Whatcom Dairy Farmers Continue to Work Collaboratively to Solve Water Quality Concerns
Despite the fact of great progress in managing nutrients, decreasing farm numbers and dairy cows, Whatcom County’s dairy farmers are very interested in furthering their contributions to solving water quality problems, including addressing solutions to the Lummi shellfish bed closures. Farmers for years have been active participants in cooperative processes designed to improve water quality regardless of cause. The Watershed Improvement Districts are one important example.
We also believe that dairy farms continue to be a contributor to the problems as not all farms are completely successful or equally intent on the zero discharge goal of the Dairy Nutrient Management Act. But at least in this case, there is regulation in place to address this with monitoring and enforcement for non-compliance.
Whatcom County Dairy Federation believes that a solution to water quality problems must include all sources of pollution. Environmental activists and farmers need to work together with the understanding that all sources of pollution need to be addressed and that losing our family farmers and farmland represents the highest risk of environmental disaster. Our farmers stand ready to actively participate in comprehensive discussions that include further action from farmers. But real solutions must take into account all potential sources, not just farms.
To place the blame on family dairy farmers for the shellfish bed closures, for elevated nitrate levels, for high fecal coliform counts is not only unfair and inaccurate, it is dangerous. Dangerous because efforts to further regulate or force unjustified requirements or costs on farmers will result in our local family dairy farms selling out, getting out of farming, or moving to more friendly, less costly communities and states. This will not result in improved water quality. Instead, it will further degrade not just our water quality, but our environment and quality of life. We need not choose between fish and farming--even shellfish. Both can be healthy with a strong future. But to focus the blame on farmers may force us to choose between cows and crops or concrete and cul-de-sacs. We believe those who understand this issue will stand solidly behind our family farmers.
What are Watershed Improvement Districts (WIDs) and how can they help?
There are six Watershed Improvement Districts created by farmers and landowners in northern Whatcom County. These are public entities set up to coordinate activities of the farmers and landowners to support irrigation, flood management and water quality. Funding for these activities comes from the farmers and landowners and is a primary way of taking initiative to continually improve all aspects of water, especially water quality.
The Bertrand WID, for example, has led numerous projects designed to help farmers with their water management concerns. Among these projects are water storage to enhance summer streamflows, stream augmentation from groundwater, habitat restoration, deep aquifer exploration, out of basin water transfers, surface to groundwater conversions, and cross boundary educational tours.
For the North Lynden WID a primary concern is to alleviate the damage storm waters have on farms. Periodic flooding in the Fishtrap Creek area, primarily caused by stormwater coming out of BC, is a high priority of the North Lynden WID. Ensuring that ditches are maintained to handle flood waters and maximize drainage after flood events is a means to address this priority.
The Watershed Improvement Districts are government bodies modeled after irrigation districts. These enable farmers to work together cooperatively to address all water issues including water quantity, water rights and law, tribal requirements, conservation programs, efficiency improvements, water quality improvements and much more.
For more information about the WIDs and their activities, please use our contact form or email firstname.lastname@example.org