Farmers in north Whatcom County intend to form four new districts to give them a more cohesive voice in solving some farmers' water-rights shortages.
The County Council on Tuesday, Aug. 5, will consider four signature petitions asking for the creation of watershed improvement districts, also called irrigation districts. The council must approve the petitions as a step to getting farmers to vote to form the districts and elect board members.
The four are provisionally called the Drayton, Laurel, South Lynden and Sumas districts. Council members will hold public hearings on the districts, probably in September, when they also would name them. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed to farmers in October.
The districts would levy a tax based on the number of acres a farm has. The money would be used on projects that would provide more water to farmers - particularly those whose irrigation use exceeds their water rights - and to pay for legal fights over water, according to officials from the Ag District Coalition, which is organizing the districts' formation.
A lot is at stake for farmers in county water planning because Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Indian Tribe have asked the federal government to file a lawsuit that would decide how much water should be left in streams to benefit salmon. When this happens - and tribal officials insist it needs to happen - farmers expect some of them will get their water turned off unless more water is made available.
Council members will discuss the district petitions in a committee meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The petitions and bonds to cover the cost of forming the districts will come before the full council for a vote at its 7 p.m. meeting. Both meetings are at the county courthouse, 311 Grand Ave, Bellingham.