Countyestablishesstormwater district

Published on Thu, Mar 29, 2007 by Jack Kintner

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County establishes
stormwater district

By Jack Kintner

The Whatcom County Council passed an ordinance Tuesday evening that created the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District despite the concerns of some county residents who felt they would be taxed for storm water management programs in an area they don’t live in.

Before the council meeting began, a four-page report was passed out that described the Birch Bay comprehensive stormwater plan that grew out of the Birch Bay Steering Committee’s community plan that was approved in 2004.

“Birch Bay is currently experiencing increasing flooding and erosion, declining water quality and loss of aquatic habitat as a result of increasing growth and development in the region,” the report states, and goes on to identify both programmatic and capital improvement solutions to identified problems.

In a controversial paragraph, the report concluded by saying that the district is necessary because “additional funding will be needed to address the stormwater issues raised by Birch Bay citizens.”

The intended district, however, includes the entire Birch Bay watershed, stretching from inside the Blaine city limits at its northern end south past Lake Terrell almost to Ferndale. “That’s a problem,” said council member Barbara Brenner, speaking in support of several people who said that they are too far away from Birch Bay for their activities to have any effect on it.

“Well, I see your point but the watershed’s the watershed, and I don’t think we should get into making political boundaries to a natural feature,” said council member Laurie Caskey-Schreiber.

The intent of the ordinance is to fine-tune the boundaries of the district in the coming months, said council chair Carl Wiemer. “We want to make sure people are not paying double for the same work,” he said.

Keats Garman, who supports the district being established and lives on Birch Point, said that the watershed boundaries include a few small areas that drain directly into the Georgia Strait, near his house north of Birch Point and south of Point Whitehorn “because runoff in those areas can have a direct effect on the water quality in the bay. They’re near enough to it.”

In another matter affecting Birch Bay, the council refused 7-0 to grant two requests by the Trillium Corporation. One was to re-open the question of rezoning a part of the Cherry Point industrial urban growth area (UGA) to allow residential and commercial uses in a development Trillium calls Alden Reach, and the other was to initiate discussion on a 2,200-acre UGA proposed for Galbraith Mountain east of Bellingham.
“I read all the public comments and there’s a large amount of mis-information about these projects,” said Mauri Ingram, project manager for Trillium. “I hope you’re familiar with our proposals and what they actually say rather than just dismissing them out of hand.”

The council’s planning and development subcommittee had recommended against approval for both measures, a position strongly supported by both fire district 7 and the BP Cherry Point refinery at least as applied to the Alden Reach property. When the measures came up both were voted down unanimously without discussion.

“We’re disappointed,” said Ingram later, “it’s a lost opportunity. We at Trillium will have to take stock of our situation and come up with some alternatives.”

Finally, the council adopted a memo by Caskey-Schreiber that asked county executive Pete Kremen to terminate the county’s animal contract with Security Specialists Plus (SSP), owned by Greg Rustand of Blaine.
Kremen said that Rustand had agreed to termination of the contract on Tuesday and that the Sheriff’s office would provide oversight until a new provider is found.

“He (Rustand) wanted out of this contract last year,” Kremen said in a later interview. But with the Whatcom Humane Society unable to provide the service on short notice, Rustand was persuaded to continue providing the service in return for the county buying his buildings and raising SSP’s fees by $50,000. He signed a three-year contract with the county.

But complaints about SSP’s service continued, especially following two high-profile incidents this past winter. Dogs attacked a herd of Alpacas east of Blaine in January but according to John and Kelly Wood, owners of the alpaca herd, SSP bungled the investigation, leaving them without any way to prove which dogs attacked their animals. The Woods are suing SSP for over $100,000 in damages.

The following month SSP responded to requests going back almost three years to investigate an apparently abandoned herd of 41 llamas on Olson Road near Ferndale after a Seattle TV station showed bones and carcasses of animals in the field and a dead cria (baby llama) floating in a nearby drainage ditch.

Criminal charges against Lynette Smith, the owner of the herd, are pending, Kremen said.