Awkward moment caught live on Seattle radio leaves Whatcom flood victims and farmers offended and confused about the Washington Department of Ecology’s policies on flood and water management
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
EVERSON, Wash. (Feb. 6, 2022) – Northwest Washington suffered a lost life, over $100 million in damages and hundreds of homes destroyed in the recent flood. But Washington’s Department of Ecology’s flood management specialist tells the community “Nope” when asked about a solution. In a rare moment of transparency, a top Washington State Department of Ecology official conveyed on live radio what his agency apparently thinks about protecting Whatcom families, fish and farming from another flooding disaster.
Farmers, city mayors and other community leaders have been calling for immediate work on key solutions, including river sediment management, water storage, waterway fixes and other measures to prevent another such catastrophe. But David Radabaugh, Northwest Region Floodplain Management Specialist for the Department of Ecology, on the Feb. 3 episode of KUOW-FM’s Soundside news program, flatly denied that the state is even considering the possibility of removing sediment from the Nooksack River to protect nearby communities from future flooding.
“Well… at this point… Nope,” Radabaugh said bluntly in response to host Libby Denkmann’s repeated question about whether the state is considering sediment removal on the Nooksack. When Denkmann then asked him if he could elaborate on his blunt answer, he responded, “No, I’m afraid not.” While KUOW reports that Ecology later claimed Radabaugh’s arrogant responses were a result of “technical difficulties,” farmers and flood victims in Whatcom County aren’t buying it, and are crying foul.
“This is deeply troubling, if unsurprising, “ Dillon Honcoop, Communication Director for state-wide farm advocacy group Save Family Farming. “This administration and especially Ecology have proven tone-deaf when it comes to the concerns of smaller, rural communities. We see that in plans to sue water rights, holders, in creating bills that would destroy most farming in Western Washington, and now in dismissing the very real concerns of flood victims desperate for help.”
In The Bellingham Herald on Feb. 6, Ecology falsely claimed that November’s deadly flooding, and the water management failures that it exposed, is a “separate issue” from the water-rights lawsuit the department has been touting–as the solution to the basin’s water management problems. “The argument that the multi-decade court fight they want somehow wouldn’t strangle flood prevention work and water management improvements–and that the issues aren’t even linked–just simply doesn’t carry water,” said Honcoop.
Save Family Farming affiliate Whatcom Family Farmers has highlighted numerous harmful aspects of Ecology’s desire for a water rights court battle, which is a threat not only to the future of farming, but to open space, protection and restoration of critically endangered salmon runs, and also the crucial work urgently needed to prevent the further loss of life, environmental harm and economic devastation of another flooding disaster.
Dillon Honcoop, Communications Director