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Whatcom berry farmer agrees to pay $80,000 fine for illegal water use

A Whatcom County berry farmer has agreed to pay a reduced fine after being penalized for illegal water use and not supplying water records for two farms in the Nooksack River basin.
A Whatcom County berry farmer has agreed to pay a reduced fine after being penalized for illegal water use and not supplying water records for two farms in the Nooksack River basin. The Bellingham Herald file

A Whatcom County farmer fined for illegally watering his raspberries and failing to submit records on water use has agreed to pay $80,000, the Washington State Department of Ecology announced Wednesday.

Gurjant “George” Sandhu originally faced Ecology penalties totaling $102,000.

He appealed to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board before reaching a settlement with Ecology that included the reduced fine.

Ecology fined Sandhu, doing business as Crystalview Raspberry Farm, on Dec. 16 for separate violations on two farms he operates in Whatcom County.

The first original fine was $90,000 for illegally irrigating a 220-acre raspberry farm for at least two years, Ecology said then, adding that Sandhu didn’t have approved water rights for most of the property. His water rights allowed him to irrigate 35 acres, according to Ecology.

The second original fine of $12,000 was for not submitting accurate water metering records for a 120-acre blueberry farm, a requirement that was part of a settlement for previous illegal water use, according to Ecology.

Ecology said it has tried to work with Sandhu to bring him into compliance with the law, since 2011 for the blueberry farm and 2015 for the raspberry farm.

As part of the settlement, Sandhu also agreed to install water meters, allow officials access to his property and secure water rights for his raspberry farm.

If Sandhu violates the settlement within three years, he would have to pay the original $102,000 and could face more penalties.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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