Birch Bay berm shoreline permit hearing postponed

Editor’s note: This is an update to a December 1 story in the print issue of The Northern Light

By Oliver Lazenby

The Whatcom County hearing examiner postponed a public hearing for the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project’s shoreline permit, which was previously scheduled for December 7.

Whatcom County planning staff postponed the hearing after realizing they had not contacted the Lummi Nation about potential buried artifacts, as the county’s shoreline management policy recommends.

Whatcom County hasn’t scheduled a new date for the hearing.

“That is an oversite on planning’s part,” said Carole Magner, an administrator at the hearing examiner’s office. “Staff has determined that it is not appropriate to continue at this time.”

The shoreline permit is one of the bigger permitting hurdles the project has to clear before construction can start. The long-awaited project, headed by Whatcom County Public Works, would create a 1.6-mile-long sand and gravel berm and walking path on Birch Bay Drive from the 7700 to the 8200 block.

After the hearing, the county hearing examiner has 10 days to make his decision. The county recommends that people who want to review the file for the permit or attend the public hearing contact the hearing examiner’s office at 360/778-5040 to confirm that the file is available and the hearing schedule hasn’t changed.

The project also needs several other local, state and county permits, all of which have been submitted and are in various stages of review, according to county staff.

The county has obtained about one-third of the property rights it needs to start the project. That’s another major hurdle for the project.

Public works hopes to start construction in spring 2017.

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