The Park in RealityPermalink +
Wed, Jul 30, 2008, 4:23 pm // g.h.kirschRand Jack, long associated with the Whatcom Land Trust and its organizers, has published what he feels are compelling reasons for the County Council to approve and fund the development of a park in the Lake Whatcom watershed. He writes, “Protecting the drinking water for half the residents of Whatcom County is a major reason to support the new park.”
To the contrary, protecting the Lake Whatcom Reservoir is the primary reason to oppose this park.
Rand correctly notes that commercial forestry in the watershed is not the primary cause of deteriorating water quality. Most understand the primary cause is development and its related human activities. Nonetheless he would draw our attention to recent events in Lewis County and imply forest practices in the Lake Whatcom watershed will lead to landslides, and lesser erosion, that will contribute to phosphorous in the lake, and cause water quality to deteriorate.
Again, Rand provides the valuable observation that these events in Lewis County occurred despite a state mandate to control logging on unstable slopes, and landowner promises; the real problem being scant oversight from state geologists who are supposed to help watchdog the timber industry. One should add a Department of Ecology that ignores its mandate to petition Natural Resources for forest practices guaranteed to protect water quality.
And certainly we should ask why Whatcom county isn't in the Superior Court seeking enforcement of forest practice rules, as provided by law, against the DNR, forest landowners, and timber operators; rules that require compliance with all applicable federal and state law with respect to nonpoint sources of water pollution from forest practices.
Frankly, there are so many county, state and federal laws to be employed to protect Lake Whatcom from pollution due to floods or landslides that it would require an entire article of its own to present them all. If the proponents of this park would turn their attention to this enforcement issue, they could actually accomplish something to protect the lake's water quality from past and future forest practices on all the lands in the watershed, not just this small part to be reconveyed.
No, the unfortunate truth is the development and activity that will come with this park can only exacerbate the water quality problems in the reservoir. Anyone who has considered the rest of the county's plans for recreation in the watershed has to wonder how the boat ramps, campsites and so called freshwater trail system will contribute to the protection of water quality.
Protecting Lake Whatcom entails reducing, not increasing, human activity on the lake and in its watershed.
While Rand feels the costs of creating this park are amazingly small compared to the benefits, how should we quantify the cost of all this increased use of the lake and its watershed? And is the cost warranted when the benefits, primarily protecting the reservoir, are achievable without any real costs beyond a reduction in revenues from timber sales.
Rand again acknowledges that, “Stricter logging rules in the watershed have made a dent in problems associated with commercial forestry.” He notes they have not entirely solved those problems. But even stricter rules will make an even bigger dent. And with the trade off again being reduced timber sales revenue, at some point stricter rules and adequate enforcement can solve the problems.
Most critics of this park proposal are concerned that the associated costs are unwarranted given the financial requirements of more important efforts to reverse the deterioration of the reservoir. This has grown to be a substantially larger concern given the county's current and worsening financial situation. It is feared that the headlong drive to develop this park will steal money from more important programs.
Rand tells us the transaction cost to the county will be about $300,000, all of which will be paid from the Conservation Futures Fund, “a fund that cannot be used for other kinds of purposes.”
This is a case in point. The primary purpose of those funds has been the acquisition and preservation of farmland. While acquisition of parkland is not entirely inappropriate, RCW 84.34.240 tells us that amounts placed in this fund may be used to acquire real property, and for the maintenance and operation of any property acquired with these funds. It is less than clear that the $300,000 to be paid for consultants, appraisers and surveyors are a proper use of Conservation Future Funds, or that any of these funds would be available subsequently to subsidize the operations of the park.
And obviously, every dollar taken from this fund will not be available for preservation of farmland.
Even if we believe the annual maintenance costs will only be between $100,000 and $150,000 a year, and even if we ignore the fact that these lands will not be acquired with Conservation Future Funds and thus not an appropriate operational use, the use of these funds for operations is capped at 15% of the annual contribution to the fund from taxes.
If the experience of park managers in Skagit County, operating a similar sort of recreation on lands less than half the size of the proposal here is considered, the operating budget for this proposed park in the watershed is more likely some four times what Rand has been told.
Whatever ones perspective is on this park's efficacy as protection for the water supply of half the county, the question remains, how will it be paid for, and if not from new tax revenues, what programs will we cut?
In early June our county executive proudly told us, “I’m pleased to report that the state of our County is relatively strong, our financial position is solid, and our future bright.” Barely a month later, in the face of an apparently unforeseen budget shortfall, he issued an executive order stating that until further notice all unfilled positions would remain vacant and any current recruitment activity would “cease immediately.”
Shortly thereafter, having estimated the budget deficit at some $5,000,000, his administrative assistant acknowledged, “I think the number is going to grow even larger than that.”
It is time for Mr. Kremen, and the other proponents of recreational development in the watershed, to get realistic. Much has been said and printed of late about taxes and fiscal responsibility. Many have asked that decisions with substantial fiscal impacts on taxpayers be submitted to the voters.
While Rand may recommend the County Council quickly approve this plan, a much more exhaustive appraisal of its real costs and benefits is needed first. And Whatcom County voters might just want to put in their two cents worth.
As a community we are faced with looming financial problems at the same time we are faced with unavoidable expenses to repair the damage development has already done to the lake. This park proposal is most untimely. It is more economical to seek real enforcement of laws in place to protect the lake.
Wed, Jul 30, 2008, 4:23 pm // g.h.kirschRand Jack, long associated with the Whatcom Land Trust and its organizers, has published what he feels are compelling reasons for the County Council to approve and fund…
5 comments; last on Jul 31, 2008
Wed, Jul 30, 2008, 3:07 pm // Tip JohnsonToday's Bellingham Herald has an interesting article on a report recently released by the Countywide Housing Affordability Task force: "Task force: Local tax money key to affordable housing"…
5 comments; last on Aug 04, 2008
Sat, Jul 26, 2008, 11:31 am // g.h.kirschThe turnout and turnaround that took place Tuesday at the County Council was interesting from another perspective. After days and weeks of apparently strong public opposition on the…
6 comments; last on Jul 27, 2008
Thu, Jul 24, 2008, 1:22 am // John ServaisThe informal kickoff to the campaign season is the Bill Mize forum at the Rome Grange each summer. As always, it was great political theater and was broadcast…
5 comments; last on Jan 25, 2010
Sun, Jul 20, 2008, 12:30 pm // Larry HorowitzAs a community, we ‘hamsters absolutely love our parks. It’s too bad we’ll have significantly fewer to love in the future compared with the level city officials had…
7 comments; last on Jul 22, 2008
Sat, Jul 19, 2008, 1:29 pm // g.h.kirschFor several decades now we have dismantled the system of restrictions on wealth thought necessary to prevent economic catastrophe like the one that befell us in the early…
2 comments; last on Jul 19, 2008
Thu, Jul 17, 2008, 7:11 pm // Ham HayesAt the Port of Bellingham meeting this week, the Commissioners voted to sue the City over failure to resolve a water connection issue at the airport. It would…
7 comments; last on Jul 18, 2008
Thu, Jul 10, 2008, 11:24 am // John ServaisCrosscut in Seattle has posted an article on the closing of the Whatcom Independent. If you were a reader of the Indy then you may enjoy this article…
1 comments; last on Jul 14, 2008
Tue, Jul 08, 2008, 5:16 pm // John ServaisFirst off, I read the Herald thoroughly every day and have subscribed for decades. Local news is vital for us citizens. However, my criticism of the Herald is…
10 comments; last on Jul 11, 2008
Mon, Jul 07, 2008, 12:44 pm // Tip JohnsonIn the run-up to this fourth of July, there were articles in the local daily and a fair amount of discussion about fireworks. Word was that the local…
1 comments; last on Jul 31, 2008
Fri, Jul 04, 2008, 2:21 am // Myron WlaznakOver the past few years, I’ve written in other venues about profound impacts we can expect to our daily lives from fundamental changes in a rapidly evolving world.…
2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2008
Tue, Jul 01, 2008, 8:35 am // John ServaisBill McCallum has sent us the June chart of temperatures. As you can see, we had another cold month. Bill notes:
"Temperatures have been below normal for the past…
Election InfoCounty election results
State election results
Coal, Oil & Trains
Community Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.
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 CausesChuckanut Community Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Port of Bellingham
State election results
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-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
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Police Activity
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph