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Letters to the Editor, Week of Dec. 6, 2023

Letter genders, Puget Sound, sewage solutions and homelessness

Editor,

The “State of the Sound” report has just been released. It is prepared every two years by the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority to provide a summary of the current conditions in Puget Sound.  

The report concludes that the Puget Sound is holding on, but its recovery remains uncertain. This mixed scorecard is concerning. Merely clinging to life with little improvement is not sufficient progress.

Nearly 80% of estuarine wetlands, which are critical to salmon and marine and shore birds, have been diked in the last 150 years. About 3,400 acres have been restored since 2006. While positive, when this gain is compared to projected sea level rise over the coming decades, there is a serious risk that even those gains will be literally drowned out by the rising tides.

Terrestrial birds are in steady decline. The Golden-Crowned Kinglet has declined by 60% in the western U.S. over the last 60 years. Many others are in serious decline.

Marine bird populations are also way down. The endangered marbled murrelet has been declining 5% per year since 2000. Local marine bird surveys show significant declines in many species that winter in our local waters.

Here in Whatcom County, we must heed the warning of the report. “Barely holding its own” is simply inadequate. We must make a greater effort to preserve our natural shoreline habitats, and our remaining mature and old-growth forests, and do much more to help the sound to recover and to thrive.

Robert Kaye,

Conservation Committee Chair

North Cascades Audubon Society

Editor,

I was surprised to read that none of the solutions for upgrading and replacing parts of the Bellingham sewage treatment system included conventional, proven technologies that meet existing ( and proposed) environmental regulations.  

Normal requirements for such a project would include minimized lifecycle costs, meeting all requisite environmental regulations, guaranteed reliability, and achieving “sustainability” objectives, which might be interpreted as minimizing the use of fossil fuels. 

The existing incinerator utilizes combustion of natural gas to dry and combust the biosolids into ash. That method consumes natural gas. Most new sludge incinerators instead utilize fluidized bed combustion, in which the biosolids themselves contain sufficient heating value to sustain continuous combustion, utilizing a small amount of natural gas only for initial startup heating. 

The fluidized bed incinerator can be configured to better achieve required Clean Air Act emission requirements. If the units are required to shut down nightly to minimize noise emissions, then the fluidized bed can be restarted in the morning with minimal, or zero use of restart natural gas.  

The innovative methods suggested to be tested in the article, if not yet proven commercially to meet reliability goals and the EPA part 503 environmental requirements, may introduce a significant risk to the Bellingham community, as an extended loss of use of such a facility cannot be tolerated. If Bellingham yet chooses that route, it is hoped that the contract contains strict requirements and penalties if the requirements are not met.

Francis David Fitzgerald

Glacier

Editor,

I saw someone who goes to my school with their family and shopping cart in tow, homeless, on the street. It was jarring. I often wonder what it’s like to lie in your sleeping bag in the pouring rain in the middle of the night in Bellingham.

Thankfully, I don’t know what it’s like, but 1,000 people in Bellingham do. Recently, I was at a party with my parents, and they were talking to an emergency room doctor. He was saying that his view on homeless people has totally changed since working in the ER. One time, there was a man who was in the emergency room who was yelling at everyone, cursing and using all sorts of foul language towards him and the other staff. The next day though, after he had been given the medication he should have been using, and was off the other drugs he was taking, he was using manners, saying things like “yes, sir” and “thank you, sir.” This made the physician realize those aggressive actions are not who these people are, they just need resources.

People experiencing homelessness and also struggling with drug abuse and mental illness don’t have the right support other than ending up in a hospital or jail. There are so many people experiencing homelessness in Bellingham who need support. Reflecting on seeing a classmate homeless on the street, it makes me wonder, what is their story, how did their family get to the place they are now? What resources do they have? What is society doing to solve this issue?

Jonna Gillham

Student, Fairhaven Middle School

Editor,

Wow, this week’s [Nov. 29] letters to the editor were all written by men. Don’t any women in Bellingham know how to write? Are you selecting the male perspective only? Do you know it’s 2023?

Carol Brach

Bellingham

Editor’s note: Yes. No. Yes. 

Editor,

Re: BSD Bellingham Family Partnership and heat for Larrabee School.

I suggest that there are plenty of folks who would be happy to donate to a crowdsourced funding effort. Count me in.

Craig MacConnell

Bellingham

Editor,

I am part of this club, the World Influencer’s Club at Fairhaven Middle School, and we are talking about homelessness. I recently went on a trip to Olympic National Park, and we were driving through the small town of Coupeville to get on our ferry, and I saw something that really stood out to me. I hadn’t seen this in Bellingham, and I was surprised at first. It was a homeless mental health and therapy building.

Doing some research about homelessness, I was jaw-dropped at what some countries are doing to help fight homelessness. I read Denmark and Finland have almost no homeless because they have developed systems to get homeless people back on their feet. This is a system that is leading them to a 0% homeless rate by 2027. 

Connecting this back to what I saw in Coupeville, will Bellingham have a solution like this to help with our massive homeless issue? Will we get the mental health facilities we need to get the homeless back on their feet? 

Will Parnow

Bellingham

Editor,

I’m an 18-year-old student in Bellingham. I’ve loved orcas for as long as I can remember. I’ve gone to San Juan Island every year since I was a kid to see the Southern Resident orcas and I used to see them every year. But now sightings are few and far between as the orcas disperse in search of dwindling chinook salmon. I’ve watched this unfold knowing the science is clear: these orcas are starving to death. 

We know much of the Southern Residents’ diet comes from the Columbia/Snake River system. The Snake River salmon are relied upon by the entire ecosystem, from orcas to bears to trees. Tribes depend upon these salmon for their culture and livelihood. Fishing communities rely on these salmon for their livelihood as well. Losing Snake River salmon would be catastrophic.

With the Snake River dams in place, however, the wild salmon population has plummeted. Year after year, these salmon have not been at replacement levels. They are going extinct. The Snake River dams must be breached.

Recently, a plan was leaked from the Biden administration to work on replacing the Snake River dams’ benefits. This news is a beacon of hope for a future Pacific Northwest that works for humans and ecosystems alike. Biden: Keep going, for the salmon, for the orca and for all of us, breach the Snake River dams.

Owen Begley-Collier

Bellingham

Letters to the Editor are published online Wednesdays; a selection is published in print Fridays. Send to letters@cascadiadaily.com by 10 a.m. Tuesdays. Rules: Maximum 250 words, be civil, have a point and make it clearly. Preference is given to letters about local subjects. CDN reserves the right to reject letters or edit for length, clarity, grammar and style, or removal of personal attacks or offensive content. Letters must include an address/phone number to verify the writer’s identity (not for publication).

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