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Water Quality Collaboration Spans The Border

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Pepin Creek At The Border Crossing

As local water quality partners wrap up a multi-year collaboration with Canadian counterparts, work continues on both sides of the border.

Did you know that some of our creeks in Whatcom County actually begin in Canada? Fishtrap Creek, Bertrand Creek, and Pepin Brook (Double Ditch) originate in rural, agricultural areas of B.C. and flow through the cities of Aldergrove and Langley before crossing the border into Whatcom County north of Lynden. The streams are important for salmon and wildlife habitat, agriculture and irrigation, and even recreation. These creeks flow to the Nooksack River and eventually Bellingham Bay and Portage Bay.

Map of Transboundary Streams

Recognizing this connection, local partners have worked closely with colleagues in British Columbia (B.C.) since 2018 to address fecal bacteria concerns in our shared Nooksack River watershed. This effort started in 2015 when bacteria was tracked crossing the border. In 2016 the agricultural community, represented by the Ag Water Board, requested action. A letter from County Council to Gov Jay Inslee initiated a trans-boundary task force to address bacterial pollution crossing our northern border.

Through a project called the B.C.-WA Nooksack River Transboundary Technical Collaboration Group, partners have been completing communication, compliance and stewardship, and monitoring activities. Local and B.C. partners have carried out tasks individually and jointly.

A final Year 3 report summarizing water quality trends, outreach efforts, and compliance and stewardship activities can be found in: The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

Takeaways from the Year 3 report: Water quality monitoring shows improvements at some monitoring sites. Specifically, Fishtrap Creek has seen improving water quality over the three years of the project. Pepin Brook (you may know this as Double Ditch) had high bacteria over the winter 2020-2021. The joint monitoring allowed partners to identify this problem and communicate with B.C about solutions. Continued work is needed in many portions of the watershed to meet water quality targets. You can follow water quality results on the Whatcom Conservation District's Water Quality Monitoring Map.

The formal project ended July 31, 2021. Even though the formal three-year project is over, work with our Canadian neighbors will continue. Some ongoing activities include:

  • Monthly water quality sampling in Bertrand and Fishtrap Creek watersheds (WA only)

  • Focused, weekly sampling twice each year (May and November) to understand the impacts of different seasons on water quality.

  • Compliance inspections of permitted facilities by regulatory agencies in B.C. and WA

  • Ongoing communication and outreach coordination between B.C. and WA project staff.

For more information, contact Aneka Sweeney or Meg Harris at Whatcom Conservation District (360) 526-2381.

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