Trust sold conservation and trail easements on the Stimpson property to Whatcom County, and used the sale proceeds to purchase another 80 acres between the Stimpson and DNR properties from the Trillium Corporation. The funds paid by Whatcom County, which came from the Conservation Futures Levy Fund, will also be used to construct a trail system and parking lot, and establish an endowment fund to pay the costs of maintaining the nature reserve. Funds placed with the Land Trust from a settlement agreement between the Clean Water Alliance and Whatcom County Water District #10 were also used in the purchase.

Said Digby, “Thanks to the generosity of the Stimpson family, and the foresight of Whatcom County, this acquisition permanently protects from development 200 acres critically located in the Lake Whatcom watershed, and provides exceptional recreation and educational opportunities for the growing population of Bellingham and Whatcom County. The Land Trust is proud to be the bridge that linked these parties and these properties together.”

Susan Trimingham, one of the donors, explains the reason for the gift. “My brothers and sisters and I want to leave a family legacy for the city, county and state in which our grandparents and parents lived, we grew up and some of us continue to make our home. The real worth of these forests is in the preservation of their natural state for the enjoyment of future generations. We are proud to have the opportunity to honor our parents with this gift, and are very pleased that the Whatcom Land Trust could bring together resources in an extraordinarily far-sighted and beneficial public-private partnership.” Her siblings who also made the gift are Edward W. Stimpson, Catharine R. Stimpson, Mary Rivkin, Jane Bremner, Caroline MacDonald and John K. Stimpson.


Power for Other States = Tons of Pollutants for Whatcom County

by Connie Hoag

Connie Hoag represents the second district on the Whatcom County Council.

I am dismayed by the constant attacks on people who have legitimate concerns about the impacts of the proposed Sumas power plant (SE2). Listed below are the issues of concern. Who wouldn‘t be concerned?

Three Tons of Hazardous Pollutants Each Day

This includes ammonia, benzene, toluene, lead, arsenic, mercury, and 17 other toxins, including Persistent Bioaccumulative chemicals. These emissions will cause increased lung disease, heart disease and death rates.

Dr. Jane Koenig (EPA researcher and expert testifying before EFSEC) “said …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 Sumas2 plant poses a health hazard to the public...”

Environment Canada states in its report that, “current objectives for ozone and particulate matter do not adequately protect human health.”

This health data is confirmed by studies done by Harvard, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Dr. Jane Koenig and the Health Effects Institute (funded jointly by EPA and industry).

The British Columbia Lung Association stated that hospitalization rates for heart and lung disease are already higher in the Abbotsford/Chilliwack area than in Vancouver. Pollution in Chilliwack and nearby U.S. cities already exceeds Environment Canada’s adverse health reference levels seven out of 12 months. (Draft Environmental Impact Statement pp. 3-1-10,11,12; Environment Canada; Dr. Koenig testimony, p. 2; Northwest Air Pollution Authority, Department of Ecology)

Diesel Oil

A 2.5 million gallon diesel tank, in a seismic zone, will be placed above the Sumas-Abbotsford aquifer, near Johnson Creek, a salmon-bearing stream flowing to the Fraser River. (DEIS p. 2-19; City of Sumas Summary of impacts)

Water Consumption

Nearly one million gallons of water per day, one third potable; waste will be discharged to Fraser River rather than recharging the aquifer. Vast consumption precludes positive industry. (DEIS p. 3.2-18; EFSEC Davidson prefiled testimony)


Nighttime noise levels in some residential areas at three times the level acknowledged to interfere with sleep. In agricultural areas, up to eight times the level that interferes with sleep. (DEIS pp. 3.3-10,11; every 10 decibels is a doubling of the sound)


Landfill (130,000 cubic yards) and 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 County‘s flood engineer stated costs to Whatcom County, to be borne by county taxpayers would be estimated at $475,000. (DEIS p. 2-11, p. 2-19; EFSEC prefiled testimony, Paula Cooper)

Huge Natural Gas Consumption

Sumas-2’s 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

The plant 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. (DEIS p. 3-1-10; Pacific Salmon Commission)

No Coal Plants to Shut Down

No coal plants will shut down because Sumas2 comes on line. Deregulation is bringing coal plants out of mothballs, as they are the cheapest way to produce power.

The nearest coal plant, Centralia, is scheduled for $200 million in improvements. (EFSEC testimony transcripts)

Power Lines

Canada is fighting the lines there. Sumas2 has 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. (SE2 mailings; Cal Leenstra)

Property Devaluation

If a $212,000 home loses its view of Mt. Baker due to smog, its value will drop by $35,000. If excessive noise levels are experienced, values will also drop. Homeowners, school districts, Washington State, and Whatcom County would lose revenue. (EFSEC Gustafson testimony)


Offsets in other locations will not alleviate the maximum fallout in the local area. This also hinders attempts to improve air quality by removing easy fixes with no net gain.

Power for Other States

Whatcom County produces 1200 Megawatts of power, and consumes only 860 Megawatts (including Intalco). Washington State is also a net exporter. (PSE, PUD#1, BPA)

Dick Watson, Director of Planning for the Northwest Power Planning Council, testified “There are approved site certificates or licenses in the region for approximately 3500 megawatts of additional capacity.” These were not included in the Northwest Power Planning Council power analysis. (Watson p. 5 at 16)

He made similar comments about other reports Sumas2 has cited to indicate a possible shortage. (Watson p. 6) He states that the regional market will not support new generation until 2004, and only 500 Megawatts per year after 2004. (p.11 at 17)

With the 3500 Megawatts of plants already approved, but not built, there would not be any market support for additional plants for another 11 years. This may explain why in their closing brief, Sumas2 objects to a five-year building window requirement.

Energy Shortage Unlikely

Mark Mills, in a September 7 Wall Street Journal, article maintains that computer use requires building more power plants.

However, Jonathan Koomey, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory according to a September 18 Wall Street Journal article believes that Mr. Mills’ estimates grossly exaggerate the amount of power used by computers.

Others also believe that oversupply of electricity is on the horizon. David Marcus, a Berkeley-based energy consultant states, “What I see is a boom-and-bust cycle. There‘s every reason to believe there will be overbuilding of power plants.”

A new study released by RDI Consulting, a division of Financial Times Energy, predicts that as early as next year some regions could be facing a glut of oversupply. Why the rush for a permit? Perhaps it is to avoid new regulations that are on the way to better protect public health.

For more information see the citizen web site at http://se2-gasp.org or call 988-GASP (4277).


Governor to Ponder Building a Dinosaur in Whatcom County

by Helen Brandt

Helen Brandt, Ph.D., is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison who likes to ice skate or play the viola when she is not editing or writing.

The proposed Sumas 2 electric generating plant promises to be a relic of the fossil fuel age. The Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) and Governor Locke soon will make a decision about allowing National Energy Systems to build the plant in Sumas. In the process of burning natural gas to create electricity, the plant would excrete tons of toxic material on Sumas and the surrounding area.

The United States, thus far, has not agreed with other countries on rules for reducing carbon dioxide emissions to decrease the rate of global warming. However, a number of European countries are taking the problem seriously and are taking steps to reduce pollution by using recently developing technologies to generate electricity.

Clean Energy Sources

Efforts are proceeding in at least two directions: hydrogen fuel cells and solar cells. This discussion will focus on developments with hydrogen fuel cells. Some major players in the fuel cell technology are Royal Dutch/Shell, United Technologies, Idacorp, and Ballard Power Systems. There are many smaller companies who, if they are successful, will either grow into future Texacos or United Technologies, or be acquired by the current corporate giants.

How Do Fuel Cells Work?

Fuel cells generate electric power by combining hydrogen — or hydrogen from fuels such as methanol, natural gas or petroleum — with oxygen. The fuel is converted directly to electricity. Fuel cells operate without combustion. The only by-products of hydrogen-produced electricity are pure water and heat. The fuel cell has no moving parts.

Decentralized Power Generation

In Europe, movement is in the direction of decentralized power plants to produce electric power. This means homes and businesses generate their own needed electricity. They are not totally dependent on electricity supplied by an external power grid. By contrast, we in Whatcom County are primarily dependent on electricity supplied by the Puget Power. Power lines from their substations provide electricity for our homes and businesses.

Summer heat waves in California and winter cold snaps in Whatcom County create periods of “peak load” for suppliers of electricity. One advantage of “at home” power generation is that it can decrease the occurrence of peak load times when the grid distribution of electricity may be stressed and unable to provide enough electricity to prevent brown-outs. Businesses can save money by buying grid power when it is cheap and generating their at-home electric power during times when grid power is expensive.

Fuel Cells Provide Electricity

There are a number of current examples where fuel cells are being used to provide electric power. Some are in the United States, and some are abroad.

Shell Hydrogen, a division of Royal Dutch/Shell, is cooperating with Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation to develop and bring to market power generation technology fueled by natural gas. The technology would aim to eliminate the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell power plants would only produce water and pure carbon dioxide as byproducts The carbon dioxide can be injected into depleted oil and gas reserves where it will be trapped for millions of years.


In April 1999, a joint venture involving an Icelandic consortium, Daimler Chrysler, Norske Hydro and Shell Hydrogen was set up in Iceland. It will investigate the possibility of replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen and creating the world’s first “hydrogen economy.”


In Norway, a 250 kilowatt plant will be installed by Shell Hydrogen and Siemens Westinghouse to demonstrate a solid oxide fuel cell power generation technology fueled by natural gas which could lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Electricity will be generated from natural gas with all the carbon dioxide emitted being “captured.” The carbon dioxide can then be used to enhance the growth of agricultural crops in greenhouses, or sequestered in underground reservoirs.

Siemens is developing the fuel cells under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy.


International Fuel Cells, a subsidiary of United Technologies , has supplied fuel cell power plants to the U.S. Postal Service facility in Anchorage. The plants are the largest in the nation at this time.

New York

In 1998, Plug Power demonstrated its seven kilowatt residential power system in an upstate New York home. The system has been running since then on a regular basis, providing the electricity needs of the home.

Since this past spring, the Long Island Power Authority has been field testing a fuel cell system at Hofstra University. The Plug Power fuel cell systems have also been installed at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and are being installed at SUNY Stony Brook. Thus far the fuel cell systems have provided trouble-free, reliable electricity.


Recently Idacorp completed a series of demonstrations of a small-scale fuel cell system in Copenhagen at the World Methanol Conference. The system converts methanol to hydrogen to generate three kilowatts of electric power. Residential units are expected in 2003.

Bonneville Power Administration

Ida Tech, a subsidiary of Idacorp, has received notice from the Bonneville Power Administration to proceed with designing and producing a block of 50 beta fuel cell systems for testing in 2001.

Bonneville, an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, wants to identify improvements and features necessary to commercialize the one kilowatt and three kilowatt fuel cell systems for home, business, and consumer markets. Testing the methanol fuel cell systems will begin at customers’ sites this summer.

Bonneville Power Administration agreed in May 1999 to purchase, for $3.5 million, 110 IdaTech fuel cell systems, rated at three kilowatts. This amount of electricity is ample for a standard 2,000 square foot home.


Idacorp is testing prototype residential fuel cell systems in a 1,500 sq. ft. residential test home. The units generate about 2.5 kilowatts of electricity and, using heat exchangers, will also produce the heating equivalent of another 2.5 kilowatts of energy suitable for water and space heating. Vancouver, B.C.

Ballard Fuel Systems of Vancouver, BC, has entered into a joint agreement with Millennium Cell of New Jersey to develop a new hydrogen generation system for fuel cells. The system uses sodium borohydride, a derivative of borax, which, in the presence of a catalyst, releases hydrogen. The sodium borohydride is a powder that can be dissolved in water to make a liquid fuel. The product left after the electricity is produced is water and sodium borate, NaBO2.

Sumas2 Gas-Burning Plant Is Unwise

A variety of technologies are being developed to generate electricity without raining tons of pollutants on the surrounding community. There is no reason to saddle Whatcom County with a system that will prove to be a relic of the fossil fuel burning age. Washington State should be known as an innovator and leader in producing clean energy.

Coming in the January issue of Whatcom Watch: “Pacific Northwest: A Global Fuel Cell Epicenter.”


A Visit to the Pantanal: The World’s Largest Wetland

by Barry Ulman

Barry Ulman is an artist, photographer, and musician who became interested in birds when he was 13 years old. He plays clarinet and saxophone with the Whatcom Symphony and plays jazz around Northwest Washington.

In recent years, the Pantanal has gained notoriety as one of the greatest treasures for wildlife in the world. It is the world’s largest wetland, covering some 77,200 square miles in southwestern Brazil. I wanted to see some of this wonderful region with my own eyes, so I booked a tour in June 1999 through International Expeditions, an eco-tour company based in Alabama. The beginning of my trip was quite stressful. Due to a fiasco at “O’Horror” Airport in Chicago, my flight to Miami was delayed for three and a half hours, so I missed my connecting flights to Sao Paulo and Campo Grande, Brazil. I got consolation for my six-hour delay in Sao Paulo, for I saw a flock of spectacular Swallow Tanagers feeding on the fruits of Queensland Umbrella trees in the airport parking lot.

I finally caught up with my party. We visited the Refugio Ecologico Caiman, a private ranch and wildlife preserve encompassing over 145,000 acres in the southwestern Pantanal. We had very comfortable accommodations at Posada Caiman, a stucco lodge located at a small ranching community.

The surrounding terrain was mainly open savannah with scattered clumps of trees. During the wet season, this Savannah would be largely flooded. Where the ground was high enough to escape flooding, forested areas known as “gallery forests” would grow. Thus, there was varied habitat throughout, from forest to open space with plenty of “woods, edge.”

The climate during our visit was very pleasant — sunny, with temperatures in the 70s to low 80s. June is winter in the Pantanal, so it apparently gets considerably hotter six months later.

Our field trips were done mostly in trucks with canvas tops so we had open views of the surrounding countryside but were shaded from the sun. Much wildlife was visible from the road, often at close range. We saw three kinds of ibis as well as great, snowy, and cattle egrets. There were raptors galore. Once, we saw a caracara steal an eel from a very disgruntled blackcollared hawk.

One of the most unusual birds we saw was the greater rhea, a large, flightless bird which is very reminiscent of the ostrich. Their numbers have been seriously reduced due to hunting for their meat and for their plumes, which are used to make feather dusters.

Mammals put on a good show for us, too. We saw three kinds of deer. We saw many capybaras, giant rodents that hung out by the water. Crab-eating raccoons were spotted at night. We saw peccaries in good numbers.

The most unbelievable mammal of all was the giant anteater. With its long, slender snout and huge, bushy tail, the anteater is like no other creature on earth. We had the pleasure of seeing at least five giant anteaters.

On our fourth day, we were transferred to Posada Baiazinha, a brand-new lodge built at the very edge of beautiful Lake Baiazinha. Caimans, small versions of alligators, basked in the front yard. Once, a young yellow anaconda, about five to six feet long, took a sunbath in the driveway. Toco toucans, sporting huge, orange bills, would occasionally land in the palm trees in front of the lodge. Cattle tyrants did their courtship displays on the back porch.

The glamour bird to beat all glamour birds in the Pantanal is the hyacinth macaw. It is the world’s largest parrot, being nearly three feet long, and is deep blue overall with bare yellow skin around the eyes and at the base of the bill.

The hyacinth macaw is an endangered species due to habitat loss and pet trade. However, there was a large concentration of them in this locality and we saw them every day. Macaws nest in cavities in large snags and will also use nest boxes that are set out for them. Nest sites in the area are closely monitored to check occupation and success in rearing young.

Cattle raising is almost as much a part of the Pantanal as the wildlife. The Pantaneiros, as the local cowboys are known, have been ranching in the Pantanal for over 200 years, and somehow the coexistence with wildlife has been successful. Perhaps it is because the number of cattle that can be raised is sharply limited by the meager amount of land available for grazing during the wet season. Indeed, the hyacinth macaws congregate in corrals to feed on a certain kind of seed that turns up in cow dung.

A major threat to the Pantanal is the proposed Hidrovia Project. Supported by Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay, this project would create a shipping channel that would penetrate deeply into the interior. Starting on the Atlantic coast near Buenos Aires, the waterway would follow the Parana and Paraguay Rivers through Paraguay and into Bolivia, allowing large cargo ships to travel far inland.

The original proposal was to include extensive dredging and blasting of the river bottoms to make a uniform channel for the ships. This would be ecologically disastrous. The irregularities and ledges in the rivers help to regulate the flow of water, keeping the flow steadier and slower. This is invaluable during the rainy season, when potential surges of flood water are moderated. Extensive dredging of the channels would destroy the natural flow patterns and create a potential for catastrophic disasters such as the Mississippi River floods of 1993.

Under pressure from environmentalists, the promoters of Hidrovia claim that they will not sanction any environmental damage, but will only use “navigational aids” such as buoys and lighting along the river. But the project should be very closely monitored.*

A more sensible idea would be to improve the railroad that is already in place along the same route. Not only would that be much more eco-friendly, but it would also be much less expensive.

The United Nations on November 9, 2000, created a new biosphere reserve in the Pantanal. Biosphere reserves are protected ecosystems where priority is given to conservation, research and sustainable development. The United Nations isn’t very rigorous in terms of enforcement and has no legal power. But their reserves do have a moral force.

Brazil pulled out of the Hidrovia project three years ago bowing to international criticism. Now the world’s largest river shipping firm, American Commercial Barge Lines, wants to build a port at a natural backwater in the Pantanal. This is seen as a bid to implement the Hidrovia project in stages.

Hopefully, the natives of the region will be made aware of the value of such a wonderful natural resource, and will encourage eco-tourism instead of exploitation. A place like the Pantanal adds a whole new perspective to world-class wildlife.

Read more about the Pantanal at the Environmental News Network website: www.enn.com/news/enn-stories/2000/11/11112000/pantanal_39987.asp.

*Eckstrom, Christine K., “A Wilderness of Water, the Pantanal,” from Audubon Magazine, March-April, 1996, p. 57.

The Rusted Shield: Rivers and Streams

Who Knows If Salmon Efforts Are Doing Any Good?

Daniel Jack Chasan

Daniel Jack Chasan is a Vashon Island writer and attorney.

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth 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.

Part Six

Without consistent monitoring, government cannot measure progress, and therefore does not know whether the accomplishments it claims are real or illusory. The public is fed the impression that the nation’s waters are healthier than they used to be, but the quality of monitoring and the lack of honest reporting casts a dark shadow on that presumption: “[N]either the Environmental Protection Agency nor its state regulatory partners can produce reliable data that accurately measure water quality trends to support claims that our waters are getting cleaner,” charges Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

“[T]he nation’s water quality monitoring and assessment system is badly broken and is not taken seriously by the governmental agencies charged with carrying it out….States…manipulate numbers in order to falsely portray continuing progress in water quality when, in fact, what fragmentary reliable information that exists often suggests the exact opposite….Although requirements for accurately reporting the quality of the nation’s waters are quite clear in the legislative and regulatory framework, Environmental Protection Agency simply does not enforce these requirements.” 1

Findings Not Substantiated by Data

The report singles Washington out for special notice. “In 1988,” it notes, “EPA issued a guidance document suggesting that states could count hundreds of miles of rivers and streams as a single waterbody with a single assessment based on as little as one sample (and, in some cases, even none)….The State of Washington wins the prize for the largest waterbody, reporting a river more than 3,900 miles long (with no monitoring data whatsoever associated with it) and 30 water bodies each more than 1,000 miles long….

[T]he State of Washington [Index of Watershed Indicators—IWI] shows only 14 of its 73 watersheds not meeting the data sufficiency threshold, when the National Assessment Database, upon which the State IWI is largely based, reveals that Washington used no monitoring data to base findings of more than 28,000 miles being unimpaired and more than 41,000 miles being impaired.” 2

Effectiveness of Ordinances Unknown

At the local level, virtually no one ever finds out whether the ordinances that should be protecting salmon habitat do any good. It is cheaper—and politically easier—not to know. As of 1994, Puget Sound-area county staff allocated to monitoring wetlands ranged from .005 FTE (Thurston) to 1.5 (Kitsap) with King below the median at .31.3

The Citizens’ Report on Wetland Protection observes that, “The only way for a jurisdiction to evaluate the success of mitigation…is to assign staff to monitor permits awarded. Our survey shows that only three jurisdictions have one full time equivalent (FTE) staff or more to monitor wetland projects. In fact, the total reported FTE for monitoring in the twenty-five jurisdictions surveyed is approximately eight.” 4

In general, King County does not even check to see whether people do what they are required to do, much less go back in five years to see whether or not it works. This lack of attention is not limited to wetland mitigation projects. Anyone whose building project will cover more than 5,000 square feet with impervious materials must submit a drainage plan. The county reviews the drainage plans—but it does not inspect projects to see whether the plans are actually carried out.5

Most Projects Unmonitored

There is no reason to believe that King County does any worse than its neighbors—or that the federal government does any better. The same Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers who found that wetlands mitigation projects had a dismal success rate found that “of the 17 files examined, five totally lacked baseline data….Monitoring was required in 53 percent of the projects….Of these nine projects monitoring was conducted at only three sites.” 6 In short, only 18 percent of the projects had any monitoring at all.

Regulators typically lose interest beyond the stage at which a permit is granted. At best, they may check to see if the permittee actually did what he or she was supposed to do. They do not check sites years later.

Underfunding Ensures No Follow-up

The problem goes beyond enforcing permit conditions. County and state governments allocate little if any money for monitoring. Therefore, they do not have people out in the field looking; they are flying blind and don’t know what’s going on. Again, the federal government does not set a better example. The same Environmental Protectction Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers observed that “follow-through work has not been an agency priority through allocation of staff or resources at the level necessary to assure that the… benefits are institutionalized.” 7

The recently passed Forests and Fish legislation creates a vast, new unmet need to monitor Washington’s rivers and streams. Most environmental groups and many scientists believe the Forests and Fish agreement concluded earlier this year and ratified by the legislature is inadequate—or, at best, that it provides little or no margin of safety.8 The legislation largely exempts forest practices from environmental laws in exchange for an agreement to modify those practices in ways that give salmon habitat greater protection. But streamside buffers will be less than one-third as wide as those imposed on national forests by the Northwest Forest Plan.9

Adaptive Management

Comparing the Forests and Fish buffers to those in a rejected option for the Northwest Forest Plan, a group of 28 independent scientists concluded that “the [Forests and Fish] Report has a low probability of achieving its goals.” 10 In theory, that should not matter, because the agreement enshrines the concept of “adaptive management:” scientists are supposed to monitor the new rules’ actual impact on salmon populations and recommend changes in the rules as called for.

But adaptive management cannot work without years of careful monitoring, and so far, there is neither a mechanism nor a funding source for the process.11 The Seattle Times editorialized that the plan will be “an environmental sham if the Legislature fails to pay for the scientific review specified by the legislation.” 12 Experience does not inspire confidence that the legislature will provide enough funds over the next five years, much less the next fifty.

No level of government devotes much money or staff to monitoring. Clearly, some individuals and institutions do not want government to know the true state of water quality or water use. And government always has fewer resources than it would need to do all the things that society expects it to do, and monitoring alone does not actually accomplish anything. Even so, without monitoring, no one knows whether or not the laws are being followed, or whether remedial actions taken by government or private actors do any good.

As we start to deal with the Puget Sound chinook listing, a lack of monitoring threatens to give us the worst of all possible worlds: we may make large investments in restoring wild salmon runs, sacrifice some profits and amenities, narrow our legal options—and lose wild salmon anyway.

Coordinated Management Needed

No level of government coordinates management of the many jurisdictions and agencies responsible for protecting salmon at different stages of the fishes’ life cycles.

“The crux of the fishery management problem…is that a single stock of salmon or steelhead may be harvested in many different fisheries in many different political jurisdictions, all of which may have goals and policies that are not only different, but incompatible.” 13 This problem has been recognized but not remedied for generations.

“In his State of the Union message for 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt called the nation’s attention to…the deplorable state of fishery management in interstate and international waters. He called particular attention to the Columbia River and Puget Sound salmon fisheries. Because the various state legislatures seemed incapable of reaching agreement on regulations that protected both fish and the fishermen, Roosevelt threatened to federalize management….[T]he Portland Oregonian…said it would be better to take management responsibility away from the states rather than to let the salmon be destroyed.” 14

Piecemeal Approaches Even individual portions of salmon habitat suffer from piecemeal management. A 1998 study prepared for the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin International Task Force observed that, “Above ordinary high-water line, the nearshore area is divided into 12 counties, 34 cities, eight tribal reservations, several federal facilities, and numerous state-owned parks…. Each jurisdiction regulates its piece of Puget Sound shoreline differently …. This piecemeal approach to managing the shoreline does not allow for Puget Sound to be managed as an ecosystem.” 15

Addressing the same problem, the Washington Nearshore Habitat Loss Work Group reported in 1998 that coordination and leadership were “overarching needs.” 16 It observed that, “There are many agencies and organizations involved in the management and protection of nearshore habitats, yet there is no one leader nor is there a formal structure for coordination.” 17

The three counties around Hood Canal are trying to take a coordinated approach to the endangered species listings. Kitsap County’s first big step was establishing 200-foot streamside buffers. The other two counties are contemplating different steps. Mason County imposed 150-foot buffers, then created so many exceptions that the Skokomish tribe has objected. Local politics have so far prevented any real coordination. 18

Next Month — Part Seven Agencies Consider Fishers, Developers, and Power Companies as Their Constituents, Rather than the Fish. Footnotes


1 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, op. cit.
2 ibid.
3 WETNET Citizen’s Report.
4 ibid.
5 Multiple speakers, meeting to review proposed King County Rural Drainage Package, Vashon Island (July 28, 1999).
6 Storm, op. cit.
7 ibid.
8 “This bill is a sellout to the timber industry, pure and simple.” Dave Mann, president, Washington Environmental Council, “Governor Locke Chooses Timber Deal Over Salmon Recovery,” Washington Environmental Council (June 7, 1999).
9 The Northwest Forest Plan requires 330-foot buffers beside year-round, fish-bearing streams. Buffers for similar streams under the Forests and Fish plan are only 100 feet.
10 “[A]n independent scientific review of one riparian management approach—Option 8 of the Federal Ecosystem Management Team’s (FEMAT) Aquatic Conservation Strategy for federal lands—determined that key salmonid species had only a 28 percent chance (on average) of being well-distributed across federal lands (Sedell et. al. 1993). Option 8 was found to have a low probability of success, in part, because buffers proposed for non-fish-bearing streams were narrow (i.e. 33-100 feet for typical forest conditions). Assuming that [non-fish-bearing streams under the Forests and Fish plan will have buffers of no more than 50 feet], the Forests and Fish Report will provide considerably less protection than Option 8. Since the goals of the report are to ensure that salmon do not go extinct and that there are harvestable levels of salmon—a higher standard than ‘well-distributed’—this would suggest that the report has a low probability of achieving its goals.” Pollock, Michael M., et. al., letter to governor Gary Locke and Commissioner of Public Lands Jennifer Belcher, April 1, 1999.
11 Baldi, Josh, Washington Environmental Council, personal communication; Even if the state did not formally embrace adaptive management, someone would have to monitor the impact of logging on fish-bearing and other streams. “Intensive monitoring is required to enable planning of harvest activities such that the water quality limits are not exceeded or approached so rapidly that there is a danger they would be exceeded before managers could respond. The complexity of the task is multiplied when there are several types of activities going on in the watershed simultaneously.” Sample, V. Alaric, “Assessing Cumulative Environmental Impacts: The Case of National Forest Planning,” 21 Environmental Law 839 (1991).
12 The Seattle Times, May 21, 1999.
13 Salmon and Steelhead Advisory Commission, A New Management Structure for Anadromous Salmon and Steelhead Resources and Fisheries of the Washington and Columbia River Conservation Areas. (July 1984).
14 Lichatowich, op. cit.
15 Broadhurst, op. cit.
16 Lynn, op. cit.
17 ibid.
18 Daniels, Betsy, Hood Canal coordinating council, personal communication.

Land Use

Wells for Housing Developments Drain Farmers’ Irrigation Rights

by Peter Tassoni

Whatcom County Council member Dan McShane wants equity between farmers standing in line for a water right share, necessary to irrigate their agricultural lands, and developers who can sink wells to supply 30,000 gallons of water a day to their developments without regulatory approval.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is involved in Endangered Species Act baseline research to substantiate minimum streambed water levels for salmon, and ground water requirements for both fish and people. On November 14, the County Council approved funding for the Whatcom County Department of Health and Human Services to document all drinking water sources and wellhead protection areas. These studies should aid the county in determining its water resources inventory.

Mr. McShane wants everyone going after water to be on a level playing field by utilizing a fair methodology for all land use players. Just means will create just ends. Consequently, council member McShane suggested amendments to the full council on October 24 to bind the development of private wells into specific Revised Codes of Washington.

The council adopted these amendments to Title 21 over council member Sam Crawford’s arguments. Access to drinking water and the protection of ground water are defining elements of land use planning and the Growth Management Act.

McShane is helping the farmers struggling to incorporate the latest regulations safeguarding salmon survival in Whatcom County, versus those who would prefer to plow up the fields and plant luxury homes haphazardly. Unrestrained or speculative development creates places like Sudden Valley and does not address low-income housing needs, public utility siting, or the rural character of the countyside.

Many of the Title 21 amendments are now mandatory state laws. Land use zoning has been used in Whatcom County since statehood. Council member McShane told me that there are land parcels on the books originally zoned in the 1890s. The world has changed a little bit in this past century. The reality for Scandinavian immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century is not the same for us at the brink of the twenty-first.

Because the legal scope of the ordinance has changed with the adoption of these amendments, Mr. McShane suggested that the full council should hear comments during a public hearing before voting on the ordinance. That hearing was scheduled for November 28th.

I feel that the general populace of Washington State and of Whatcom County wants appropriate use in appropriate areas. State and county laws have been enacted to achieve that very result. Title 20 and Title 21 reflect that commitment. But the county council postponed deciding on rural business and six-packs until November 28. They wanted a fair assessment from all the county constituents. Because the legal scope of the ordinance had changed with the adoption of these amendments, Mr. McShane suggested that the full council should hear comments during a public hearing before voting on the ordinance. That hearing was scheduled for the next council meeting.

At the November 28 meeting, council member Crawford was unable to rescind the exempt well amendments during the Planning and Development Committee meeting. However, he was able to narrowly convince the full council four to three to strike down Mr. McShane’s amendments. The full council approved Title 21 amendments, as Mr. Crawford told me during a break, “without restrictions on exempt wells in subdivisions.”

Filling Baker Dam Destroyed Skagit Salmon Spawning Nests

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Wednesday, November 29, 2000. “Low Water Levels Destroy Skagit Salmon Nests,” by Solveig Torvik.

On Thanksgiving the Skagit River level suddenly dropped, exposing 66 chum nests, or redds, along the riverbed. Bill McMillan, a field biologist who lives on the river five miles downstream from Concrete found he could walk 42 feet farther out from the riverbank than he could two days before.

Two days before Thanksgiving the water out of the Baker River was flowing at nearly 3,000 cubic feet per second. On Thanksgiving it dropped to 125 cubic feet per second. It was uncertain whether endangered chinook redds might have been affected. Their nests are typically deeper into the gravel than are the nests of chum.

In order to generate electricity for the previous six weeks, Puget Sound Energy had been discharging more water from the Baker River reservoir than had been coming in. The utility needed to refill the reservoir which had dropped to levels 20 to 30 feet below normal for this time of year. On Thanksgiving it impounded water from the Baker River to fill the reservoir.

If endangered chinook eggs were killed during the dewatering, there is as yet no rule that specifies enforcement penalties for “takings.” The “4(d) rule” is expected to be issued by the federal fisheries service in January.

Flow in the Baker River was expected to be reduced over the next few weeks after Thanksgiving while the utility performed maintenance on a turbine. Puget Sound Energy is seeking to relicense the Baker River dam.

Fish advocates have been concerned about the dam’s effect on stream flows. McMillan remarked that, for the salmon redds, the timing of the Thanksgiving dewatering “could not have been worse.”

Whatcom Watch Online
NorthWest Citizen