LYNDEN, Wash. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice have sued Rader Farms in Lynden for violating the Clean Water Act. Rader Farms has been embroiled in a dispute with Whatcom County since 2006, when it cleared 10 acres of land that happened to be state protected wetlands.
Neither the EPA nor Rader Farms would comment on the case.
The property is northeast of Lynden near Pangborn Lake, a small body of water inaccessible to the public but valuable to the ecology of the area, officials said. It’s considered a Category 1 Wetland, considered the most protected and important by state environmental experts.
“They provide high land value for flood stage, for water storage and for endangered species,” explained Whatcom County Planning Director Tyler Schroeder.
Whatcom County has been in court with Rader Farms since 2006 regarding this issue. Rader has appealed to the county and state appeals court, losing every time. The recent action by the EPA is believed to be over Rader’s lack of restoration to the land it damaged.
“It’s very hard to recreate that type of quality of wetland,” said Schroeder. “That’s why the 10 acres isn’t just a drop in the bucket.”
The case of Rader Farms is part of an overall issue regarding landowner rights, according to Henry Bierlink with Whatcom Farm Friends.
“There are things they’d like to do or have tried to do or have done in the past that suddenly are not approved,” Bierlink explained.
Bierlink agreed wetlands and shorelines need to be protected, but he said more common ground needs to be found. He said the Rader case is one of many where Whatcom County farmers have been stymied by environmental law.
“How is it you ask a landowner to bear all that cost of monitoring for the public good,” he asked rhetorically. “That just seems disproportionate. I think most farmers think that’s not fair.”
It is unclear what penalties Rader Farms may face from this litigation. A state appeals court already ruled it must bear the cost of restoring the land.