According to new rules that the Whatcom County Council passed on Tuesday, July 23, future development around Lake Whatcom must not put excessive amounts of phosphorus into the lake.
The unanimous vote enables the council to end an 8 year moratorium prohibiting subdivisions around the lake with lots smaller than five acres. Does this mean 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 resistance from real estate groups because the estimated new stormwater controls would add at least $25,000 in development costs – too high a price for the small lots in Sudden Valley, they said.
There are approximately 700 vacant lots remaining in the lake’s watershed that are less than 10,000 square feet – the majority of them in Sudden Valley.
Future development runoff may not add more phosphorus to the lake than the lot would if it remained undeveloped. This “phosphorus neutral” requirement is part of a long-term lake cleanup plan.
A state report, released in February, requiring the county to come up with a plan in five years for cleaning up Lake Whatcom, spurred the county councils action.
Excessive phosphorus runoff encourages excessive algae growth,which in turn triggers more bacteria and robs the lake of oxygen. This not only harms fish, but makes algae concentrations high enough to slow the city’s water filtration system during the worst periods.
Lake Whatcom is the water source for about 100,000 people.