PRESS RELEASE – February 3, 2022

Contact: Dillon Honcoop,


Farmers Join North Whatcom Cities in Plea for State Leaders to Stop Ignoring Water Management Crisis


Mayors of Sumas, Everson, Nooksack, Lynden and Ferndale blast state leaders for leaving major water crisis “virtually unnoticed”


(LYNDEN, Wash.) The Whatcom County Farming Community agrees with north Whatcom’s small cities: state leaders need to stop efforts designed to delay solutions for both flooding and drought in the Nooksack River Basin, and start supporting real action to protect families, fish and farming.


In a Jan. 25 letter to the state departments of Ecology, Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife, the mayors of Sumas, Everson, Nooksack, Lynden and Ferndale criticized the agencies for being “focused on other priorities,” while the basin’s water management crisis “goes virtually unnoticed.”


After a summer drought that killed thousands of salmon, followed by a devastating flooding in November, the mayors slammed Ecology’s multi-decade legal strategy to litigate all water rights in the Nooksack Basin, asking director Laura Watson if spending millions of dollars and decades in court “…make sense in the light of these twin problems and growing crisis?”


“We thank the Whatcom small cities for their candor in calling out the state’s backward approach that will serve only to worsen the dangerous water management failures already hammering our communities, our salmon and our farms,” said Fred Likkel, Whatcom Family Farmers’ Executive Director.


“We have publicly urged immediate action on key areas of needed improvement, including sediment management, water storage, river fixes and farmland protection. Instead, we get excessive regulation, heavy handed litigation, and proposed legislation that would decimate our farms. All being done without any realistic efforts to engage the community in collaborative, common sense solutions.” Likkel said.


“It is refreshing to see key leaders in our community campaign for a start to real solutions. We need to end harmful actions that only serve to create discord in our communities. These kinds of actions only block the collaborative work and solutions needed to protect families, fish and farming in the Nooksack Basin,” he said.


The mayors pointed to last year’s weather extremes, including record heat, drought, and then flooding as evidence of not only a worsening water management crisis, but a changing climate that threatens to continue to accelerate the problems.


“We call on you to hear us, meet with us, listen to our concerns and reconsider your priorities,” the small city mayors wrote in the letter addressed to Washington State Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson, state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Hilary Franz, state Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind, and state Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison.