Birch Bay residents weigh in on water woes

Published on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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About 40 Birch Bay residents attended the first of a series of quarterly meetings held by Whatcom County Planning and Development Services last weekend to give the Birch Bay community a look at how
the state plans to use a comprehensive watershed characterization study that was done in 2007.

“We don’t want this to end up as just another study,” said senior planner Peter Gill, “we don’t want to re-invent the wheel, we would like it to start turning.”

A federal grant was used to create a pilot study to look at ways of adjusting land-use laws with a view toward watershed and stormwater management. The study is now being duplicated in watersheds in the Puget Sound basin, but Birch Bay was first in part because of the number of studies that have been done in the past, making it one of the most thoroughly inventoried watersheds in the state.

It was also a good candidate to be a model study because of rapid growth and the periodic need to close the shellfishery due to pollution.

The project was carried on by state and county agencies and groups such as the Puget Sound Action Team.
“In terms of how the watershed characteristics affect development plans, we find some areas that should be preserved because they’re in good shape. Others are good for development of various kinds and still others ought to be restored,” said Gill.

Future plans include a meeting early in 2010 with various stakeholders such as developers, farmers living in the upper watershed, and Birch Bay residents to work on implementation details and then return in the spring to the community in an open-house style meeting to show more specific implementation plans.

For more information, visit the Whatcom County planning and development services website at