Lecture on County Water Issues Draws CrowdPermalink +
Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm // Wendy Harris
Timing is everything, and no where is this more evident than in Whatcom County’s water supply and demand problems. We have a surplus of water in the winter months when demand is the lowest, while the supply of water dries up in the warmer summer months when the demand is highest.
This is a problem requiring comprehensive water planning, but according to local resident, attorney and WWU professor Jean Melious, that is exactly what we are lacking. Armed with an impressive mound of evidence, the result of countless hours of research, Jean (who represents several local clients, including myself) was able to convince the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board that Whatcom County was failing to protect rural character because it did not have plans in place that protect water quality and water quantity.
The Hearings Board decision has generated attention locally, and around the state, because of its potential impacts on exempt wells. This accounted for a diverse standing-room only crowd attending the lecture given by Jean this Thursday afternoon at WWU. The lecture was attended by students, faculty, government staff, environmentalists, and Tea Party members. Jean’s lecture focused on uncontroversial basics of science and law.
She emphasized that state law was largely controlling over the matter of water rights, leaving little local autonomy over water allocation issues. Most water basins in Whatcom County are closed to new withdrawals, either full time, or seasonally, during the high demand and low supply summer months. Washington follows a “first in right, first in time” rule, entitling those with senior water rights to use water before those who hold junior water rights.
Washington water laws impact both surface water and ground water. Surface water may be in the form of water withdrawal, or in the form of “in stream flows,” which is the obligation to keep water in the stream at a sufficient quantity to protect fish and habitat. Many local streams rely upon groundwater to maintain water flow, particularly in the summer. This reflects the generally shallow groundwater reservoirs in Whatcom County. And where surface water and ground water are in hydraulic continuity, a likely situation where there are shallow reservoirs, groundwater withdrawal could be restricted to protect senior surface water rights.
Traditionally, this was not something that rural residents worried about because Washington State provides for ground well exemptions. However, the exemption is from obtaining a permit. It is not an exemption from water priority rights. And the Hearings Board noted that this was as true for exempt wells as for other types of ground water. This challenges assumptions by some that exempt wells provide a special type of protected water right.
This decision could have a big impact on Whatcom County, where 2/3 of our farmers lack the legal right to the water they use for irrigation and other crop needs. Although there is potential for an additional 34,000 lots in the rural county, before accounting for new growth that could be allocated as part of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan update, the county has failed to engage in water planning efforts for the last 13 years.
The county may no longer plan for rural growth as if water quality and quantity are of little concern. Instead, the county must allocate its water to meet current and future needs. The Hearings Board noted a number of ways that the county could achieve this goal. It could limit growth in areas with water limitation. It could direct growth from rural areas back to the urban areas. It could reduce density or the intensity of water use activities. It could limit impervious surface to maximize stream recharge, impose low impact development standards and/or water conservation efforts. And it could develop mitigation options.
These types of smart growth techniques would reduce the possibility of restrictions on exempt wells. Moreover, even if this were to occur, it would affect only new exempt wells, while existing exempt wells would not be impacted. This has not prevented some amount of hysteria from the Tea Party, which claims that rural property owners will be stripped of water, leaving property of little use and value.
Planning for our future requires moving beyond invalid fears, determining our water supply based on the principles of sound science, and drafting a plan that complies with the state’s legal requirements. Jean, her clients and concerned county residents will be monitoring this process closely to make sure the county gets it right.
Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm // Wendy HarrisThe county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.
2 comments; last on Dec 08, 2013
Tue, Oct 08, 2013, 2:22 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city staff considers the overwater walkway a done deal before official approval or resolution of treaty right conflicts
4 comments; last on Oct 16, 2013
Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 10:28 am // John ServaisBellingham City Council ready to approve $500,000 of trails money for resurfacing plastic grass on Civic Field.
15 comments; last on Jul 02, 2013
Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 6:29 am // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney examines Sen. Ericksen's legislative methods
Fri, May 24, 2013, 12:18 am // Guest writerMarian Beddill provides a general guide for the public, with a look at the history of water rights in Washington state.
4 comments; last on May 26, 2013
Sun, May 05, 2013, 2:45 pm // John ServaisHelp fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 6:37 am // Guest writerGuest writer Shane Roth writes in favor of the reconveyance of Lake Whatcom land back to the county.
1 comments; last on Mar 11, 2013
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 2:47 pm // John ServaisThe election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.
1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013
Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 9:40 pm // Wendy HarrisAn "Updated Preferred Alternative" reduces the number of waterfront jobs and expands the boundary of the waterfront district.
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 3:42 pm // John ServaisThe Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.
6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013
Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 12:14 am // John ServaisThe proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.
2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm // Guest writerPaul Leuthold and Byron Elmendorf explain why to vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District ballot measure.
19 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 5:25 pm // Guest writerBill Geyer explains Transfer Development Rights and how they can be applied to the Chuckanut Ridge.
17 comments; last on Feb 06, 2013
Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 1:52 am // Wendy HarrisImproving ecosystem functions holistically is the best form of protection for the Lake Whatcom.
1 comments; last on Jan 29, 2013
Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 6:19 pm // Wendy HarrisLinks to a few noteworthy GPT scoping comments .
1 comments; last on Jan 23, 2013
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 1:35 pm // Wendy HarrisA proposed amendment to the Lake Whatcom watershed moratorium will increase water quality degradation
1 comments; last on Jan 12, 2013
Sun, Jan 06, 2013, 11:49 pm // Wendy HarrisWatch the Whatcom County Council wiggle its way out of the latest round of GMA compliance requirements for Lake Whatcom
1 comments; last on Jul 27, 2013
Fri, Jan 04, 2013, 11:37 pm // Wendy HarrisCouncil majority willing to spend, and spend, and spend public funds defending development rights
2 comments; last on Jan 05, 2013
Mon, Dec 03, 2012, 3:26 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein citizens must hold their representatives' feet to the fire
6 comments; last on Dec 09, 2012
Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 8:53 am // John ServaisBellingham Business Journal breaking story - Lummi's to hold meeting today at noon to speak against the Cherry Point project.
7 comments; last on Nov 04, 2012
Wed, Sep 05, 2012, 11:00 am // Riley SweeneyRiley patiently explains to the Whatcom Excavator what a flowchart should look like
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 8:00 am // Riley SweeneyRiley sits down with Matt Petryni with Power Past Coal to get the latest scoop
Thu, Aug 16, 2012, 11:50 pm // Wendy HarrisThe Mayor's Negotiations With Costco Undercuts City Permit Procedures And Public Process
4 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012
Sun, Jul 29, 2012, 11:17 am // John ServaisNew report suggests U.S. weather stations reporting higher temperatures because NOAA has poorly managed sensors and caused false higher readings.
11 comments; last on Aug 06, 2012
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:02 am // Guest writerDevelopers are gaming the system with help from the county government - and big changes are made in multiple small changes.
1 comments; last on Apr 27, 2012
Fri, Apr 06, 2012, 7:16 am // Guest writerKen Mann writes a guest article of his personal support for the Padden Trails development inside the Bellingham city limits.
3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2012
Mon, Apr 02, 2012, 11:43 am // Larry HorowitzWhere to begin? Misinformation. Disinformation. Truths. Myths. Same old, same old. Paradigm shift. GMA. OFM. Growth pressures. Population loss. Growth subsidies. Proportionate share.
36 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012
Fri, Mar 09, 2012, 11:15 am // Riley SweeneyRiley gets to the bottom of this in a NWCitizen Exclusive
4 comments; last on Apr 01, 2012
Sat, Feb 18, 2012, 3:03 pm // Guest writerNo EIS - no real county planning concern about developing Squalicum Mountain and degrading Lake Whatcom water even further.
Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 8:05 am // Wendy HarrisClaiming it is unfair to treat large property owners different than small property owners, the Commission refuses to remove industrial areas from buffer mitigation proposal.
Wed, Dec 07, 2011, 8:00 am // Wendy HarrisTell the Planning Commission to eliminate this loophole
2 comments; last on Dec 15, 2011
Sun, Dec 04, 2011, 5:53 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the sooty prospect of economic necessity rears its ugly head
2 comments; last on Dec 05, 2011
Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 3:07 pm // Guest writerBob Ferris of Re-Sources takes a values based perspective on our community and a possible coal port.
9 comments; last on Nov 02, 2011
Fri, Jul 29, 2011, 10:11 am // John ServaisThe Gateway Pacific coal port appears to be under construction now - secretly and w/o permits.
36 comments; last on Aug 05, 2011
Fri, Jul 22, 2011, 3:52 pm // John ServaisWashington Federal has bought out Greenbriar's interest in Chuckanut Ridge.
3 comments; last on Jul 25, 2011
Mon, Jul 18, 2011, 9:03 pm // Riley SweeneyThe Political Junkie interviews Christina Maginnis
4 comments; last on Jul 22, 2011
Thu, Jun 23, 2011, 7:30 am // Wendy HarrisTime is running out for public comment on the Port's proposal to use toxic waste as a cap at waterfront re-development site.
5 comments; last on Jul 02, 2011
Wed, Jun 08, 2011, 1:09 pm // John ServaisWho all is on the take? Who all has not been up front about being on the take for the Coal Port?
4 comments; last on Jun 12, 2011
Fri, Jun 03, 2011, 11:56 am // John ServaisA running update of links and info on the Coal Port and Trains of proposed Gateway Pacific at Cherry Point.
15 comments; last on Jun 29, 2011
Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 6:45 pm // John ServaisThe public meeting to hear opinions about the coal port last night saw local union leader Dave Warren playing games.
3 comments; last on Jun 05, 2011
Wed, Jun 01, 2011, 4:32 pm // Guest writerGuest writer Mark Flanders' call to action for June 1 flash mob at coal port meeting
7 comments; last on Jun 09, 2011
Wed, May 18, 2011, 9:31 am // Riley SweeneyPatti Brooks' war on gophers shows how she is a socialist
3 comments; last on May 28, 2011
Thu, Dec 23, 2010, 5:19 pm // John ServaisCrawford, Kremen & Co. have been stopped by Growth Management Board.
4 comments; last on Dec 27, 2010
Wed, Dec 15, 2010, 9:07 pm // Guest writerWendy Harris writes about a multi million dollar planned city of Bellingham project.
9 comments; last on Dec 18, 2010
Sat, Nov 20, 2010, 3:13 pm // Guest writerDave Stalheim warns us the Council is poised to rob the Conservation Futures Fund.
2 comments; last on Nov 25, 2010
Tue, Nov 09, 2010, 5:04 pm // Guest writerEric explains his resignation from the Greenways Advisory Committee and lists his concerns.
1 comments; last on Nov 10, 2010
Open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline
Sun, Oct 31, 2010, 6:20 pm // Larry HorowitzUpdated Sun, Oct 31. An open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline
12 comments; last on Oct 28, 2010
Tue, Sep 07, 2010, 9:59 am // Guest writerEric Hirst reviews a new book by Andres R. Edwards, Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathworks to a Resillient Society
Mon, Aug 16, 2010, 1:55 pm // John LesowJohn Lesow rebuts Jack Petree's Herald oped article that strongly criticized county planning.
30 comments; last on Aug 25, 2010
Fri, Aug 13, 2010, 9:39 am // John ServaisAm looking for a writer to rebut Jack Petree's BIAW propaganda article the Herald saw fit to print.
3 comments; last on Aug 21, 2010
Wed, Aug 04, 2010, 9:12 am // John ServaisBellingham Planning Department is giving quiet extensions to the Chuckanut Ridge developer - propping up the property value.
1 comments; last on Aug 04, 2010
Fri, Jul 16, 2010, 5:44 am // Guest writerEric Hirst reviews this October 2009 book by Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame. Stewart is critical of several mainstream environmental stances.
1 comments; last on Jul 19, 2010
Wed, Jul 14, 2010, 12:52 pm // John ServaisThe Atlantic Monthly has an article on Climate gate that every Enviro true believer should read. Some healthy skepticism is very needed.
1 comments; last on Jul 17, 2010
Mon, Jun 28, 2010, 2:17 pm // John ServaisBP oil spill video taken on a private plane flight over the Gulf of Mexico. The spill is worse than our media are telling us.
Fri, Jun 18, 2010, 12:31 am // John ServaisLet's help get one million signatures on the anti-whaling petition.
1 comments; last on Jun 21, 2010
Fri, Apr 09, 2010, 4:12 pm // John ServaisAn article that questions the man-made global warming hysteria
Mon, Apr 05, 2010, 5:30 pm // John ServaisGreenpeace has more empty threats for anyone who doesn't believe as they do. Guess they are going to cut off NwCitizen funding.
2 comments; last on Apr 08, 2010
Thu, Apr 01, 2010, 11:00 am // Guest writerTom Anderson submits this guest column. He brings attention to our local earthquake risks - and what we can do to prepare.
1 comments; last on Apr 01, 2010
Wed, Mar 31, 2010, 5:59 am // Ham HayesSandhill Cranes: the Columbia River Basin's swallows of Capistrano
Sun, Mar 21, 2010, 5:45 am // Ham HayesIf you are going to visit the heron nesting area at Post Point Lagoon in the near future, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
New LinksJulia Ioffe/New Republic
Current InterestCommunity Wise Bellingham
Friends of Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
League of Women Voters
Paul Krugman - economics
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesBellingham Police Activity
Chuckanut Community Forest
Citizens of Bellingham
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Port of Bellingham
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good LinksAl-Jazeera online
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Talking Points Memo
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Internet At Its BestTED
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Register
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph
The Crisis Papers