Washington State House Democrats


Shewmake and Timmons send bills to the governor’s desk that will add support for Whatcom County Superior Court 

OLYMPIA—Whatcom County is preparing for an adjudication case in the Nooksack watershed and will need additional resources. That’s why Sen. Sharon Shewmake, D-Bellingham, and Rep. Joe Timmons, D-Bellingham, introduced bills to support Whatcom County Superior during the 2024 legislative session.  

Today, House Bill 1992, sponsored by Rep. Timmons, passed the Senate unanimously. This piece of legislation will increase the number of judges on the Whatcom County Superior Court from four to five.   

Earlier this week, on Feb. 27, Senate Bill 5828, sponsored by Sen. Shewmake, passed the House unanimously. This piece of legislation would further increase the court’s judicial resources by adding new water adjudication commissioners, who would have many of the same powers as a superior court judge and a wealth of water adjudication experience, and water adjudication referees, who would assist with smaller issues of fact. Now that both bills have passed both chambers, the next step is having Gov. Jay Inslee sign the legislation into law.  

Water rights adjudication is a legal process to resolve water rights conflicts and create opportunities for water to be used more efficiently. Adjudication also creates opportunities for conservation, essential for salmon restoration.  

“The pandemic exacerbated the backlog of civil and criminal cases that the Whatcom County Superior Court handles and it was evident that we need another judge on this court to work through cases more efficiently and to process the Department of Ecology’s impending water rights adjudication,” said Timmons.  

“We need to make sure that the water adjudication process runs as quickly and smoothly as possible. To do that, our court needs another judge,” said Shewmake. “Whatcom County Superior Court expects that water adjudication may quadruple their caseload. This extra judge is an indispensable resource for the court to ensure people get resolution on their water rights in a timely fashion.”  

Once Inslee signs both bills, he will appoint the additional judge, and the Whatcom County Superior Court will hire the new commissioners and referees.