Saturday, May 23, 2009

WRIA-1: Wasted Resources or Important Asset?

Last night's PBS Newshour included a segment which hit home - literally.
It was a film documentary about 'Salmon Wars', which specifically addressed two historic salmon rivers in Washington State;
the Skagit and the Nisqually, just north of Olympia.

One is a success story, but the other isn't.
In both cases fear and distrust between stakeholders was a significant obstacle.

Fortunately, in the Nisqually's case, farmers, timber interests and fishing advocates -including native tribes- came together and forged a compromise that has a chance of working to restore some salmon runs, especially in estuarine areas.

And, unfortunately, Skagit stakeholders are still bickering in denial and distrust -which will ultimately help no one, including salmon.

Check out what the short documentary by Pulitzer Prize winner Hedrick Smith has to say.
He tells it in straight and understandable language.

Meanwhile, our own Nooksack River is suffering from a whimpy lack of effort, and resembles more Skagit-like characteristics.
That is because Whatcom County hasn't finished the important business that it initiated over 10 years ago, to major fanfare.

That business was/is the comprehensive planning effort called WRIA-1, for Water Resource Inventory Area no. 1.

More on this below, but first here's the PBS URL information.
You can access the PBS program segment at;

Then search for 'Salmon Wars'
Hedrick Smith, the recent correspondent for Frontline's "Poisoned Waters" project, reports on cultural collisions in Washington State over salmon fishing.

Or, search PBS website under 'poisoned waters'




Now, back to the Nooksack and its stalled WRIA-1 process:

About $4.5 million was spent on WRIA-1 Phase 1 work before the political pressure became so adverse it stalled the project, thereby adding unnecessary expense and delay, as well as unwanted discomfort to key local politicos.
That is where this unfinished business still sits to this day.
Expensive shelf art, using public funds!
How smart is that?

This sorry result is certainly not the professed goal of local politicians - some of whom are still in office, including our illustrious, Teflon-coated Executive.
Too bad the current administration is not seriously attempting completion of this critical effort, preferring instead to just 'kick that ball down the road' and stick a future administration with an even more difficult job!
REMIND you of anything?

Anyway, WRIA-1's 'Initiating Governments' numbered 5, of which Whatcom County was unquestionably the 'lead agency'.
The other prime participants were the City of Bellingham, The Lummi Nation, The Nooksack Tribe and Public Utility District [PUD] 1.

It's too bad these sponsors weren't called 'Initiating AND COMPLETING Governments', and that Whatcom County hasn't been up to fulfilling it's State-mandated LEAD agency role.
But, hey, if we citizens don't hold some elected feet to the fire, they can be counted upon to slide through the line of least resistance -kinda like Newton's Law.
More details for those interested in WRIA-1 are available from several government websites; Whatcom County, Washington State and the US Government:


But, the main point of this posting is simply to REMIND that we do have serious unfinished business, plus maybe INFORM a few folks who remain blissfully unaware of such matters.

To those who may to prefer to think the Nooksack River is mainly there to provide a leg of next Sunday's Ski to Sea Race, I have news for you; it serves critically important economic, social and ecological functions that are irreplaceable in nature.

Did you know that our countywide growth will be limited by water supply, not land supply?

Did you know that keeping resources - like water - clean is easier and much less expensive than any other alternative?

And, did you know that if you don't speak up and demand action, none will likely occur?

Finally, do you realize that the last 'increase' in County Flood Tax does not begin to even RESTORE adequate funding for critical work like WRIA-1?

Please keep that in mind when you hear spurious complaints about 'taxes'.

It was a good thing that the County Council -acting as the Flood Control Board- finally decided to take this particular matter into its own hands, which did require excluding our Executive from the process!

Now, it's time our elected leaders demonstrate more of the foresight, fiscal responsibility and courage that benefits everyone, including future generations...

My two previous posts on WRIA-1 can be found in Hamstertalk Archives, at:

Important County Water Programs Funding: Decision ... Lake, Stormwater, WRIA-1 5/11/08

WRIA-1: Whatcom County's Unfinished Water Business... Lake, WRIA-1 9/30/07