Lake Whatcom has new Phosphorus restrictions placed on future developement

lakePhosphorus restrictions have been placed on new developments in the Lake Whatcom watershed.

Whatcom County Council passed new rules on Tuesday, July 23. Future development around Lake Whatcom must not put excessive amounts of phosphorus into the lake.
The unanimous  vote also enables the council to end an 8 year moratorium prohibiting subdivisions around the lake with lots smaller than five acres.

How will this all play out?

Will smaller lots will be available for building? Will building come to a halt in Sudden Valley? Will existing homes in the watershed be burdened with similar restrictions?

The new rules met with resistance from real estate groups who felt  the  estimated new  stormwater controls, adding at least $25,000 in development costs was too high a price for the small lots in Sudden Valley, and for the small amount of phosphorous that would be filtered.

There are about 700 vacant lots in the lake’s watershed that are less than 10,000 square feet  and most of them are  in Sudden Valley.

Future development runoff may not add more phosphorus to the lake than the lot would if it remained forested. This “phosphorus neutral” requirement is part of a long-term plan to cleanup Lake Whatcom.

A  report by the state in February, required the county to come up with a plan in five years for cleaning up Lake Whatcom, spurred ruling.

Excessive phosphorus runoff encourages more algae growth,which in turn means more bacteria, robbing the lake of oxygen. This not only hurts fish, but makes algae concentrations high enough to slow Bellingham’s water filtration system during the worst periods.

Lake Whatcom is the water source for about 100,000 people.

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