Project Background

Project Description

The South Fork Nooksack Watershed Project brings together landowners, tribes, agencies and community members for an open dialogue about how to conserve agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and recreation in the South Fork Nooksack watershed, while protecting and restoring our water resources in the face of climate change.

The Nooksack Tribe Natural Resources Department in collaboration with other community partners is bringing together landowners for an open dialogue about how to conserve agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and recreation in the South Fork Nooksack watershed, while protecting and restoring our water resources in the face of climate change.

Our community is facing continued risks of high flows and flooding in the winter, increasing sediment stream temperatures, and worsening drought conditions in the summer. It is time to think strategically about how to protect our local economy and environment.

The initial outreach process was conducted between April 2016 and September 2016. It included meetings with interest groups along with a community meeting and information sharing to engage everyone who wishes to participate.

A SFNR Community Watershed Group composed of 44 residents and property owners of the South Fork Nooksack River Valley met a total of six times between January and September of 2017 to develop a framework for education and dialogue around issues that affect our watershed, inform the Tribe’s watershed conservation planning, and lay the foundation for future community watershed planning efforts. Their meetings resulted in agreement around Long-Range Community Goals and Planning Principles. 

At the conclusion of the Watershed Group process, a South Fork Watershed Education Committee was formed, “to educate ourselves and our community concerning watershed topics for the South Fork of the Nooksack River in order to increase self-determination related to current and future water quality and use issues.”

More about the process

What is the purpose?

  • Facilitate a creative community conversation
  • Adopt a collaborative approach to problem solving
  • Look for opportunities to create multiple benefits
  • Carefully examine the cultural, economic, and environmental needs and challenges of the community
  • Incorporate the best tools and thinking from our community and others into a living framework

How is the project funded?

Grants and contributions from:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Nooksack Indian Tribe
  • North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • Whatcom Community Foundation

Who helped get this process started?

  • Acme/Van Zandt Flood Advisory Committee
  • Evergreen Land Trust
  • Local citizens
  • Nooksack Tribe Natural Resources Department
  • Washington Water Trust
  • Whatcom County Planning Department
  • Whatcom Land Trust

South Fork Nooksack River

The Nooksack River has three main forks: the North, Middle, and South Forks – all originating in the Mount Baker Wilderness. In the Nooksack language, the South Fork’s name is aptly named Nuxw7íyem or “always-clear water.”

The South Fork Nooksack River watershed is approximately 186 square miles and the South Fork River length is about 50 miles (80 km). It originates from the Twin Sisters Mountain of the Cascade Mountain Range. Major tributaries include Wanlick Creek, Howard Creek, Cavanaugh Creek, Skookum Creek, Hutchinson Creek, and Black Slough. From its headwaters, it flows briefly south and enters Skagit County, then reenters Whatcom County near Acme.

After the Middle and South Forks join, the combined river flows northwest, emerging from the mountains and flowing past Everson, Lynden, and Ferndale. It enters the north side of Bellingham Bay at the Lummi Indian Reservation, about 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Bellingham.

The upstream portion of the South Fork Nooksack River is typically constrained by steep valley walls and downstream it flows through a broad, unconfined valley. The headwaters of the watershed features alpine tundra and bare rock of the Sisters Range where small ice fields remain. Farther down, the watershed is dominated by forest and shrub land with agriculture and wetlands on the valley floor.