Birch Bay plan clears population hurdle
By Jack Kintner
Birch Bay steering committee has learned a potential snag
in the utilities chapter of their community plan has disappeared.They
heard on March 6 that their population projections were
now acceptable to the Birch Bay water and sewer district
management, even though the figures are still higher than
what the district has been using as a basis for their own
plans. At their last meeting district officials had voiced
their objection to the committees projections as being
nearly twice the number that the water district was using
Theres still a difference, but were comfortable with the forecast, said district general manager Roger Brown, and if the steering committees numbers are correct we can respond.
The difference in population forecasts has to do with using different percentage growth rates applied to differing population figures. The water districts projections are based on population figures from 1997 and predicted growth at a variable 2.9 percent to 3.9 percent rate, a figure they adjust based on the actual increase in the number of requests for services. Their predicted figure had been a 2020 population of 6,500.
The steering committee, on the advice of consultant Mart Kask, has been using a 4.2 percent growth rate based on the official census figure from the year 2000, or 4,961 people, and arrived at a projected 2020 population of 11,500. This triggered a reaction in water district management since the higher figure could trigger mandated system expansions even though the numbers are predictions and not actual counts.
Though initially our figure was nearly twice what the water district anticipated, said Kask, we felt the basis of their calculations needed updating. When they use more recent figures their predictions are quite close to ours, apart by no more than perhaps 1,000 residents in 2020, and this they can handle.
Brown agreed, saying theres not much significance to this small difference in projected population since well be required to respond to the actual growth by the county anyway. He went on to say that the water district is required to conform to the numbers in the countys over-all plan. We cannot adopt a plan that makes changes to the countys figures, Brown said, and their population predictions come from Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM) calculations.
Kask explained that The OFM projects population growth by county in ranges - high, medium and low - and requires planning committees to use them, figuring out projections for specific areas by stepping down from the county figures. Our result is slightly in the conservative range of their numbers, though Birch Bay remains the fastest growing area in the county.
For Brown, the larger issue looming is development of water rights. We currently use about 600,000 gallons a day and have rights to use three million gallons a day, some of it from the Nooksack, but if the development plans arent approved then well have trouble moving our water from where it is to where we want to store it and use it.
In addition to chapter 9 on utilities, the committee also adopted chapter 4 that describes the community profile, chapter 11 on parks and recreation and chapter 13 on public education. This leaves chapter 12 on the local economy and chapter 15 on governance for the next meeting..