Bellingham man calls property owners ‘collateral damage’ in Whatcom water dispute
State officials will take over planning for water use in the Nooksack River watershed after the Whatcom and Skagit county committees failed to agree on a solution, the Department of Ecology said Tuesday.
Ecology said in a statement that a Nooksack River watershed plan was due Feb. 1, so, under Washington state law, Ecology will develop that plan.
“To accommodate rural growth and protect water needs for fish, the legislature adopted thelast year. It requires local watershed planning groups to approve plans for offsetting future water consumption by new permit-exempt wells in their watersheds,” Ecology said in the email.
Planning for water use is an offshoot of the state Supreme Court’s 2016 Hirst decision, which said Whatcom County had violated the Growth Management Act and wasn’t protecting its water resources when deciding whether to issue permits for wells that draw from groundwater in the Nooksack basin.
The Bellingham Herald reported earlier that in 2018 the state Legislature reversed the Supreme Court’s decision, allowing counties to use Ecology rules for water resources, which let Whatcom County issue building permits for projects that depend on wells.