This fall and early 2020, Whatcom County is updating the rules that protect saltwater and freshwater shorelines throughout the county. These habitats are essential for endangered salmon and orcas‘ survival.

Our valuable shorelines — relied upon by oysters, clams, herring, salmon, even orcas — are in urgent need of protection, and we have a chance right now to update the Shoreline Management Program that governs Whatcom's shores. 

Here's how you can help:

  1. Learn about what changes Whatcom County should make to keep our shorelines healthy into a climate-changed future

  2. Sign up for our Clean Water and Clean Energy newsletters, and we'll keep you informed about actions to take throughout the months-long process of protecting Whatcom's shorelines. The next important time to have your voice heard is January 2020.
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. Read Shannon Wright's opinion editorial on the subject to learn more: Save Whatcom County money and plan for sea level rise now.

What's happened so far 

Over 500 people signed our petition in Fall 2019 asking Whatcom County to protect our shorelines by better planning for climate impacts, and studying whether we're meeting Washington State requirements that there be "no net loss" to vital shoreline functions over time. Thanks to your input, Whatcom County Council said they would study how well we're achieving the "no net loss" mandate, as well as looking into sea level rise impacts when they approved the new Shoreline Management Program (SMP) scope on September 10th (full scope here). This means that the SMP is more able to do what it's designed to do: protect shorelines! The Council will also look into...
  • Improving habitat and shore-friendly program incentives
  • Overwater structures like piers and wharves
  • Consistency with updated laws regarding bulkheads for single family residences
  • Cherry Point area policies and regulations, as per Council recommendations
  • Gravel extraction, as per Council direction
  • Lake Whatcom language regarding drinking water
  • Marine Resource Lands policy

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.

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. Read more about the Shoreline Management Program update on Whatcom County's webpage.