College of the Environment Graduate and Undergraduate Publications

Date Permissions Signed


College Affiliation

Huxley College of the Environment

Date of Award

Spring 1981

Document Type

Environmental Impact Assessment

Department or Program Affiliation

Department of Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies


This report was produced by 9 students of the Environmental Impact Assessment course at Huxley College of Environmental Studies,over a period of 7 weeks in the spring of 1981. In this study, we have attempted to provide an assessment of the natural and cultural environmental conditions of the delta of the Nooksack River, and to determine impacts upon that area both presently and in the near future.

The present-day delta of the Nooksack River is located in the western portion of Whatcom County, Washington, where the Nooksack River discharges into Bellingham Bay. The delta lies about 3 1/2 miles west and slightly north of Bellingham, and is almost entirely within the Lummi Indian Reservation, The village of Marietta is adjacent to the delta on the east side.

In the process of delta building, a river continuously deposits sediments, gradually extending the land mass farther out into open waters. As this happens, many sloughs and marshy areas are left behind,which eventually fill in. In this way, the Nooksack delta has steadily progressed to the south, A delta may be looked upon as a gradation from dry land to open water; the delta as its own entity has no definite boundaries.

For the purposes of this report, the area enclosed by and including Lummi Shore Drive to the west, Marine Drive to the north and east, and Bellingham Bay to the south was chosen as a study area. These roads enclose the currently most "active" portion of the delta from a geomorphic point of view. By inclusion of the roads and adjacent properties into the study area, it was possible to assess the cultural environment adjoining the delta as well. The study concentrates primarily on the terrestrial and riparian portion of the delta; the delta platform in Bellingham Bay was not included.

This area lies within the southern portions of Sections 7 and 8, the eastern half of Section 18, and nearly all of Section 17. As the delta has advanced seaward, the land mass has entered parts of Sections 19, 20, and 21 as well. The entire area lies within Township 38 North, Range 2 East.

The study area is about 1500 acres in size and consists almost entirely of islands formed by accretion. The area exhibits a gradation from established willow and alder stands in the older, northern portion, to young willow forests on the relatively new islands, and finally to a salt marsh region where the delta meets Bellingham Bay.

There are many residences on the fringes of the study area, but the delta itself is uninhabited. The dynamic nature of the delta is prohibitive to construction or heavy human use; and the Lummi Tribe has voiced a policy to retain the delta in its natural state due to its extreme importance as a fishery resource.

It should be remembered in reading this report that the delta environment is created by the combination of many factors. It is impossible to study any one element of the delta without relating it to the delta as a system. Process of geomorphology, biology, hydrology and culture are all at work here. These processes are intricately related to form a unique system: The Nooksack delta.




Bellingham Bay, Lummi reservation


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Environmental impact analysis--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Delta

Geographic Coverage

Nooksack River Delta (Wash.)--Environmental conditions




environmental impact statements




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