Whatcom County Council discusses BBWARM, new Lummi ferry funding


Whatcom County Council held only one meeting over the month of August, on August 8. The council discussed a swath of issues facing the region, and a few issues pertaining directly to Blaine, Birch Bay and the north county. 

In a unanimous 7-0 consent, the council authorized the entrance into a contract between the county and FCS Group, a municipal construction company, to conduct a rate study and funding analysis for the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management (BBWARM) District. The cost of the initial study was set at $61,440.

BBWARM was created as a way to provide supplemental funding for Birch Bay’s stormwater management after community concerns arose over water quality, flooding and aquatic habitat loss. 

The next advisory committee for BBWARM will be held 6-8 p.m. October 18 at the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center, 4819 Alderson Rd, Unit 103. Meeting minutes, documents and virtual participation links can be found at the advisory committee website at bit.ly/3EuXzzk. 

The council also discussed approaches to expand broadband internet services around the county, especially to rural regions like the Mt. Baker foothills and northern unincorporated regions and allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to assist in county Search and Rescue efforts to fund a new building in Everson. The council voted 6-1 to approve the motion and begin discussion of using $1.1 million in ARPA and other funds. 

Much discussion was had over funding for a new Lummi Island ferry, and an upgrade to the dock terminal. The council held a brief, 40-minute special meeting on September 5, discussing county executive Satpal Sidhu’s veto of an ordinance amending the ferry rate. 

“My veto is not intended to be confrontational, my veto is about the process,” Sidhu said in his executive statement. “Our citizens were given certain expectations, which in my understanding, were not met.”

The current ferry, the Whatcom Chief, is a 60-year-old vessel in dire need of replacement. In August 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted the county a $25 million RAISE grant to replace the ferry with an electric-battery hybrid ferry. 

Puget Sound Energy conducted a power grid feasibility study this summer, and recommended changes to the electric infrastructure that could cost anywhere between a few hundred thousand dollars to $1.1 million.


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