In December 2017, the Whatcom County Council established the Lake Whatcom Stormwater Utility Service Area (Ordinance 2017-076) under the authority of RCW 36.89. The Service Area includes the entire unincorporated (outside city limits) Lake Whatcom watershed (see map below). Property owners in the City of Bellingham already pay city stormwater utility fee, which helps fund Lake Whatcom programs. The purpose of the this new stormwater utility is to provide additional funding for Whatcom County’s efforts to clean up and protect Lake Whatcom water quality. The county’s existing funding sources have not been not sufficient to meet Lake Whatcom program needs to comply with state-mandated reductions in phosphorus and meet federal Clean Water Act requirements.
From June 2018 to March 2019 Whatcom County Public Works conducted a funding study to evaluate stormwater utility rate structure options. At the end of the funding study, County Council considered the proposed rate structure and approved Ordinance No. 2019-053 in July, 2019, establishing the utility rates. In 2020, 50% of the annual fee was included on property tax statements. In 2021, the full annual fee was included on property tax statements.