Protecting Whatcom's Valuable Shorelines

We all have a place near water we love, live near, or depend on for our livelihood. Enjoying a paddle or swim with family on the unparalleled beauty of the lakes, rivers, and sea that surround us is a core part of Pacific Northwest life. And we access those special places through shorelines. 

Our valuable shorelines — relied upon by oysters, clams, herring, salmon, even orcas — are in urgent need of protection from the impacts of climate change like sea level rise and fiercer storms that we're already witnessing. We have a chance right now to update the county program that governs protecting our shorelines, called the Shoreline Management Program (SMP), in 2019 and early 2020.

Why are stronger shoreline protections so important? Shorelines (including streams, rivers, lakes, marine shorelines, and adjacent wetlands and uplands) sustain a bounty of aquatic life, filter toxic substances from rain runoff, provide critical habitats, prevent erosion, and moderate impacts from flooding. Contaminants from stormwater runoff, invasive aquatic plants, and toxic algae blooms threaten drinking water and are damaging critical freshwater shorelines and fish habitat. And the threat of more overwater structures like docks, piers, wharfs, floats and ramps would affect eelgrass and kelp beds that provide shelter for forage fish and juvenile salmon — impacting habitat needed to support the food chain that orcas depend on. The SMP dictates what's allowed to happen within 200 feet of any type of shoreline — that's a huge portion of Whatcom County, and why your voice is so important to hold county officials accountable for keeping shorelines safe into the future.

Here's how you can help:
  1. Attend a county-hosted open house near you and let county staff know you support safeguarding our valuable shorelines from climate change and haphazard development. More info here.
    1. Deming: June 19th, 7 - 9:00 pm, at Mount Baker High School, 4936 Deming Road, Deming (map
    2. Bellingham: June 25th, 7 - 9:00 pm, at Civic Building Garden Room, 322 N Commercial St, Bellingham (map)
  2. Add your voice here and we will send your support to the Whatcom County Council.
  3. Sign up for our Clean Water and Clean Energy newsletters, where we'll keep you informed about actions to take throughout the months-long process of protecting Whatcom's shorelines.
Whatcom County needs to hear from everyone that this program must address the impacts of climate change and sea level rise, and protect Lake Whatcom and the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. Now is the time for us to speak up for shoreline protection and restoration. Add your voice here.

This is Whatcom County's only chance in the next eight years — during which the effects of climate change will only become more real — to safeguard our shorelines, homes, businesses and our waterfront from rising sea levels, fiercer storms, and haphazard development near these important places.