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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Melious, Jean O.

Second Advisor

Neff, Mark W.

Third Advisor

Laninga, Tamara Jean


Rising concerns over water availability and population growth in the state of Washington led to the passage of the 1998 Watershed Management Act. The Act provides a framework for the collaborative development of watershed management plans (WMPs) by the 62 watersheds, known as Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs). The State Legislature revived this collaborative framework in Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 6091, passed on January 19, 2018. ESSB 6091 mandated the watershed planning entities for the Nooksack River watershed, located largely in Whatcom County, Washington known as WRIA 1, to amend an existing watershed plan by February 1, 2019. The involved planning entities include a mix of government and non-government stakeholders. Through semi-structured interviews and public meeting attendance and observation, this thesis utilizes a qualitative approach to explore the social exchange dynamics in the WRIA 1 planning entities during the ESSB 6091 WMP amendment process. Collaborative watershed management is most successful with the presence of adequate time, trust, committed participation, a well-defined process, adequate technical understanding, an appropriate scope of activities, and a skilled facilitator/coordinator. During the ESSB 6091 process, WRIA 1 planning entity participants described a lack of trust, questions over committed participation, contention over process and structure, and an inappropriate scope of activities. Reflecting these obstacles, the WRIA 1 planning entities were unable to finalize a plan amendment by the legislatively mandated deadline. Participants did express dedication to continuing work on watershed issues, indicating that collaboration may have longer-term benefits that extend beyond the inability to reach agreement.




collaborative watershed management, watershed planning, social exchange, challenges in natural resource collaboration


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Public-private sector cooperation--Washington (State)--Whatcom County--Case studies; Water-supply--Political aspects--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Watershed--Case studies; Water resources development--Political aspects--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Watershed--Case studies; Watershed management--Political aspects--Washington (State)--Nooksack River Watershed--Case studies

Geographic Coverage

Whatcom County (Wash.); Nooksack River Watershed (Wash.)




masters theses




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