Since 1946, the Whatcom Conservation District (CD) has worked with landowners and farmers to foster a healthy, sustainable relationship between people and the environment. Recent record flooding has showcased the importance of that work.
In November, two sequential atmospheric rivers drenched Whatcom County causing intense and widespread flooding. Within two weeks, Whatcom County received nearly the rainfall expected over three months, filling manure storage facilities on local dairy farms. Realizing the potential devastation for dairy farmers and for water quality, Whatcom CD reacted quickly with help from partners, to secure funding for farmers in need. Funding was provided by the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Washington State Conservation Commission, Whatcom County, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the National Estuary Program's Shellfish Strategic Initiative at the Washington State Department of Health. Learn more about current flood resources on our flood resources page.
Pictured: Manure Lagoon
Dairy farmers in particular can be impacted by rainfall because most dairies store manure in lagoons open to the sky. Manure stored over the winter is later used as fertilizer for crops. Dairy farmers utilize a detailed Dairy Nutrient Management Plan to calculate the winter storage needs for their particular farm. Calculations are based on several factors, including the number of cows and anticipated rainfall. Climate data is used to plan for a typical year of rainfall plus an additional buffer. This was not a typical year.
For every inch of rainfall, the average storage structure directly collects over 30,000 gallons of rainwater along with the dairy manure. In November alone these storage structures combined collected over 97 million gallons, over a quarter of their total capacity. As winter rains continue, the potential to exceed storage capacity in these structures is high. Should the structures overtop, the farmers not only would be losing valuable fertilizer, but the bacteria laden liquid would contaminate our surface waters, threatening both human and animal health.
Whatcom CD partnered with WA State Conservation Commission, WA Dept. of Ecology, WA Dept. of Health, and Whatcom County to secure funding for farmers with manure storage at risk of exceeding capacity. Farmers were able to enter into a cost-share agreement with Whatcom CD to be eligible for reimbursement for hauling manure to available storage.
19 producers used the program, moving over 26.5 million gallons of manure to safe storage facilities. The farm planners at Whatcom CD worked to get contracts for funding in place, ensure farmers access to funds, and manage the transfer of manure. All told, the total costshare provided to move at-risk manure was over $300,000. Local farmers are thankful for this effort and quick response.
"The Conservation District did a great job of reacting to this problem and Dakota made the paperwork painless" remarked Tim Vander Haak, Whatcom County Dairy Farmer after transferring manure through the Whatcom CD program.
“Whatcom CD is a great working partner with local agriculture producers as well as property owners. I have worked with them personally to establish best protocols on our farm … I always feel like they are on my side and have my back. They are trustworthy and diligent in the work they do.”
-- Suzzi Snydar, Snydar Farms.
Whatcom CD is dedicated to continuing to work with landowners and farmers now and into the future. To request assistance please call or text Dakota Stranik at 360-526-2387 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.