Whatcom County is working on a 20-year blueprint for future growth, the 2016 Comprehensive Plan. The county should consider three issues as it develops the plan.
Population projection: I believe the numbers developed by the county’s consultant are far too high and technically flawed. Lower projections are much more reasonable relative to recent historical trends, in terms of what our land and water can support, and what our tax base can afford for new public infrastructure. I urge the county to use an annual growth of about 2,500 people.
Protecting agricultural lands: Although the county wants to protect 100,000 acres of farmland, county zoning allows large amounts of development in rural areas. The county should adopt programs and zoning rules to ensure that we actually protect from development at least 100,000 acres farmland.
Water resources: Much water used by Whatcom County farmers is unpermitted. The county’s draft plan calls for “securing an adequate, sustainable and legal supply of irrigation water to support the long-term viability of the local agricultural industry.” This policy articulates a noble goal. But the county is making little progress to achieve this goal. The county should adopt programs to help farmers become “legal” and, at the same time, increase instream flows, water quality and fish habitat.
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Eric Hirst, Bellingham