Lake Whatcom, the primary source of drinking water for Bellingham residents, was placed on a list of impaired water bodies under the federal Clean Water Act more than 15 years ago. This triggered an obligation to restore the lake's water quality. However, since then, the lake's water quality has continued to decline. Clearly, we need to do more to reverse this trend. In addition to investing more in Lake Whatcom water quality programs, we need to account for these funds in an open and transparent manner.
I advocate the creation of a dedicated Lake Whatcom fund for the Whatcom County annual budget. Currently, lake programs are funded from a number of different county funds, making it difficult for the public to track. Creating a dedicated fund would allow the public to review the totality of funding being spent on the lake, and track the county's various Lake Whatcom programs. This information is also helpful to the county in making policy decisions.
A dedicated fund would help ensure that the totality of lake funding is commensurate with community expectations and the county's legal obligation. The Department of Ecology is working on a water quality improvement plan that will require the county to estimate and provide funding needed to restore the lake over a 50 year time period. This underscores the need for a dedicated fund.