Farming community joins other local leaders’ calls to reinvigorate county-wide collaboration on flooding, water access solutions

(LYNDEN, Wash.) Whatcom Family Farmers agrees with the mayors of five Whatcom cities, who are expressing their concerns about the Washington Department of Ecology’s troubling efforts to promote a harmful legal action against local water users, rather than support an inclusive, collaborative process to reach comprehensive solutions.

In a June 14 letter to Ecology director Laura Watson, the local mayors suggest the agency’s efforts to promote an antiquated legal process known as a ‘water rights adjudication’ served to discourage community collaboration, which as a result has now stalled.

The Whatcom County farming community has been outspoken that collaborative water management solutions that aid salmon recovery, lessen flood risks and protect local farming are urgently needed, and that a water rights adjudication’s acrimonious and costly litigation would create a lose-lose not just for farmers, but for everyone in the communities around the Nooksack River Basin.

Whatcom farmers applauded the state legislature’s 2021 decision to support a collaborative process in the Nooksack basin, despite Ecology’s opposition. Now that the process is at an impasse, farmers share the mayors’ dismay, and agree that major questions remain about Ecology’s efforts to stymie community collaboration.

“Could misunderstandings about the adjudication process have led to this decision? Have Ecology’s efforts to promote adjudication led to the belief that litigation is the only answer?” the Northern Whatcom County Small City Caucus asked in their letter.

Whatcom Family Farmers joins the mayors in calling for answers about Ecology’s misleading  statements, as well as an immediate reinvigoration of a community-based collaborative effort toward comprehensive solutions for the Nooksack basin’s ongoing water management crisis.