Bellingham postpones discussion of Nooksack River water withdrawals

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 16, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - City Council postponed further discussion of a plan that would enable the city to withdraw its water supply from the Nooksack River in Lynden and Ferndale, in addition to its existing Middle Fork diversion site much farther upstream.

The plan had been placed on the council's Monday, Sept. 16, agenda, but Mayor Kelli Linville said she wanted to postpone action on it until city officials have a chance to better explain its purpose to concerned citizens.

"There seems to be a little confusion," she said. "I would prefer that there be no confusion about what the city is trying to do."

Linville and her staff are seeking council approval of an application to the Washington Department of Ecology, asking the state agency to approve the alternative city water withdrawal sites as an amendment to the city's existing right to use water from the river.

City staffers say the arrangement, if approved, could be one small step toward a solution of countywide water rights issues that have bedeviled local governments for many years. Among many other things, the proposed new water withdrawal options downstream could leave more water in the upper river for salmon.

But citizens and other water users are touchy about the complex issue. In recent weeks, some city residents have expressed fears that Bellingham water could be sold to Lynden to fuel Lynden's growth. Lummi Nation has sent Bellingham a letter objecting to any change in city water withdrawals until the tribe's own right to sufficient water for salmon populations is recognized.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or Read his Politics Blog at or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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