The state’s official court filing of the water rights adjudication for the Nooksack Basin is a sad moment for our farming community in Whatcom County. While we knew the adjudication filing was coming for some time, it still reflects a major milestone. Despite the many efforts by Whatcom farmers to encourage collaborative efforts on water issues, the Department of Ecology continues to pursue an expensive, litigative, non-collaborative approach that risks further dividing our Whatcom community.

Ecology’s comments continue to be disingenuous, if not completely misleading. Ecology has pushed the blame for the adjudication on to the state legislature, claiming that the adjudication was filed at the request of the state legislature. However, Ecology made this decision on their own, the legislature had no role in directing Ecology to file an adjudication.

Ecology also claims to be willing to work on water solutions, and yet when pressed in a recent Whatcom County Agriculture Advisory Committee meeting on how Ecology plans to encourage settlement, Robin McPherson, Ecology’s adjudication manager, noted, “We are filing the adjudication… we really don’t have a statutory role in convening any kind of settlement, solutions table, or settlement meetings.” In other words, Ecology plans to file a lawsuit on a contentious subject and openly admits they don’t have the authority to do anything to solve this complex issue.

This action will undoubtedly lead to many of our farms exiting. Without the certainty of water access, farms will disappear and rural sprawl will accelerate. We hope this threat to the fabric of Whatcom County finally spurs some action to protect our farms.