Lake Whatcom is the primary drinking water source for about 100,000 people in and around Bellingham. Ecology determined in 1998 that the lake fails to meet water quality standards. The primary concern is low levels of dissolved oxygen as a result of increased levels of phosphorous and fecal coliform bacteria entering the lake.
Since 2002, Ecology has worked on a water quality improvement study called the Lake Whatcom TMDL (total maximum daily load).
The final TMDL report concluded that in order to restore the health and quality of the lake, approximately 87 percent of the current development around the lake needs to be able to store and filter stormwater like a forest, and bacteria levels in the most contaminated streams need to be reduced up to 96 percent.
The final report includes minor changes from the draft TMDL (2013) as well as a response to comments. In addition, the report includes a conservative estimate of the progress that has already been made by partners on meeting TMDL goals. Ecology applauds these efforts to meet expectations of the TMDL before it is finalized.
The 2-volume water quality improvement report (WQIR) has been sent to EPA for approval.
www.whatcomboatinspections.com. Boaters and community members are invited to explore the new website to find quick and easy access to vital information regarding the Boat Inspection Program, including program updates, fees, inspection locations, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention information, and a link to the new AIS Awareness Course.
Community participation is essential in the effort to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species into our county's lakes. The public will play a key role in preventing the spread of AIS, according to Whatcom County's Natural Resources Manager, Gary Stoyka, "We consider this program largely educational in that we are working to create a level of public awareness that will enable people to self-sufficiently clean, drain, and dry their boats to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species to and from Whatcom County waters."
The AIS Awareness Course is designed to further public awareness of the AIS issue. Successful completion of the course entitles participants to a $10 discount on each annual boat permit being purchased. The course takes about 30 minutes to complete and aims to educate participants on AIS prevention and boat inspection practices to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species to Whatcom County waters. Those needing permits for multiple watercraft only need to take the course once to receive the discount for all of their boats.
All watercraft using Lake Whatcom or Lake Samish, including non-motorized vessels such as kayaks and canoes, are required to be permitted and inspected for aquatic invasive species in 2014.
Permits and Day Passes
Motorized or Registered Watercraft (including all motorized boats as well as registered sailboats):
Non-Motorized Watercraft * (including canoes, kayaks, and rowboats):
* A 2014 permit is not required for paddle boards, kite boards, or inflatables that are less than 10 feet in length.
Starting April 26, annual permits and day passes can be purchased by credit by credit card at the Bloedel Donovan and Lake Samish boat launches. For hours of operation, check the website. Inspection services are available by appointment for people with multiple watercraft or who are unable to trailer their watercraft to an inspection station—call the Whatcom Boat Inspection Hotline at (360) 778-7975.
Species of concern
Aquatic invasive species of particular concern are zebra and quagga mussels. These invasive mussels were first discovered in the Great Lakes in the late 1980s, and by 2007, had been transported west to Lake Mead in Arizona/Nevada. Since 2007, they have spread to waterways in several other western states, and watercraft contaminated with these mussels continue to be intercepted at our borders each year.
If transported to Whatcom County lakes, these mussels pose the risk of serious and costly impacts by damaging public and private water intakes, docks, boats, and other shoreline infrastructure. These AIS could also render shoreline areas hazardous and unusable for recreational users and property owners. Additionally, mussel infestations cause long-term taste and odor problems in drinking water and displace native aquatic species. "We are working hard, with the help of our community, to stay ahead of the curve on this issue to protect our drinking water supply and preserve our natural resources," said Jon Hutchings, the City's Assistant Director of Natural Resources.
What’s New in 2014?
The Lake Whatcom Management Program (LWMP) launched the second phase of its watercraft inspection program in 2013, which required all motorized/or trailered watercraft to be inspected for AIS and to display a valid AIS permit sticker prior to launching on Lake Whatcom or Lake Samish. Between April 1 and October 30, LWMP staff conducted 3,192 inspections and four decontaminations at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish. See the Lake Whatcom Aquatic Invasive Species 2013 Annual Report for results from the 2013 boating season.
For more information visit the boat inspection and permit requirements page, attend the info session, or call (360) 778-7719.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (A free lunch is provided for those who pre-register.)
Bloedel Donovan Park Community Building, 2114 Electric Avenue, Bellingham
The City of Bellingham and Whatcom County are sponsoring a one-day workshop for eligible participants of the Homeowner Incentive Program (HIP). HIP provides financial and technical assistance to Lake Whatcom watershed residents within the City of Bellingham, or within the Silver Beach Subbasin of Whatcom County. (Click here for map of eligible area.) Participants have the opportunity to receive between $1,000 - $6,000 in reimbursement eligible projects that reduce stormwater runoff or improve water quality. This event will provide a “one-stop-shop” opportunity to enroll in the HIP, develop an eligible plan, and receive pre-approval for project-related purchases. Attendance at this workshop does not obligate you to develop, agree to, or complete any project. Participation in the HIP is completely voluntary.
Project examples include:
· Rain gardens
· Watershed-friendly drainage improvements
· Native plant landscaping and landscape design
· Permeable pavement installation
Workshop participants will receive one-on-one technical assistance from local, private sector experts to design a HIP-approved project proposal for their property. City and County staff will be available to answer questions, but you may choose to work directly with local, third-party experts to develop and design your project.
Pre-registration for the workshop is recommended. Those who pre-register will be provided a lunch. Snacks and light refreshments will be available for all participants.
(City of Bellingham residents)
Eli Mackiewicz, Stormwater Engineering Technician
(Whatcom County residents)Cathy Craver, Senior Planner
Whatcom County Public Works-Stormwater Division
Whatcom County Public Works is hosting a Self-Guided Bioswale Tour on Saturday, June 8, 9 AM – 12 PM, in the Silver Beach Creek Neighborhood of the Lake Whatcom watershed. Rain or shine. The tour can be attended by bike, foot, or car and is family-friendly.
The tour will include four stations with experts and educators on hand to provide in-depth information through fun, hands-on activities. Discover:
· What a bioswale is and how it works
· Why bioswales are important for Lake Whatcom’s health
· What a stream restoration project is
· What you can do to help
Click here to download a tour map. Stations are located off of Britton Road north of the Bellingham city limits.
· Station 1: Lahti Drive Bioswale located on Britton Road just south of Lahti Drive.
· Station 2: Restored stream channel on the West Tributary of Silver Beach Creek located on Hillsdale Road just off of Britton Road.
· Station 3: Brownsville Drive Bioswale located on Brownsville Drive near Brownsville Place.
· Station 4: Silver Beach Creek Bioswale located at the end of Megan Lane off of Hannah Court. Special incentives and refreshments will be provided at Station Four.
This tour is open to everyone and is being held to provide the community with information about what is being done by Whatcom County to improve water quality in Lake Whatcom and how they can help. Contact Cathy Craver at Whatcom County Public Works Stormwater at 715-7450 with questions.
Watershed-Friendly Project Expo
Saturday, June 1, 2013 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Bloedel Donovan Park, 2214 Electric Ave. Bellingham
Homeowners can browse through booths at this free, open-house style event. Meet expert landscapers and contractors, feel samples of watershed-friendly mulches, drain rock, sand, and permeable concrete, and see examples of rainwater tanks, pavers and native plants. Do-it-yourselfers can find experts to answer their questions, while those looking to hire a capable contractor can meet multiple professionals in one day.
"Our goal is to help homeowners do projects that both meet their personal goals and protect water quality," said Eli Mackiewicz, coordinator of the Lake Whatcom Homeowner Incentive Program. "We want to provide homeowners with the support and resources they need to turn their ideas into on-the-ground realities."
"Around Lake Whatcom, we're trying to reduce the amount of phosphorus that runs off the landscape into the lake, " Mackiewicz said. "Lawns release as much phosphorus in one month as a forest does in one year. Many of the projects Lake Whatcom homeowners are choosing include reducing lawn and increasing native plants, and finding ways to manage runoff on their properties."
This free event is coordinated by the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County with cooperation from Sustainable Connections as part of the Homeowner Incentive Program (HIP). The HIP provides financial and technical assistance to Lake Whatcom Watershed residents who make voluntary improvements to their properties to protect and restore water quality in the lake.
Eli Mackiewicz, Stormwater
Rain Garden Tour de Bellingham
Saturday, June 1, 2013 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
The Rain Garden Tour de Bellingham will showcase a variety of local rain gardens, showing homeowners a new way to help prevent stormwater pollution in their yards. Participants will board a bus with local rain garden experts and begin a tour of rain gardens around Lake Whatcom and throughout Bellingham.
Rain gardens are shallow depressions filled with plants that allow stormwater to be captured and absorbed. Rain gardens function like native forests to filter polluted runoff, and help reduce flooding. When planted with the right types of plants, rain gardens also attract birds, butterflies and bees.
“A well designed rain garden absorbs the first half inch of rain during a rain event,” says Lee First, RE Sources’ Pollution Prevention Specialist. "That first flush of rain contains the most amount of pollution. Incorporating a rain garden into your landscape is one way you can reduce the amount of stormwater that flows from your property helping to keep contaminants out of our waterways."
“While rain gardens are fantastic at removing many troublesome pollutants, improperly installed rain gardens can add to water quality problems when located in sensitive watersheds like Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish,” said Eli Mackiewicz, Stormwater Engineering Technician at the City of Bellingham. "The tour will focus on the special considerations that are taken when designing and installing rain gardens for nutrient-sensitive watersheds.”
Rain garden and stormwater experts from local organizations are collaborating to bring homeowners this comprehensive guided tour, including RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Connections, the City of Bellingham, and WSU Whatcom County Extension. The tour cost is $20 to cover the cost of transportation and lunch. Register at http://raingardentour.brownpapertickets.com to reserve your space and find out where to meet the bus.
Lee First, Pollution
The City of Bellingham will require aquatic invasive species inspections and purchase of an Annual Permit or Day Pass for all motorized or trailered watercraft prior to launching in Lake Whatcom. The Whatcom County Council is expected to finalize similar regulations in April 2013.
Inspection services are available by calling the Boat Inspection Hotline at 360-778-7975 for an appointment, or at Bloedel Donovan Park beginning April 27, 2013.
More information for boaters will be available at the following public meetings:
Click here to learn more about the program.
Stormwater University will host 2 free maintenance workshops for owners of stormwater facilities. Workshop topics will include how to maintain stormwater ponds, bioswales, rain gardens, catch basins, oil water separator, and similar stormwater facilities. Owners of private stormwater systems are encouraged to take advantage of this free training event to learn what you can do yourself and when to hire a professional for assistance. Proper maintenance of your stormwater system will save you money, protect water quality, minimize potential liability, and reduce flooding and erosion. Each session will begin with a series of short presentations, followed by field visits to view various stormwater facility types.
Contact: Lee First, firstname.lastname@example.org (360) 733-8307
When: Saturday, April 20th - 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Where: Bellingham Technical College, 3028 Lindbergh Avenue, Bellingham - Building G, Rm 103B
When: Saturday, May 18th - 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Where: Skagit Valley Community College, 2405 E. College Way, Mount Vernon - Angst Hall, Room A125
Price: Workshops are free, but an RSVP is requested. Refreshments will be provided to everyone who pre-registers.
Funded by: Washington State Department of Ecology, and coordinated by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and the City of Bellingham.
WSU Extensions' GARDENING GREEN: Sustainable Landscaping class provides practical information and simple yet powerful actions to protect our precious water resources. This organic approach to gardening builds a foundation of healthy soil, uses low-impact maintenance practices, and focuses on selecting plants that are adapted to our area.
Learn about environmentally informed gardening practices that will make your landscape easier to care for with each passing year and have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your landscape is safe for your family, pets, and the environment.
Participants are asked to “pay” for the class by doing community outreach to spread the word to friends and neighbors about gardening greener to protect our local environment.
September 11-27 on Tuesdays and Thursdays
9:00am to 1:30pm
1000 North Forest Street at the WSU Extension Office (Entrance located on Laurel Street)
Pre-registration required: email@example.com
Call 671-3891 for more information
The number of participants in this 6-session class is limited and pre-registration is required.
Bring snacks and drinks.