Monday, May 9, 2011

Wetland Requiem

In November of 2010, I was granted the opportunity to tour a stunning piece of land located east of Blaine which is planned to become the future site for 1,030 new homes. Our visit revealed serene natural beauty that is comparable to some of Washington State’s magnificent national parks. Heading northeast of the entrance, we journeyed toward the north end of a large pond, and witnessed the wilderness of this area come alive. A small footbridge brought us to the other side of a crystal clear stream which drained the large body of water. Each footstep exposed the valuable habitats and breathtaking forests that are hidden behind the gates which enclose this property. What looked like an owl or large hawk suddenly swooped down from its perch, and batted its wings further north towards some densely wooded forest. The untouched banks of this stream sloped steeply to provide water habitat deep enough for salmon and other migrating fish to lay their eggs and prowl for food. Having the chance to experience nature in such a pristine state was surely a treat, but the visit also acted as a harsh reminder of what will be lost if the intended plans are completed.

Grandis Pond is a body of water just under 20 acres and part of a wetland which totals 54.8 acres The site is located 3.5 miles east of Blaine’s city center between H Street and the Canadian border. Development of this area will effectively contribute to the effects of urban sprawl rather than infill, since intervening land is comprised of forest and agriculture. A total of 440 acres of land are at risk of adverse impacts, and approximately 94.5 acres of the total land area consists of ecologically valuable wetlands. Planning of this development was dictated using outdated science. Consequently, it will severely segment, alter, and damage critical functions of the wetlands and habitats this land provides.

Two different studies of this area have shown the presence of sensitive species and potential habitats that would be endangered by the impacts of development. Some species at risk include salmon and migrating trout which were observed in streams surrounding Grandis Pond. Maybe more importantly, the entire site is also a critical aquifer recharge area, a significant source of Blaine’s drinking water. Any contamination of Blaine’s aquifers would be expensive to clean up, with the bill footed by local taxes. This is a possible scenario when development is planned on top of an aquifer recharge area. Unfortunately, Canadian waters and fish are also in danger of being polluted by this development.

This area encompasses a piece of increasingly scarce scenic landscape that would be more intelligently utilized as a park or wildlife preserve, despite its resources having been logged twice previously. With the proposal of this development, tough decisions must be made between the temporary growth of a city, or safeguarding invaluable resources for the preservation of ecological health and drinking water. My bottom line is that this development is planned in the wrong place, and that there are far more appropriate uses which could be utilized on this property. If you are citizen who is concerned about the preservation of natural beauty and precious resources of Whatcom County, please take this chance to get involved and make a difference in your own community.

Thanks to Baykeeper Intern, Wes Cunningham, for providing this text and photo.

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