Legislature Funds Water Adjudication in The Nooksack River Basin

Tribal Council

For immediate release

Contact: Karlie Kinley, Lummi Nation, karliek@lummi-nsn.gov, 360-988-1288. Katherine Romero, Nooksack Tribe, katherine@nooksack-nsn.gov, 360-383-6510.

Bellingham, WA – April 28, 2021 – This weekend the Washington State Legislature appropriated funds for Ecology to begin sorting out water rights in the Nooksack basin. In other words, adjudication. 

Both the Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Indian Tribe look forward to working with the broader community as we build a future where salmon and people have the water they need to succeed in Whatcom County. 

“We thank the Governor and legislators; this is a good step and is the only legal path we have in Washington to make sure there’s enough water in the Nooksack River for salmon, farming, and people,” said Chairman Ross Cline Sr., Nooksack Tribe. “Climate change is upon us and the sooner we get started, the sooner we can find solutions for water.”

For years people have tried to find voluntary local solutions, with little success. Water rights must be resolved if we are going to protect and recover salmon. A formal court judgement of the water claims in the Nooksack – an adjudication – is the only tool available to Washington State to sort through competing water claims. An adjudication is an inventory of who has a right to how much water, when it can be used, where it can be used, and what it can be used for. It legally and permanently determines everyone’s water rights, providing much-needed certainty for fishing, farming businesses, and people.

The budget proviso funds Ecology to prepare and file adjudications in both Lake Roosevelt and the Nooksack watersheds with $463,000 in 2022 and $537,000 in 2023. It also includes $250,000 for Whatcom County to develop planning and technical work, and to support an unspecified collaborative project. Technical work, particularly expanding on existing water quantity data, is much needed. 

“The residents of Whatcom County are our neighbors. With adjudication, we can look to a future where all our grandchildren are able to harvest salmon from our waters and still make a living on the land,” said Chairman Lawrence Solomon, Lummi Nation. “This will be a long journey, but we are committed to the future of our people. The journey begins now.”