Click the graphic to view this full document on the Whatcom County website.
June 10, 2017 Wendy Harris
The county intends to issue a SEPA Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) for the most significant development on the shorelines of Lake Whatcom that I have seen in the last 10 years. It is being done under the optional DNS procedures of SEPA which does not allow for a public hearing. The public may provide written comment on this project until July 5th.http://www.whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/28929.
A DNS indicates that the project can be built under existing development standards without the likelihood of significant harm. We know from years of annual reports by Dr. Robin Matthews, Huxley College Institute for Watershed Studies, that lake water quality continues to degrade. Therefore, existing development standards are not adequate. As a result, the county should not be issuing permits for substantial shoreline development, a shoreline conditional use, a zoning conditional use, and a shoreline variance.
We know that one of the primary causes of lake degradation is shoreline development. Worse yet, the project intends to remove a natural sand bar in the lake that “was dumped” into the water by a local creek, relied upon by local fish species, including the Lake Whatcom kokanee, a species unique to the lake. The applicant intends to dredge and fill a marina, add 28 new boat slips, 8 jet ski and sail boat dock spaces, 19 patio cases to existing homes, and convert a shop building into a 2 bedroom home, although this community is intended for houses that are 400 sq. ft. or less.
The only environmental information the county indicated it reviewed for this proposal was a SEPA check list, which reveals nothing but the opinion of the applicant. For a project of this size, the county should have posted the site plans and application on line, but instead, it states that documents can be viewed by going down to the Planning Department on Northwest Drive. This discourages public involvement. This should require a critical area report for Habitat Conservation Areas given the large concentration of waterbirds at the south end of the lake.
Additionally, Wildwood Resort was the original home of the Whatcom Row Club and therefore, an identified hotspot for Asian clam infestation, centered around the boat launch area, and potential impacts from this expansion are not being discussed, but they should.
Another relevant issue involves the county’s shoreline master plan (SMP), which provides an “environment” designation for each section of the shoreline that guides the type of land use that is appropriate. In this case, the proposed development will occur within two environment designations; aquatic and rural, neither of which permits the kind of development being proposed. This is why the applicant requires a variance.
The county shoreline master program, contained in the county code, has the following requirements:
23.30.111 Aquatic shoreline area – Purpose.
The purpose of the aquatic shoreline area is to protect, restore, and manage the characteristics and resources of the areas waterward of the ordinary high water mark.
23.30.113 Aquatic shoreline area – Policies.
C. Uses that adversely impact the ecological functions of critical saltwater and freshwater habitats should not be permitted except where necessary to achieve the objectives of RCW 90.58.020 (shorelines of statewide signficance), and then only when all potential impacts are mitigated as necessary to assure maintenance of shoreline ecological functions and processes.
D. Shoreline uses and modifications should be designed and managed to prevent degradation of water quality and alteration of natural conditions.
23.30.071 Rural shoreline area – Purpose.
The purpose of the rural shoreline area is to protect shoreline ecological functions in areas having a rural character characterized by open space and low density development including, but not limited to: residences, agriculture, forestry and outdoor recreation. Uses should be compatible with the physical capabilities and limitations, natural resources and shoreline ecological functions and processes of the area
23.30.072 Rural shoreline area – Designation criteria.
C. Public or private outdoor recreation facilities should be encouraged if compatible with the rural character of the area and developed in a manner that maintains shoreline ecological functions and processes. Preferred uses include water-oriented recreation facilities that do not deplete shoreline resources over time, such as boating facilities, angling, wildlife viewing trails, and swimming beaches.
One final issue that needs to be explored is how this is connected to upland development governed by the GMA to prevent piecemealing of the development process.
I hope that people will speak out and object to this unnecessary development that is harmful to the lake’s ecological functions and Bellingham’s drinking water. Contact Andrew Hicks at Ahicks@whatcomcounty.us. After this, it will be reviewed by the Hearing Examiner, who is certain to rubber stamp this deal.