Stricter Whatcom County and Bellingham laws limiting land clearing in areas that drain into lakes begin Monday, Oct. 1.
The Bellingham restrictions, which are in effect through May 31, prohibit land-disturbing work in the city's portion of Lake Whatcom watershed.
Land disturbing includes clearing plants, grading, filling, excavating and trenching, according to Bellingham Public Works. Sites with more than 500 square feet of exposed soils must be protected with grass, wood chips, gravel or other adequate covering as described in city code 16.80, available at cob.org.
Active gardens larger than 500 square feet may be exempt if they are properly maintained.
Whatcom County's seasonal land-clearing restrictions also run Oct. 1 through May 31 for the Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish and Lake Padden watersheds. Under county law, landowners can't do any clearing that results in exposed soils of more than 500 square feet. There are some exceptions:
Maintenance of erosion-control measures.
Farming outside of environmentally sensitive areas.
Some forest practices regulated by the state.
Surface mining that falls under state law.
The city and the county can both enforce their restrictions with fines, and both provide exemptions for emergencies.