Farmers Call For Changes To Nooksack River Management System
Farmers in Northern Whatcom County, in the NW corner of Washington, are calling for comprehensive changes to the Nooksack River Basin's water management system after November's floods. Local farmers say all water storage options need to be on the table, including removing river sediment, protecting farmland and fixes to waterway improvements like dykes, backchannels and floodgates. Save Family Farming’s Dillon Honcoop grew up in the area 30 years ago and doesn't remember a more devastating flood. He said over 75% of the city of Sumas' homes had significant damage, while communities like Everson, Nooksack, Ferndale and the Lummi Reservation also saw homes destroyed. He added the farming community was greatly impacted by the floods, both on the farm and with the supply chain.
"We know that when things become difficult for farming, farmland goes away. More development in the flood plains is only going to cause more problems with flooding for everyone up and down the Nooksack River Basin."
Honcoop said the Nooksack basin deserves the kind of attention other basins around Washington get in terms of water management. With a proper water management system, floods could become more infrequent and less devastating while water can be better saved for the dry summer months.
He also points to the Washington State Department of Ecology's desire to adjudicate the Nooksack Basin's watershed as another threat to good water management in the area. According to the Department of Ecology, adjudication "is a process that brings all water users in a watershed into one big court process that leads to full and fair water management by confirming legal rights to use water. The process legally and permanently determines everyone’s water rights in that area."
"If the state continues that, it will block progress on protecting people from flooding, it will block progress on improving our environment, and even dealing with the low flows in streams that are causing problems in drought times."
Honcoop added that other farmers need to be aware of the state's proposal for adjudication as well as the precedent it could create for other watersheds and farms across the state.
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