So yesterday we had the visit of a Department of Ecology official. We are in the Samish watershed, and there is a push to decrease contamination of this watershed because of periodic closures of Samish Bay shellfish harvest and increased coliform levels in its rivers and streams. It is all spelled out in the

Samish Bay Watershed

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

Total Maximum Daily Load

Volume 2 – TMDL and Water Quality Implementation Plan

August 2009

Publication No. 09-10-019

So I read this 150 page document, and we are seemingly in compliance with all that is in there. We have our animals fenced away from any streams, and we have gutters on our barn to collect rain water. We do not have stored manure piles. We are (what I thought) was the kind of people Skagit County would like to support. We came into to this very dilapidated property and put in a lot of hard work and money to fix it up. We are involved in agriculture which is what Skagit County is supposedly trying to support. We pay our taxes and do not get in trouble. So I was hoping this visit would go well.

Naturally it did not. He waltzed in here and tells us about all these government officials that can help us with developing our farm plan, help with pasture management, and improved weight gain in our animals. He told us about grant money available to comply with regulations for fencing, pipes, engineered designs. Then he said we had to fence off our animals 35 feet from the front ditch line on the road. He said we could use electric fence, and it could be down during the grazing season but would need to be up by August 15. August 15th!!! That is the driest day of the year. And electric net fencing is not safe in my opinion for horned animals. I lost my first Shetland ram Loki to an electric net fence. He then pointed out that we had dug a trench in one of our 7 fields which drained into the ditch from a pasture where animals are (three small sheep). But we said we could fill in this trench and keep the animals out of this pasture once breeding season is over next week.

At this point I pointed out what I think is our real water pollution issue- the drainage from the development behind our property that floods our fields when there is heavy downpours. We believe this drainage through a culvert onto our property to be illegal because we have the original survey showing no culvert, the ditches designed for the drainage, and that all drainage from the development must be contained. There is not drainage easement for our property, and this is not a natural waterway but a man made one. We have tried to talk to the homeowners association of this development, but the president does not return our calls. We even talked to a lawyer about this. Well, this Department of Ecology official said he cannot regulate clean water drainage, but he does have authority over erosion. This culvert goes out from the road above our place at least 10 feet into the air and then free-falls down onto our land causing a lot of erosion. The bottom is also rotted out so some of the water runs under the culvert undermining it and the road. So this government official started talking about putting a wall in on our property to control the erosion! Not the solution I was looking for.

part of the culvert on our property

“clean” water draining from the culvert on our property

So I do not want a farm plan, I do not want government officials on our land, and I do not want their money. I also do not want to pollute Samish Bay nor do I want to break the law. So we will put up the electric fencing (although I may not turn it on), fill in our trench and in the meantime move the rams to the far back field (where it is a lot harder to care for and protect them). And I really hope this is adequate. Because if this official states we have to put in 50 foot buffers all around our property we are done for. And that will be the end of Schoonover Farm. (and why I am awake at 3 AM)
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6 Responses to Government

  1. Misty meadow farm says:

    I love how they say it is all us “little farmers and out evil livestock”. Not like the local wildlife has any thing to do with what is in the river.

  2. Aimee says:

    good luck, I am so sorry this is going on! My wonderful neighbors up here in whatcom county have had their beef cattle operation shut down after 50 years!!! And the irony is, their farm is the most beautiful I have ever seen… no mud, no overgrazing. Now that they can’t make a living they will likely have to sell out to developers, and I ask you, what is more damaging to the watershed? 50 cows or 50 new septic systems???? It makes no sense.

  3. Donna says:

    Thanks for the “good luck”. It is so sad about your neighbors, Hopefully that will not be us!

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