Improvements To Duffner Ditch Good For Fish, Farmers

A newly completed project on a tributary of the Nooksack River is improving life for both salmon and farmers. Salmon will again be able to spawn in Duffner Ditch, thanks to a state-of-the-art fish-friendly floodgate, which replaced an older, inefficient floodgate that was minimizing salmon habitat. The old floodgate was also leaving a lot of sitting water on top of farmland for longer than it needed to. Executive Director of Whatcom County Farmers Fred Likkel called the project a “win-win.”

“For the farms, it gets the water off the field quicker. For the salmon, it provides not just a place of refuge if there’s a flood event but it also is now opening up this (creek) to multiple miles of salmon habitat which weren’t there before.”

The project was also sorely needed Likkel pointed out, as increased flooding has been reported in the area. Farmers supplied land and support for the project. Crews were forced to redirect the stream’s water while the floodgate was installed. The over half a million dollar project was a product of local farmers, Whatcom County, NRCS, the Whatcom County Conservation District and other partners.

“I think it’s really important to note that the farming community cares very passionately about the environment too,” Likkel continued. “They want to be able to see salmon survive just as much as everybody else does. So to be able to help out and provide additional salmon habitat, places for salmon to thrive, is something that is going to make the farming community feel pretty good.”

​A similar project is also happening a little upriver in the Cougar Creek area. The district is also looking a couple of ways to improve depleted stream flows in the late summer. One idea involves moving irrigation withdrawals from streams to groundwater. The other concept is a little more direct, with water being pulled directly from the area’s plentiful aquifer to augment stream flows.

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