As a lifelong Bellingham resident, I share the community's strong commitment to stewarding our natural environment. These values are reflected in the city''s Legacies and Strategic Commitments, interwoven into the city's day-to-day work, and an important part of my personal vision. My vision is a community that can rely on safe drinking water, clean air, healthy ecosystems and accessible natural places, protected in perpetuity at a price we can afford and that all our residents can enjoy.
As mayor, I have taken steps that are consistent with these values. One example is that we have changed how we manage and deliver the city's natural resources services, combining our environmental resources, stormwater and watershed restoration programs into a single Natural Resources Division within the Public Works Department. We have placed the leadership of this new division at the assistant director level and charged the Public Works director and new assistant director to more effectively align the delivery of these services. This new effort takes advantage of the excellent work that has been accomplished to date and adds both resources and focus, to help ensure that we keep our community's natural resources needs in the forefront each and every day.
The environmental challenges we face are substantial. They include the following top priorities:
Reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the Lake Whatcom reservoir;
Removing sources of fecal coliform bacteria from the banks of our creeks and streams;
Meeting increasingly rigorous state and federal stormwater requirements;
Restoring the ability of our waterways to convey floodwaters;
Cleaning up contaminated industrial sites;
Rebuilding habitats that support wild salmon and other species.
In coming years you will see these challenges addressed in the Lake Whatcom reservoir, Bellingham Bay, Squalicum Creek, Padden Creek, in our city parks and around our public facilities.
Mastering these challenges will require persistence and substantial investments in people, organizations, capital projects and technology. While our shared values and commitment inspire us to pursue this work, my responsibility as mayor also requires careful stewardship of taxpayer dollars. We will make difficult decisions about priorities, and we will take bold steps forward.
Making progress on these challenges also requires partnerships with other elected officials, governments and organizations, community and business leaders and city and county residents. There are many examples around our community of how we are already working together to meet our natural resources challenges:
Projects to reduce phosphorus entering the Lake Whatcom reservoir continue forward at an aggressive pace. Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws and I recently endorsed a new joint project to treat and infiltrate stormwater near the city/county line at Academy Street. This is just one of dozens of projects and activities in progress this year by the city, the county and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District to protect and restore the source of our drinking water.
The Lake Whatcom Management Program's Aquatic Invasive Species initiative currently under way reduces the risk of unmanageable and costly infestations of noxious shellfish that affect drinking water delivery, recreational beaches and natural shorelines. This effort and others like it also are the result of the strong partnership between the city, Whatcom County and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District.
Projects are under way at Squalicum Creek and Padden Creek to restore wildlife corridors, remove barriers to fish passage, improve water quality and reduce flooding impacts while enhancing community access to natural experiences.
Ongoing research and collaboration between the city and others is uncovering beneficial changes to how we manage pet waste and stormwater in and around the Lake Padden community.
I invite you to learn more about these and many other natural resources efforts by visiting the City of Bellingham website at cob.org or by contacting my office. Our efforts to care for our natural resources are consistent with our community's long history of thoughtful and effective environmental stewardship. I have positioned city government to work with our partners and stakeholders to make meaningful and measurable progress toward a clean, protected source of drinking water, a healthy bay and restored streams and public areas - important steps forward that serve us today and long into the future.
This is one of a series of monthly Civic Agenda reports The Bellingham Herald invited Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville to provide to share updates about City of Bellingham issues and projects. She invites citizens to contact her at 360-778-8100 or email@example.com.