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J.E. “Sam” Ryan, CBO

5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Telephone: (360) 676-6907

Application Process

Natural Resource Assessment

It is important to understand the natural resource requirements of your property at the earliest possible stage of the building process. Our Natural Resource Assessment Process aims to provide that information with as much detail and accuracy so that future building permits may be issued as quickly as possible.  This will determine what reviews are necessary regarding:

  • Critical Areas,
  • Watershed Regulations, and
  • Flood Regulations.

The Natural Resource (NR) Assessment process works like this:

  1. The applicant contacts County NR staff by phone (360-676-6907), email, or in person.
  2. County NR staff provides a brief review based on the information at hand. At this time, NR staff will determine which NR reviews need to occur. If no NR reviews are required, the NR Assessment may be waived by staff.
  3. Return this Submittal Checklist and a conceptual development site plan to Whatcom County. NR Staff will take in these documents and determine if  staff needs to perform a site inspection to verify critical areas on site.
  4. NR Staff may perform a site inspection.
  5. NR Staff will then compile a document which outlines all NR requirements of building permit submittal or any issues that may affect future development. If there aren’t any issues or requirements, a NR approval document will be created for submittal with the building permit. **If there is information or documentation required prior to building permit submittal, you may submit that information prior to submittal of the building permit. This will allow staff to review and possibly provide a NR approval document, which would lead to minimal NR review of the building permit and potential building permit issuance over the counter.
  6. Submittal of a building permit with NR approval or NR requirement document and all documents/studies that are required.

If a proposal is within shoreline jurisdiction you will need to contact a shoreline administrator to obtain the necessary shoreline approval(s). Whatcom County Planning & Development Services will not accept a building permit application without a copy of a shoreline decision for the proposal.


Other Watershed Information

Special overlay district regulations may apply to administrative approvals, building permits, clearing permits, and discretionary permits.  The real determination of whether the special districts apply is whether the location is in one of the regulated watersheds.

Bring your 16-digit tax identification number (parcel number) to the Planning and Development Services permit counter and a Watersheds Planner will help you find out.

Permit Review

Your permit will be routed to the watersheds review team in order to assess which regulations apply, among others these may include:

  • Limits on impervious surfaces;
  • Seasonal clearing restrictions;
  • Stormwater controls for water quality and quantity; and
  • Installation of erosion and sediment controls (ESC) prior to land clearing activities, unless land clearing is necessary for installation of ESC. An inspection of installed ESCs is required at the start of the project.

Due to the administrative complexity of these regulations, it is usually best to visit with a Watersheds Planner to have any additional questions answered.