“This has to be a process of the community coming together. … Hearing everyone’s concerns and working together to make real, long lasting solutions, rather than hashing it out in a courtroom where everyone is pitted against each other.”
Governor Inslee recently signed his $59 million budget, which included a very small amount to be allotted to the state’s Department of Ecology and to Whatcom County to begin both pre-adjudication work and collaborative discussions among all water rights holders. Some are afraid that this is a foregone conclusion that an adjudication of water rights in the Nooksack River Basin will happen.
“No, not really,” explained Fred Likkel, Executive Director for Whatcom Family Farmers. “What the governor signed is language that calls for pre-adjudication work.” In the state’s budget, the Department of Ecology was allotted $1 million to begin gathering info and data over the next two years that would be needed to begin the adjudication lawsuit against all water rights holders in the Nooksack River Basin. Whatcom County also received $250,000 to start collaborative and settlement discussions.
Likkel says farmers have been calling for these collaborative talks all along. “This has to be a process of the community coming together,” he said. “Hearing everyone’s concerns and working together to make real, long lasting solutions, rather than hashing it out in a courtroom where everyone is pitted against each other.”
Citing the same process that was done to settle water rights issues in the Yakima River Basin, Likkel pointed out that their process took 30-40 years of fighting to get the parties to come together outside of adjudication, and say “how can we work together?”
“We’re saying let’s start working together right now, because otherwise when you’re in a lawsuit, all you’re doing is going into your corner and trying to beat each other up.” Likkel went on to say, “It was not the adjudication that fixed the issue. It was people saying, “let’s get together, and let’s work this out as a community.””