Friday, September 11, 2015

The Swift Creek Fix: Maybe Next Year Mr. Ericksen?

Ralph Schwartz did an article ( on the Swift Creek funding issue and State Senator Doug Ericksen. I had been critical of Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen (washington-state-senator-doug-ericksen) and his failure to keep funding for Swift Creek project in the last state budget (click on the Swift Creek tag to read up on the Swift Creek problem). In my post I put forward that Mr. Ericksen failed his district very badly and intentionally during the last legislative session.

Ralph Schwartz gave Senator Ericksen  a chance to explain. Mr. Ericksen is a very good politician and did a brilliant job. He dismissed my criticism "as an attack from the political left". This is a good approach particularly in his district which is very heavily GOP. He further explained that funding of the Swift Creek project got bumped in favor of a potential fix to the City of Lynden's water rights troubles (I should add that he also added funding for a project in the City of Bellingham that the City of Bellingham did not actually seek). This position of priority to Lynden is also politically smart as far more people live in Lynden than the sparsely populated farmland along Swift Creek, and Lynden was clearly seeking Mr. Erickson's help. Politically giving Lynden priority is the smart political thing to do. Whatcom County was also clearly seeking help with Swift Creek. Mr. Ericksen had to make a tough political calculation and he picked Lynden (that is assuming that it truly was an either or situation). One could speculate that he does not want to help out the County politicians - Whatcom County Council are not of his party and he lost an election for County Executive to the current County Executive.

I by no means am being critical of Mr. Ericksen's political decisions. Politics is not easy and I actually admire Mr. Ericksen's skill. He is far better at it than I ever was. That said, part of being an activist is trying to make your political leaders bend to your way of thinking. Easier if you are in their political tribe. Difficult if you are of the other tribe. In this case I am clearly in Mr. Ericksen's mind of the Left Tribe and so my purpose must have been to attack him. However, it was not as an attack from the left but as a mean to simply say "Hey Doug, Why was the Swift Creek project funding removed from the proposed budget?"  

I will still suggest that Doug Ericksen got this issue wrong. I would note that Lynden has yet to design or begin permitting the pipe so the chances of the project using money in 2015-2016 is very very low. In the mean time the Swift Creek project was and is ready to go. Lynden has a variety of resources to solve the potential water rights problem they are in. State funding of one solution certainly is a big help. However, the property owners, farmers, businesses and the City of Nooksack (and potentially the  City of Sumas) along Swift Creek and the Sumas River downstream of the Swift Creek confluence really do absolutely need outside help. Federal regulations regarding asbestos have severely limited what can be done and is an unexpected changed condition with terrible consequences for those impacted. This is the single largest threat to farmland in Whatcom County.

I can only hope that Doug Ericksen will be true to what he said in the article and continue to work on solving this problem. The problem is politically simple: Don't alter the Governor's and State House budgets regarding Swift Creek in favor of other projects. Maybe next year?      

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