Baron: Nooksack Basin Dispute Could Have Big Impacts On Water Rights Across Washington

A water rights issue in Northwest Washington could have long-term and damaging impacts on the rights of farmers across the entire state, that according to Gerald Baron, Executive Director of Save Family Farming.

The state Department of Ecology is currently moving toward the adjudication of water rights in the Nooksack Basin in Whatcom County. Baron said not only could this have a huge impact on the 100,000 acres of farmland in the area, it could set a precedent that could put junior and senior water rights into question. Baron says debates over water rights, tribal jurisdiction and the environment have already caused great harm to farmers in California and the Klamath Falls area.

“The courts have been deciding and jurisdictions that provide rights to water don’t have that authority given the impact of tribal interests.  It’s a big issue, it’s a big concern and of course, land without water has little value for anything certainly not farming.”

And Baron noted when farmland disappears, especially in an area like western Washington, urbanization take place. He noted 60% of farmland in the Puget Sound area have already been lost to urbanization. And, Whatcom County currently produces 70% of the fresh and processed Red Raspberries grown in the U.S.

Baron added farmers across the state need to pay close attention to what happens in Whatcom County.

“Should Ecology decided to move forward with it, they’d have to go to the Legislature in order to get funding, and it will cost millions, multiple millions of dollars to take this to court, and it will probably take decades to get resolved. It’s a bad idea and it’s going to stop all the efforts that are going on right now aimed at protecting fish and also the negotiations that are going on between all parties aimed at resolving any water rights issues.”

Baron added Ecology should decide by mid-September if this is an issue that will be taken before lawmakers during the 2021 session. Click Here to learn more about water issues facing farmers across Washington and across the Northwest.

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