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Whatcom residents will pay more for flood tax, other water issues. Here’s why

Lake Whatcom is the source of drinking water for about 100,000 residents in Whatcom County, including Bellingham.
Lake Whatcom is the source of drinking water for about 100,000 residents in Whatcom County, including Bellingham. pdwyer@bellinghamherald.com

The County Council has increased the flood tax and formed the Lake Whatcom Stormwater Utility District.

The measures are part of the wide-ranging water action plan approved by the County Council in 2014, which made water quality a top priority.

On Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to up the flood tax countywide by 34 percent, beginning next year.

The owner of a house assessed at $300,000 will pay $14.40 more a year.

An increase will bring the total up to $53.10 a year for a $300,000 home.

The property tax increase will bring in another $1.2 million a year to pay for flooding and water-quality issues.

As for the Lake Whatcom Stormwater Utility District, the council voted 6-1 to form it. Council member Barbara Brenner was the no vote.

Fees will be assessed on those in the district, which will have roughly the same boundaries as the unincorporated part of the Lake Whatcom watershed. The fee amount will be determined next year with the help of a consultant, with payment expected to start in 2019.

The lake is the source of drinking water for about 100,000 residents in Whatcom County, including Bellingham, and the fees would be used to improve water quality – by getting phosphorous and fecal coliform out of the lake – as required under a cleanup plan approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016.

The City of Bellingham already has a citywide stormwater utility.

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