Conservation Voters slate focuses on affordable, sustainable water supply

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 25, 2013 

Water is one of the most important challenges facing our community.

People want clean water for drinking, safe water for families, affordable water for communities and abundant water for farmers and fisheries. The good news is that there is enough water in Whatcom County for our needs. But as our population grows we need both to protect it and use it wisely.

County Council members Ken Mann and Carl Weimer have worked hard to preserve Whatcom resources. They deserve your vote for re-election. Rud Browne and Barry Buchanan, also running for the seats on the council, deserve your votes as well.

Together, these candidates will see that the council ensures our children, families and businesses have the clean, accessible water they need and deserve. It's well documented that Lake Whatcom faces troubles. Phosphorus pollution is at an all-time high. In the recent past, we've seen water rationing because of algae overgrowth, and treatment systems to prevent reoccurrences are expensive. Farmers and fishers dependent on the Nooksack Basin are also concerned about having sufficient water.

Unfortunately, these problems all stem from a lack of focus on healthy water - and county government has played a role in making them worse.

In 2010, the County Council began allowing self-inspection of septic systems. Compliance under this honor system has been too low. Some of these failing septic systems leak into groundwater and drinking water supplies.

Just this month, the council approved the establishment of large animal slaughterhouses on agricultural land. These facilities could well demand significant amounts of water, putting them in direct competition with farms and county users. In other areas, they have threatened water quality.

The County Council and Whatcom County planning commission have also eased development restrictions in rural Whatcom. With sprawl comes new roads and parking surfaces that promote runoff, along with pollution. Sitting council members Kathy Kershner and Bill Knutzen have been on the wrong side of these issues, as have planning commission members - and council candidates - Michelle Luke and Ben Elenbaas.

Over the past four years, we've seen little clarification on water rights for farmers, fishers and communities. The response to deteriorating water quality in Lake Whatcom has been glacial.

Our families and businesses need better planning and the leadership to implement it.

Ken Mann and Carl Weimer deserve credit as problem solvers on the council. But they alone cannot preserve our resources. They should be joined by Rud Browne and Barry Buchanan.

We proudly stand behind Washington Conservation Voters' endorsements of Ken Mann, Carl Weimer, Barry Buchanan and Rud Browne. These are the candidates who will bring focused attention and smart policy to the issues that matter most to our families and businesses: safe, clean, affordable and abundant water. Help us create a clean and sustainable water majority on Whatcom County Council.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Bob Aegerter is a board member of the Whatcom County Chapter of the Washington Conservation Voters. WCV Whatcom works to elect community leaders who will protect and restore environmental health and promote economic sustainability. John and Dorie Belisle own Bellewood Acres Farm. John served on the Whatcom County Planning Commission from 2004 to 2012.

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