New report from former Asst. Solicitor to US Dept. of Interior says process not only would solve Nooksack water rights issues, but also support needed conservation and infrastructure projects impossible under litigation

(LYNDEN, Wash.) Salmon habitat restoration, water supply infrastructure, flood prevention and other crucial work needed in the Nooksack River Basin would all be ‘on the table’ under a collaborative settlement process, a new report from a national expert and former federal leader shows.

Ramsey Kropf, former US Department of Interior Assistant Solicitor, shows how opportunities provided by a federal settlement process, including access to potentially hundreds of millions in federal funding, stand in stark contrast to court-led water rights litigation, which could essentially disqualify the Nooksack basin for most available federal dollars.

“Indian water settlements can address solutions for habitat, storage, groundwater management, and other land and water management concepts that can benefit many parties,” Kropf writes in the new report recently shared with local government and tribal leaders.

Kropf has mediated several such settlements across the western US, and shares key examples of successful settlements in major basins, as well as where litigatory efforts failed to produce holistic solutions. She also notes that collaborative efforts can bring agreements in years, rather than decades.

“We urgently need to solve the Nooksack basin’s water management crisis, and this new report provides important detail on the benefits of a collaborative process, which we know is the only path that can truly protect local families, fish and farming,” said Fred Likkel, Whatcom Family Farmers’ Executive Director.

The Nooksack basin’s water management crisis involves twin problems of too little water during critical times for salmon, and too much water causing devastating flooding at other times.

Improved water management in the basin under a negotiated settlement process can provide improved water supply and habitat to protect fish and farming, while simultaneously serving to reduce and control the kind of flooding that last year killed one person, countless animals and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to local communities.

The full report is available here:

07182022 Memorandum re Indian Water Rights Settlements