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Washington Can’t Wait

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

If Northwest Washingtonians have learned anything from the past couple of years, it’s that the changing climate isn’t just hitting the United States’ hurricane-prone coastlines or the arid West. The change is at our doorstep too. 

In early September 2020, smoke from historic wildfires blanketed Western Washington. The air quality was so hazardous that kids couldn’t play outside for days. In the winter just prior, Whatcom County was inundated with unprecedented flooding from heavy rains that breached dikes and submerged houses, costing over $4 million. 

Don’t worry—this article isn’t about more climate doom and gloom. Right now, an excellent piece of legislation, House Bill 1099, currently moving through the Washington state legislature, will help each community plan for climate change. But lawmakers need support from community members to pass it.

HB 1099 creates local authority in Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan counties to actively plan for how climate affects each neighborhood, road, and safe and affordable city center. Local authority is critical because climate change looks a little different in every town and on every stretch of shoreline. Local governments need the tools to address the impacts unique to their communities. HB 1099, one of several “Washington Can’t Wait” climate change bills, will ensure cities and counties are planning for climate impacts, such as drought and sea level rise, while addressing housing affordability and environmental justice.

By updating the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA), local governments will be required to adopt comprehensive plans that incorporate new climate change goals. These goals are far-reaching. Every county has a comprehensive plan that outlines goals and priorities for growth, including what can be built and where, and which forests, agricultural lands and shorelines will be protected from unchecked development. While Counties can voluntarily go above and beyond GMA requirements to respond to climate change, they are often starting from scratch without any assistance.

Local planning for climate change isn’t required. HB 1099 would fix that.

Addressing climate change is not a requirement in the existing GMA—a law that hasn’t been updated in 30 years. This is a huge oversight. For example, local governments might allow development in areas that will be inundated by sea level rise, among other climate risks. 

Local governments also have unique capabilities to curb emissions because they can encourage new development in areas well-served by grocery stores, parks and other services, reducing the need to drive. HB 1099 will strengthen city centers and encourage density. Urban sprawl is bad for the climate, as it usually forces people to drive more. It’s also more costly for taxpayers, as municipalities have to fund more roads, sewers and other services. 

Towns and counties must revisit their comprehensive plans periodically to determine how they will accommodate population growth while balancing environmental protection, natural resources like farmland and forests, the economy, transportation and more. We only have a brief window to make changes to the GMA before Washington’s cities and counties embark on their next comprehensive plan updates, which often lock in policy for the next decade or more.

“Mother Nature doesn’t give you points for participation or an A for effort. We really have to tackle this sooner, not later,” state Representative Davina Duerr, HB 1099’s lead sponsor, recently told InvestigateWest.

Sea level rise is a pressing issue in our region, especially in San Juan County and the low-lying Skagit River Delta. Sea level rise will increase flooding in our cities, shoreline erosion, and seawater intrusion into groundwater.

In San Juan County, winter high tides already lap over some roadways, leaving virtually no shoulder. In Skagit County, the chance of a high tide coinciding with a flooding river is increasing. Seawater already backs up from Skagit Bay nearly to Mount Vernon during high tides. Passing HB 1099 will help communities address the issue of sea level rise as counties plan where they can build buildings and future transportation infrastructure.

When the GMA passed in 1990, the focus was on appropriately managing Washington’s surging population growth and protecting our farmlands that were being paved over. Now, Washington needs improved growth management for the 21st century. 

House Bill 1099 is part of the aptly named Washington Can’t Wait campaign, which prioritizes legislation that will update the GMA for today’s challenges. The GMA and statewide comprehensive planning must address climate change because our communities are already experiencing its negative impacts. Please take action and urge our lawmakers to plan for our counties’ future now by visiting futurewise.org/1099

Co-authored by Katie Fleming, Friends of the San Juans; Tom Glade, Evergreen Islands; Karlee Deatherage, RE Sources

Past Columns
On Police Reform

July 21, 2021

Emissions-Free Future

November 11, 2020

Restoring the Grizzly

July 22, 2020

Unhealthy wages

June 30, 2020

Iowa Fiasco

February 5, 2020

Oil Slick

October 23, 2019

Rethink Our Food System

September 25, 2019

The Kampuchean Lobbyist

April 10, 2019

The Public Charge

November 28, 2018

Road to Damascus

April 18, 2018

Orcas and Oil Don’t Mix

February 21, 2018

End Cash Bail

February 7, 2018

A Sorry State

January 31, 2018

Backyard Cottages

January 17, 2018

Fight City Hall

January 10, 2018

Net Neutrality

November 29, 2017

Thursday
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9:30am

Celebrate our local water resources when Whatcom Water Week kicks off with a “Run With the Chums” event Saturday at the BP Highlands in Birch Bay. Events continue through Sept. 19 and include…

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10:00am

Join Sustainable Connections for Eat Local Month through September as they support and share the work of local farmers, fishers, ranchers, chefs, restaurateurs and grocers in Whatcom, Skagit,…

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10:00am

Choose from 22 varieties of apples located on 62 acres at U-pick events taking place from 10am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays at Bellewood Farms, 6140 Guide Meridian. Free apple bin train…

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6:00pm

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10:00am

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11:00am

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Bowls to Fill at Good Earth

11:00am

“Bowls to Fill,” featuring members of Whatcom Artist of Clay & Kiln (WACK), will be featured from 11am-5pm daily through Saturdays, and 11am-4pm Sundays through September at Good Earth…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm daily at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St. Reka Zoltan’s wood cuts and etchings will be featured through Sept. 19.

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11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Fall Exhibits at Jansen Art Center

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden from 11am-7pm Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 11am-5pm Fridays and Saturdays at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

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11:00am

Catch longtime glass artist Steve Klein’s new exhibit “Discovery” from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through September 26 in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First…

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11:00am

View a Whatcom Artist Studio Tour Gallery Showcase from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 25 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. Presenting a wide range of media, the exhibit…

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12:00pm

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12:00pm

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3:00pm

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3:00pm

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4:00pm

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4:00pm

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4:30pm

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5:30pm

Listen in on Robert Sarazin Blake & Friends at a Happy Hour Concert Series taking place from 5:30pm-7pm Thursday at the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 8pm-11pm,…

Trackside Tunes

7:00pm

Felix the Hammer will perform from 7pm-8pm at Kulshan Trackside at Waypoint Park, 1145 Granary Ave. From 8:15pm-9:45pm, the Whags will take the stage. The group continues to gain notoriety…

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7:30pm

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Upfront Back in Front

7:30pm

Catch the Upfront Theatre’s long-running show “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at 7:30pm Thursday at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. At 7:30pm and 9:30pm Friday and…

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7:30pm

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7:30pm

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9:00pm

Episcool, Heirz, & Winzlo wukk will join BUKI for a 9pm show Thurs., Sept. 16 at the Wild Buffalo House of Music, 208 W. Holly St. Other upcoming highlights include the Red Not Chili Peppers…

Friday
Whatcom Water Week

9:30am

Celebrate our local water resources when Whatcom Water Week kicks off with a “Run With the Chums” event Saturday at the BP Highlands in Birch Bay. Events continue through Sept. 19 and include…

Fall Classes at BAAY

12:00pm

Starting Sept. 12, Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth will begin offering a variety of classes and shows for students ages 4-17. All classes are currently scheduled to take place in person at…

Paintings of My Life at Gallery Syre

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 23 at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a selection of more than 60 works…

Eat Local Month

10:00am

Join Sustainable Connections for Eat Local Month through September as they support and share the work of local farmers, fishers, ranchers, chefs, restaurateurs and grocers in Whatcom, Skagit,…

U-pick at Bellewood Farms

10:00am

Choose from 22 varieties of apples located on 62 acres at U-pick events taking place from 10am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays at Bellewood Farms, 6140 Guide Meridian. Free apple bin train…

Bellinghistory Tours with the Good Time Girls

6:00pm

Through Sept. 23, the Good Time Girls will lead free “Bellinghistory” tours at 6pm Wednesday in Fairhaven, and 6pm Thursday in downtown Bellingham. The Wednesday tour will highlight the…

Red Elvises and Beyond at Shakedown

8:30pm

Red Elvises will perform at 8:30pm Wed., Sept. 15 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The show will be followed by a number of other gigs this month—including Fossil Fire, Island Gigantism,…

Future Artifacts at MoNA

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Oct. 10 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

Art Aloft Member Art Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Art Aloft” Member Art Show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Oct. 15 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW.

Bowls to Fill at Good Earth

11:00am

“Bowls to Fill,” featuring members of Whatcom Artist of Clay & Kiln (WACK), will be featured from 11am-5pm daily through Saturdays, and 11am-4pm Sundays through September at Good Earth…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm daily at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St. Reka Zoltan’s wood cuts and etchings will be featured through Sept. 19.

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Fall Exhibits at Jansen Art Center

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden from 11am-7pm Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 11am-5pm Fridays and Saturdays at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Yoshiko’s Folly: Shirbori Hats by Fine…

Discovery

11:00am

Catch longtime glass artist Steve Klein’s new exhibit “Discovery” from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through September 26 in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First…

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour Gallery Showcase

11:00am

View a Whatcom Artist Studio Tour Gallery Showcase from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 25 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. Presenting a wide range of media, the exhibit…

Anne Martin McCool at Scott Milo

11:00am

Acrylics by Anne Martin McCool will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 28 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave. Mixed-media works by…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

12:00pm

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Sunnylandfest

12:00pm

Attend the second annual celebration of Fest beers, “Sunnylandfest,” from Thursday through Sunday in Bellingham’s Sunnyland neighborhood at Twin Sisters Brewing Company, Wander Brewing,…

Semiahmoo Sips

3:00pm

From 3pm-5pm, attend “Semiahmoo Sips” in Blaine at the wine cellar at Semiahmoo Resort, 9565 Semiahmoo Pkwy. A sommelier will pour samples of four different wines from a rotating menu while…

Whatcom Teen Writers

3:00pm

Students in grades 6-12 can join Whatcom County Library System for “Whatcom Teen Writers” discussions taking place from 3pm-4pm on Zoom. Hone your craft, practice creative exercises, share…

What We're Reading Book Club

4:00pm

From 4pm-5pm, Deming Library staff member Erin Suda will host a virtual What We’re Reading Book Club meeting on Zoom. The club is for folks who love to share books they’ve enjoyed and hear…

Tween Reads

4:00pm

Youth in grades 4-6 can sign up for weekly “Tween Reads” discussions with Whatcom County Library System taking place from 4pm-5pm on Zoom. Whether you like graphic novels, fantasy, realistic…

Virtual Handbags for Housing

4:30pm

At 6:30pm, Lydia Place will host its annual auction and fundraiser, “Handbags for Housing.” General admission to the virtual event is free. VIP tickets are $125 and include early online…

Boundary Bay Music

5:30pm

Listen in on Robert Sarazin Blake & Friends at a Happy Hour Concert Series taking place from 5:30pm-7pm Thursday at the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 8pm-11pm,…

Trackside Tunes

7:00pm

Felix the Hammer will perform from 7pm-8pm at Kulshan Trackside at Waypoint Park, 1145 Granary Ave. From 8:15pm-9:45pm, the Whags will take the stage. The group continues to gain notoriety…

The Wingmaker

7:30pm

Another world premier by iDiOM Theater’s Playwright in Residence, Rosalind Reynolds, takes place this weekend when The Wingmaker shows at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday at the Sylvia…

Upfront Back in Front

7:30pm

Catch the Upfront Theatre’s long-running show “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at 7:30pm Thursday at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. At 7:30pm and 9:30pm Friday and…

Proof

7:30pm

David Auburn’s Proof opens this week with showings at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday, and 2pm Sunday in Lynden at the Claire vg Thomas Theatre, 655 Front St. The drama tells the story of a…

The Smell of the Kill

7:30pm

Michele Lowe’s The Smell of the Kill will continue this weekend with performances at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday, and 2pm Sunday at the Bellingham Theatre Guild, 1600 H St. The dark…

Wild Buffalo Live Music Lineup

9:00pm

Episcool, Heirz, & Winzlo wukk will join BUKI for a 9pm show Thurs., Sept. 16 at the Wild Buffalo House of Music, 208 W. Holly St. Other upcoming highlights include the Red Not Chili Peppers…