Lakes in Whatcom County are important because they provide critical fresh water environments for many aquatic plants, animals, fish, and insects, as well as provide multiple recreational, sport and enjoyment opportunities. Several of Whatcom County's lakes, including Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish, also provide significant sources of potable water for human consumption.
Lakes are bodies of water that are supplied with sufficient water flow to keep their basins at least partially filled throughout the year. The water balance of most lakes is maintained by inflow of surface water. Though lakes can also be fed by underwater seeps or springs, most lakes are both fed and drained by streams.
Habitat functions provided by lake spawning, breeding, rearing and
foraging areas for fish, amphibians, waterfowl and other wildlife.
Shallow, sheltered shoreline areas and riparian vegetation such as
trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants along a lake shore are
important for fish and wildlife habitat.
Lakes can provide multiple benefits, including:
Shade and water temperature stability
Shoreline bank stabilization
Source of insects for foraging wildlife
Protective cover from overhanging branches and leaves
Under water cover from submerged vegetation
Protection from wind and wave action
Reduction and filtering of stormwater runoff
Lake ecosystems are affected by a variety of influences outside of the
water. Development impacts along lake shorelines vary with the type of
development and the type of lake where it occurs. Common development
impacts are result in removal of native shoreline vegetation, bulkheads,
increased stormwater runoff, introduction of dissolved nutrients, and
Removal of shoreline vegetation, aquatic and/or
riparian, can result in a loss of fish habitat, shade, insects and other
aquatic organisms important to fish foraging. Lake shore defense works,
like marine shore defense works, may also result in increased erosion
of lake sediments which can disturb or destroy fish spawning and rearing
habitat, as well as erode neighboring beaches and uplands. Increased
stormwater runoff and toxics can decrease overall water quality,
increase sediment inputs and turbidity, and increase nutrient inputs
which can contribute to more frequent occurrences of aquatic weed growth
and algae blooms like those experienced at Lake Samish in recent years.