Tribes waiting for answer to key Whatcom water rights question – Bellingham Herald

What affects one Tribe affects them all. This story is relevant because if the Tribes can sue to and come to an agreement on how much water is “enough” in these rivers, it will set precedent for all rivers throughout the Salish Sea. Might be the next “big thing” that makes the WRIA debate mild in comparison. As well it should, as we cannot assume that we can take unlimited water from the watersheds in a time of climate warming. There just won’t be the snow pack to support this.

Local Indian tribes sought federal legal action to clarify critical Whatcom County water rights issues more than 18 months ago, but so far there has been no response. The tribes contend that their fishing rights, recognized by the federal courts based on the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855, also contain a guarantee of Nooksack River water that is abundant enough and clean enough to support the salmon that spawn in the river and the shellfish in the tidelands that can be harmed by pollution. Local governments don’t dispute that, but years of negotiations have failed to reach agreement on how much water must be left in the river and its many tributaries to maintain tribal fisheries. John Stark reports.

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