Opportunity to improve irrigation efficiency

Whatcom County recently gave us a rare opportunity to improve the efficiency with which we use water. The county is spending $50,000 this year to promote efficiency in all sectors of society — homes, businesses, industry and especially agriculture.

Agriculture is special because irrigation is the dominant water use during the fish-critical summer months, accounting for about 70 percent of summer water use. And this water use occurs when streamflows are at their lowest, air and water temperatures at their highest, and rainfall at its lowest.

Fortunately, we have several ways to improve irrigation efficiency. Farmers can pay closer attention to maintenance and repair of equipment. For example, they can identify and fix leaks in distribution systems, and adjust nozzles so they perform as expected (like ensuring that your car tires are properly inflated and the engine is tuned). 

Irrigation scheduling (when, for how long and at what flow rate) is another important way to improve crop output and quality and reduce water use. Various internet-based methods are available, including one from Washington State University, that use local weather data and forecasts and crop and soil types to prepare a multi-day schedule of planned irrigation. 

Buying and installing more efficient equipment is another, although much more expensive, way to improve efficiency.

Because water law is so complicated and out-of-date, adopting these improvements is challenging. Motivated by county funding, the farmers and Lummi and Nooksack tribes might negotiate an agreement to relieve farmers from the use-it-or-lose-it feature of state law in exchange for enhanced in-stream flows. Also, the farmers might experiment and test the ideas offered above.

Using the $50,000 of our taxpayer money wisely can help salmon, Orca and other wildlife survive and thrive and help farmers become more productive.

— Eric Hirst, Bellingham


Healthcare changes needed

In 2011 my husband’s cardiologist reported, “Good news, Bill, PeaceHealth has hired a palliative care specialist.”  The downside was the services were in-patient only. To reap the benefits required hospitalization. 

Bill had decided to forego all further advanced medical interventions for his incurable congenital-induced heart disease. He received “one-man” palliative care from his cardiologist for years, which kept him out of the hospital. As his caregiver, my time was limited to advocate to increase out-patient palliative care. When he died in 2013, I committed my time and efforts to raise awareness about this urgent need, coupled with advance care planning (ACP).

Now in 2019, related to National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, many activities have been organized throughout the month. We are fortunate that WWU’s Palliative Care Institute, Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement, Health Ministries Network and countless other organizations and individuals support ACP.

To sustain the momentum on ACP and increase access to out-patient palliative care, it is time for healthcare systems to expand the reach of palliative care professional expertise outside of end-of-life care. The basic skills required to deliver a palliative approach must be provided for all staff in healthcare settings for people with chronic illnesses. Will the small cadre of trained palliative care specialists already in practice spend more of their time teaching and mentoring? There is still resistance to upstream palliative care by some clinicians — and many employers.

We need consistent, clear information, given the demographics we face and the widely acknowledged stresses on public funding of healthcare. The time is here for a substantial shift in the way healthcare is delivered. It would be irresponsible not to change — and the sooner, the better!

— Micki Jackson, Bellingham



What a pleasure to read in April 10’s Lynden Tribune about Ross Black and his successful business. He figured out, with maturity, that business is not about self-centered interests and getting rich, but an opportunity to serve.  He grew to understand that going through difficult circumstances makes it hard to focus on loved ones and the things that matter most.  

The same day, The Seattle Times reported about Pete Buttigieg, the Presidential candidate who reclaims faith and values in his campaign. What kind of candidate unabashedly talks about Jesus’ message of compassion and faith, addressing what scripture says about protecting the stranger, the prisoner, the poor and disenfranchised? He feels that it is his obligation to be “useful to others, and serve,” just as Ross Black discovered.

The Northern Light carried a letter of thanks from a couple who had a flat tire. When the husband, tugging on a lug nut, fell backwards, knocking himself out, a stranger called 911 and waited until the paramedics arrived.  The gas station attendant gave permission to leave the car, and another stranger came and changed the tire.

Three reports of positive expressions of humanity in one day’s reading! Perhaps there is hope that our nation can come together in tending to something besides self-interest, power, money and fear of “others.”   

— Donna Starr, Blaine