Sunday, July 13, 2014

Whatcom County Council Course Correction on River Erosion Site

The Whatcom County Council opted not to fund a river erosion project after initially asking to have the project added to the River and Flood 2014 work plan. I have to admit the title of the Bellingham Herald story covering the project was clever

I previously did a summary of the erosion site (county-tax-dollars-to-protect-private-land). The Council had supported adding the project by a 4-2 vote, but process required an official amendment to the County 2014 work plan, and at that point two council members after some more thought decided this project was not such a great idea given all the other unfunded projects and its overall very low priority ranking. Hence, the scheme was voted down with 2 in favor and 5 opposed.

Ken Mann was strongly opposed and made the motion to pull the project. He has consistently stated his opposition to using tax dollars to protect private land. Barry Buchanan and Pete Kremen changed position and voted with Mr. Mann. Mr. Kremen articulated that he struggled with the scheme and cited that the advisory committee recommendation had been divided with a bare majority. Rud Browne opposed all along voted to remove the project as did Carl Weimer. Sam Crawford and Barbara Brenner voted against removing the project from the work plan.

Barbara Brenner, as is typical of her political style, argued with made up facts and no regard to the County funded study that indicated that the erosion by the river at this location was not a significant threat to the State Highway 9.

One issue that did come up is the cost share component to this project. The County would cover 70% of the cost and the local subzone would cover 30%. This aspect alone should have been a big red flag as typically the local subzone district would be the entity pushing a project as they have to cover 30% of the cost unless the Council takes a further action to deviate from the cost share formula. The local subzone in this area has not been meeting as it lacks representatives and this project would have been a very big hit to the subzone budget for years to come.       

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