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Residents Denounce Illegal Tubing: Ban Enacted to Protect Threatened Nooksack River Chinook Salmon

July 20, 2007

By Cat Sieh, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

Jul. 20–An inner tubing ban on a portion of the Nooksack River’s south fork is in its second year, but area residents say tubers — and associated annoyances — continue.

Whatcom County Council voted unanimously in December 2005 to enact the annual ban, which runs from June through October, in an effort to protect threatened chinook salmon.

Residents of Acme, where many tubers enter the river, say the ban is poorly enforced, leaving defiant tubers to litter, trespass and disrupt wildlife as they please.

“It is a huge inconvenience all weekend for us,” said Jena Strachila, whose Acme property borders the river.

Strachila said river traffic has decreased by perhaps a third since the ban went into effect last summer, but she remains concerned with issues like the drunken driving she says occurs when some tubers exit the water.

Gail Everett, another Acme resident, said tubers’ trash is still a big problem. “I sat there on a hot day and just watched walls and walls of tubers,” she said. “We would take garbage cans full of beer cans home with us.”

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, charged with enforcing the ban, hasn’t issued a single ticket since its inception, according to Boating Safety Officer Steve Harris.

“In the grand scheme of things, floating down the river, compared to other crimes, is going to be low priority,” Harris said. “There’s no real time to get it done.”

The fine set for tubing during the closed season is up to $250 per person.

“If they want to save fish, (sheriff’s deputies) need to be sitting on the beach right as people come in,” said Strachila. “I don’t see them enforcing that.”

The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association reported 120 spring chinook salmon returning to the south fork in 2005, compared with 130 in 2004. An NSEA spokeswoman said the group expects pending numbers from 2006 to be similarly low.

Reach Cat Sieh at cat.sieh@bellinghamherald.com or call 715- 2236.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

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