A nonprofit group representing the irrigation needs of farmers in Nooksack River Basin in Northwest Washington has come out in opposition of the state’s plan for managing the area.  An example of challenges the county faces is encapsulated in a two-month period in the fall of 2021, when severe drought conditions followed by flooding.  The sequence showcased the county's twin problems of too little water at some times, and too much water at others.

with the Ag Water Board of Whatcom County said another concern is the distribution of irrigation, which is very scattered.  He noted, several farms have inadequate water rights while many have not used their rights to capacity, and still others have converted to micro irrigation.  The state is now focused on managing water in the Nooksack River Basin via adjudication, which Bierlink said would be extremely counterproductive.

"If we go through an adjudication, a lot of that water is going to end up being lost, because we can't prove that we've used it to its fullest extent over the past five years.  So, we just know that the legal process is the least likely way to solve to solve problems here. And it puts agriculture in a really bad situation."

The state legislature steered $1 million to the Department of Ecology last year to start up an adjudication process for managing water.  The Department is now charged with formulating the adjudication process in 2023.  The Ag Water Board of Whatcom County is trying to stop the state from moving forward, and instead allow for collaboration among water users in the Nooksack basin.

"We're still trying to get all the parties together at the right table that would actually do what we've been asking to do, a collaborative process to set up a good integrated water management plan for this whole basin."

Bierlink said using adjudication to manage water would destroy the future of agriculture in the Nooksack River Basin.

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