Letters to the Editor
A recent letter to the editor questioned whether Birch Bay Water and Sewer District has provided an adequate water supply for growth, apparently in response to a recent district request for voluntary water conservation. The letter argued the district should restrict development to avoid the need for water conservation and to keep water rates from going up. I would like to respond to those points.
The county holds authority over the land use within the district’s service area. The district has the duty to provide the water and sewer services required to serve the developments approved under county land use plans. The district is a water and sewer utility lacking any direct land use powers.
We believe the district is providing a supply of water sufficient for current and future needs. The district currently has a peak day usage of 1.8.million gallons of water, which represents 35 percent of the 5.11 million gallons per day of water supply we have under contracts with the city (2.11 million gallons per day) and the PUD (three million gallons per day). In addition, the district is currently working with the city on joint hydrogeological studies to develop additional groundwater rights. Reclamation of secondary effluent from wastewater treatment plants is also an option for irrigation and/or industrial uses.
It is the district’s policy to charge connection fees so that the costs of new facilities needed for growth are borne by the newcomers and not existing ratepayers. These connection fees, called “general facilities charges,” currently total $5,260 for each new unit requiring both water and sewer service.
The water supply system meets demand during normal periods by pumping water from wells, drawing on storage when needed for peak needs such as fire suppression and for periods of greater usage during the summer season. During extended periods of high demand, storage levels may fall to unacceptable levels. When that happens, we ask our customers to use water wisely or even to cut back significantly if there is a severe problem. The district believes it is far less expensive for ratepayers to meet peak requirements with effective conservation than by building costly facilities which may only be used for a few days each year. In addition, public water purveyors such as the district are subject to state regulations which mandate water conservation programs, including the provision of timely public information to help manage peak demands. Such conservation efforts are a normal part of public water utility operations and not a cause for alarm.
Roger Brown, general manager,
Birch Bay Water and Sewer District
Voluntary conservation of water for the residents of Blaine for a civic and moral attempt to share the limited resources. It seems around our country we extol these virtues to our kids. Yet when they walk down the street and see just the opposite from their elders it must be a quandary for them.
Example: our new Seascape condos in town with a strip of grass seven feet by 250 feet along Peace Portal Drive and the city wants that grass green at all costs during this hot, dry spell. I watch from across the street this lucky guy with the job of pouring gallons and gallons of water on this strip until darkness falls for the last three weeks and I asked why, and he said the city wants green. It seems to me the city should have put up their voluntary consideration signs on that useless strip of land and wait for nature to step up or they could have put native flora down. Well, city of Blaine, us residents conserved when you wanted to look good in the mirror. Too many ants in your pants to wait with the seasons? Your virtuous signs at least looked good, or was it so hot it was a mirage?
We are grateful for courageous city councilor John Liebert, who against administrative pressure, made a heroic decision to vote for justice for Seascape.
This vote would have essentially set the stage for a review of the action taken against the developer by senior city staff in unnecessary delay of the project.
Harbor Lands, LP
Bonnie Harkleroad’s July 27 letter about new development outpacing water supply was right on.
Because Birch Bay Water and Sewer purchases its water from the city of Blaine, the following should greatly interest residents from the Birch Bay-Point Whitehorn, Birch Point, and Blaine-Semiahmoo areas.
Recently, a growing coalition of almost 150-and-counting residents from those areas started petitioning the Blaine City Council for a temporary moratorium on building permits for large, multi-unit developments (applicable to absentee developers and development corporations only, NOT individual owner-occupier property owners) until the city can provide accurate figures and projections for the following questions, among other issues related to our infrastructure: What is the water supply? What is the current and projected demand? How does the city intend to match supply with the growing demand?
Answers to these questions mandate rigorous data that is absolutely critical for consideration of any future large, multi-unit developments in the abovementioned areas.
Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic’s comments at the July 10 Blaine City Council meeting prove that the city does not yet have this data. Referring to the petition, Mr. Tomsic stated, “I’m not quite sure we need a moratorium, but we do need to look at some of the projects still out there.” Later he said that they were getting some professional help to determine future projections, and also stated, “We don’t want to be at the point where we can’t provide services.”
On July 24, Mr. Tomsic stated that the city is spending $4K for an independent consulting firm to “give us their best judgment” on population, with data coming “in maybe a month.” Whether those figures will answer the hard questions about water supply remains to be seen. It’s time to demand responsible, accountable local government in addressing issues about growth outpacing infrastructure. Furthermore, we should demand that officials from the city of Blaine and Birch Bay Water & Sewer gather in the same room and jointly, publicly address this community on these hard questions about water supply ASAP. And, until the city of Blaine answers these questions, perhaps it is appropriate for the Whatcom County Council to consider such a temporary moratorium for unincorporated Birch Bay-Point Whitehorn and Birch Point – again, applicable only to absentee developers and development corporations of large, multi-unit developments.
To join the community petition or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 371-0301.
The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank-you letters should be limited to 10 names. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.
send your letter to:
225 Marine Drive, Blaine, WA 98230 or fax 360/332-2777.
The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank you letters are limited to five individuals or groups. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.
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