Washington berry grower fined $102,000 for illegal water use

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The Washington State Department of Ecology says it’s fining a Whatcom County berry grower more than $100,000 for years of illegal water use.

Officials say that since 2011, Ecology staff have tried to work with Gurjant “George” Sandhu to bring him into compliance with water laws. But they say he continued to irrigate his 220-acre raspberry farm the past two years without water rights for much of the property, and that he failed to submit water-use records for a 120-acre blueberry farm.

Ecology said his actions hurt water flows in the Nooksack River, which hosts protected salmon and trout, and that other water rights holders had repeatedly complained about him using more water than his allocated amount.

Sandhu directed a request for comment to his attorney, who did not immediately return a phone message.