History of the Management Program
The Lake Whatcom Management Program is a joint effort of the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District (formerly Water District 10) to protect Lake Whatcom as a source of drinking water for approximately 85,000 county residents. The following section describes how this program was established.
Numerous studies, reports, and plans have been developed over many decades regarding Lake Whatcom and how it should be managed. Until the early 1990s, there had been no lasting strategy developed and agreed upon by all three of the local jurisdictions the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and the Water District. Notable actions that have been taken since then include:
1990: Whatcom County, the City of Bellingham, and Water and Sewer District began meeting to develop a long-term management strategy for the lake.
1992: The Lake Whatcom Management Committee, composed of the County Executive, Bellingham Mayor, and Water and Sewer District Manager, developed a draft set of goals and policies to guide management actions in the watershed. Six general goal statements along with 21 specific goals related to quality, quantity, distribution, and fish/wildlife were included. The draft goals were presented to the legislative bodies of each jurisdiction and the public. Modifications were made to the goals and policies that were subsequently adopted by the legislative bodies in November 1992 (Joint Resolution Whatcom County 92-73, Bellingham No. 92-68, District No. 560).
1993: The Management Committee developed a strategy to implement the goals and policies. The strategy was endorsed by the Legislative bodies on April 28. Eight specific goals were targeted for immediate action: land use, forest practices, spill response, conservation, public education/involvement, data/information management, stormwater, and septic systems. Plans were developed for each of these areas and jointly adopted by each jurisdiction.
A land use plan was adopted in 1993 and largely deferred to the Growth Management Act (GMA) planning process as the method to address land use issues.
1994: In addition to the land use plan, action plans were adopted for 5 of the remaining 7 high priority areas (Joint Resolution Whatcom County 96-005, Bellingham No. 65-94, District 10 No. 591). The adopted plans targeted data/information management, spill response, conservation, public education/involvement, and forest practices.
1995-1997: Elements of the adopted plans were implemented however, full implementation was not possible due to resource limitations. Septic system actions were undertaken as part of a contract between the City and County. Through the GMA process, additional goals and policies were adopted by the City and County regarding the lake.
1998: The City, County, and Water and Sewer District allocated $375,000 toward protection and management efforts in the watershed. Funds were specifically targeted at stormwater management, land use/development, septic systems, continued implementation of the adopted public education/involvement, spill response, data/information, and conservation plans.
In May 1998, the jurisdictions formalized their joint commitment to protect and manage the lake through adoption of an “Interlocal Agreement Between City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and Water District 10 Concerning Joint Management of Lake Whatcom.”
1999: The 1999 Management Plan was adopted in January by the District Commissioners, Bellingham City Council, and Whatcom County Council. Although actions were targeted at each of the 21 goals/policies, a specific priority was placed on actions related to land use, stormwater management, and watershed ownership.
2000-2004: In 2000, a five-year work plan was developed for ten program areas: watershed ownership, stormwater management, urbanization/land development, community outreach, data and information management, spill response/hazardous materials, fish/wildlife/forestry, transportation, recreation, and utilities and waste management. Specific priority was placed on activities related to watershed ownership, stormwater management, and urbanization/land development. An Interjurisdictional Coordinating Team (ICT) was developed with staff representatives from each of the three jurisdictions.
2002-2005: Efforts of the Joint Lake Whatcom Management Program were coordinated with the WRIA 1 Watershed Planning Project and the Washington State Department of Ecology Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Study. Through coordinated efforts, additional tributary and storm event water quality and quantity data was collected to help develop and calibrate pollutant loading and lake response models. These models will assist in the identification of priority areas and selection of management options to protect and enhance water quality within the Lake Whatcom watershed. In 2003, Water District 10 became the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District.
2005-2009: In 2005, the second five-year work plan was developed and adopted for the Joint Lake Whatcom Management Program. This work plan was an update of the previous five-year plan and included the same ten program areas (“watershed ownership” was renamed “land preservation”). High priority programs areas are stormwater management, land preservation, and urbanization/land development.
2006: In November 2005, the 2005-2009 work program was updated for 2006.