Potato Harvest in Whatcom County
Seed potato farmer, Scott Bedlington, farms over 400 acres of farmland that would be irreplaceably lost if the PSNERP project were to move forward.
Whatcom County Farm Bureau opposes the funding authorization for PSNERP for the following reasons:
- Farm Bureau policy opposes the implementation of the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP), and the inclusion of private farmland in any planning efforts without first notifying the landowners that their land is being considered for inclusion in the project.
- The U.S. Army Corps (Corps) and the WA Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) have spent $20 million and more than a decade developing the project list that led to the selection of the projects in Jefferson, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
- Over this time, very limited public outreach has occurred about the scope and impacts of the proposed projects, and affected private landowners have yet to be notified their land is within the boundaries of these projects.
- Staff from the Corps and WDFW could and should have contacted affected landowners. In July 2014, the Corps issued Real Estate Plans for the three projects that clearly identified each parcel impacted, the size of the parcel and who owns it. They knew who they needed to talk to.
- A third-generation family farm in Whatcom County owns a significant amount of prime farm land within the boundaries of the proposed Nooksack River Delta project. They have stated in formal comments to the Corps and to WDFW that they will not sell their land. This land is vital to the family’s and region’s potato seed crop production and cannot be relocated to other parts of the county.
- The Corps and WDFW have both formally stated they will not exercise eminent domain to acquire farmland from unwilling sellers. Sadly, many landowners do not trust the declaration about eminent domain made by the Corps or WDFW. This distrust is largely tied to the work of these agencies to seek funding authorization for these projects before they have talked with the people who own the land.
- The projects as currently defined are not likely feasible due to the acreage that would not be part of the project because landowners are unwilling to sell their land.
- We believe landowners must be notified first to gauge their willingness to sell their land, and if yes, for what price. Only then should the project boundaries be established and funding authorization sought.