Lake Whatcom new homes ban sends builders scrambling

06:14 PM PST on Saturday, February 12, 2005


BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Whatcom County leaders are worried about the purity of their largest drinking water source, so this week they took action. And that action set off an unexpected surge in home building.

A building boom is going on around Lake Whatcom.

This time of year scenic Lake Whatcom shines peacefully in the winter sun. But in the hills surrounding the lake, there is a building boom under way.

Home builders are racing to beat the clock after county leaders enacted a partial building moratorium around Lake Whatcom. It could take effect within days.

Lake Whatcom activists say the ban on building is long overdue, saying the lake has deteriorated over the past several years. The lake is more than just a community centerpiece, it is the only available drinking water source for nearly 90,000 people.

"And the problem with that is we have no place else to go,” said Dr. Susan Kane-Renning, lake resident and activist. “If we damage Lake Whatcom it would be too costly to go elsewhere."

But builders argue they will be the ones paying the bill for this decision.

"We will not understand the consequences of this for several years but it will definitely put some people into bankruptcy," said D.J. VanWeerhuizen of North Coast Builders.

It's the flip side of the many benefits of classic city lake, a place where people want to live and play. But if you add that all up and you have an urban lake under stress. That's not unusual -- it happens all that happens in communities all over the country. The difference in Bellingham is that this is their drinking water source.

The Whatcom County building ban may go into effect as early as next week. It is only a temporary moratorium and it will be reviewed in May.



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