Rich Appel farms just north of the Nooksack River in Ferndale.
“Our family has been on that farm for about 55 years and my whole life,” Appel said. “I’ve been living on the river and been been around the river and over the last number of years we’ve been involved in a lot of collaborative efforts with different projects on our farm and I feel like whenI heard about the adjudication happening it was just a real downer for the entire farming community.”
Appel says he believes there is a better way to solve the water issues than going to court.
“We know that means people are gonna have to start diverting attention from doing the positive things of fish habitat restoration. We have to start looking at, you know, how are we going to prove our rights before a judge in a court setting,” Appel said. “So I was very disappointed. I feel that we’ve made progress. I feel like the community always does better when it comes together and works on these problems collaboratively and I don’t see where adjudication is really gonna add to the fish and it’s really from our farmers perspective.”
Appel emphasizes the focus needs to be on fish.
“This is an issue about fish. We do understand the necessity to get the fish runs back up to a sustainable level and we’re fully engaged in the whole issue surrounding fish, which is a lot more than just an adjudication battle over who controls the water. So not only does it provide massive uncertainty to the farming community — it feels like we’re just gonna be going on a twenty-year dead-end road. We’re not really gonna solve the issue, but we’re gonna spend 20 years jockeying and positioning and fighting and trying to prove these rights. And, at the end of the day, we’re not adding one fish.”
Appel says the best thing for the community and for fish is to solve the problem together instead of going to court.
“Let’s get to the table and work them out and I just encourage our community to stay informed and you can follow us at fishneedfarms.org and stay informed there and be a part of this process.”