Commissioners consider water action plan

Published on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 by Nathan Dalla Santa

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Birch Bay residents will soon have the option to help a neighbor in need when paying their monthly water utility bill.

The Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) commissioners approved a measure to add a donation option to district customers’ monthly utility bills at the commissioners’ twice-monthly meeting on February 27. Donations will go to the Community Assistance Program (CAP), a nonprofit organization that works to help needy residents acquire basic utilities, to help raise funds for a Birch Bay arm of the CAP. 

CAP director Jerry Williams attended the meeting to answer a few questions prior to the commissioners’ approval. In particular, commissioner Pat Alesse wanted to make sure Birch Bay residents’ donations wouldn’t be used to fund non-resident needs.

“Now, if your bucket is empty and ours is full, what happens then?” Alesse asked Williams.

Williams assured the commissioners that district funds would remain in the district. Furthermore, whether or not Birch Bay residents donate sufficient funds, the CAP will continue to provide emergency relief to district residents, Williams said.

The donation option will take a few months to appear on the bills and will be similar to the warm home fund donation system offered by Puget Sound Energy.

In other BBWSD business, the commissioners discussed Whatcom County Council’s steps toward creating a plan to address water quality and quantity issues in the county’s 2014–2015 budget.

The council is considering a resolution to declare intent to create a Water Action Plan. 

The plan would address a number of water-related issues. According to the council’s draft statement, more than 100 bodies of water in Whatcom County are considered impaired or threatened under the Clean Water Act. Fecal pollution from livestock, humans and pets has increased health risks and damaged local commercial fishers while salmon habitats deteriorated through poor land use and phosphorous pollution has endangered local sources of drinking water.

“The county is really stepping up and taking a lead role in this,” said BBWSD general manager Roger Brown. “In the past, one of our complaints has been that the council needs to provide more direction to the joint board, which is responsible for a lot of policy decisions.”

If approved, it will be up to a planning committee comprised of various government groups and interest groups to come up with the details of the plan. As a member of that committee, BBWSD will emphasize issues involving water quantity and availability, pollution of shellfish and other habitat issues, Brown said.