Says Whatcom County must comply with water law

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 6, 2013 

For more than eight years, the Whatcom County Council has been flouting state law by refusing to protect rural areas from sprawl. The latest in a long string of hearings-board and state-court decisions was issued in early June. That decision says that Whatcom County is not protecting water in our rural areas: "... the county has not employed effective land use planning ... to protect water supply and water quality as required by the GMA (Growth Management Act)."

The county should write a new ordinance that recognizes the importance of surface and ground water to the future of our citizens. A new ordinance would, as examples, limit development in water basins closed by the state; locate developments away from water bodies; limit impervious surfaces such as roofs and driveways; require use of native vegetation to reduce stormwater runoff; and mandate reliable inspections of septic systems.

The county should not appeal this decision. As the order notes, "this matter goes back to January 26, 2005 ... ." During this time the board and courts have repeatedly determined that Whatcom County is violating the Growth Management Act. It's long past time to stop wasting taxpayer money on lawyers to fight the county's obligation to obey state law and protect the long-term interests of citizens. We deserve a rural plan that protects "instream flows, groundwater recharge, and fish and wildlife habitat."

Eric Hirst

Bellingham

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