Ensure our shorelines are protected from sea level rise and haphazard development

September 6, 2019

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.

The most effective public comments are specific and personal. You can copy and paste this sample text for your email, and add a personal comment about why you care about this issue.

Send to: council@co.whatcom.wa.us

Send by: Thursday, September 10th

Dear Whatcom County Council,

I am writing to ask that you move forward with an evaluation of the health of our shorelines and whether rules that are intended to protect them are truly achieving no-net-loss of ecological functions. The County is required to monitor the effectiveness of the Shoreline Master Program (SMP), including the 2007 Restoration Plan, to assess whether net-loss of ecological functions and processes is occurring. 

With a changing climate and population growth Whatcom County must know whether our current rules, including restoration plans, are adequate in at least meeting no-net-loss. We can’t afford to wait until 2024 (or later) to assess these critical habitat functions when herring, salmon, orcas and other species are in decline. 

Thank you,

Your Name

City, zip code

Thank you for taking action in support of the habitat salmon and orcas depend on, and the shorelines our communities depend on!