Lummi Ferry Petition is Linked

We've added a new link in the right column. Tip Johnson has posted a downloadable PDF file of a petition asking the federal government to reaffirm the right of way across the tidelands for the ferry. Any citizen can sign the petition. Signers are not limited to Lummi Island residents. Indeed, all of us taxpayers in Whatcom County are affected by how this issue is resolved or not.

Tip has researched and written extensively about this issue here on NwCitizen. Now, at his own Skookum website, he is taking the next step and is working to make this a public issue. Our elected federal representatives - Rick Larsen, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell - have ignored and stonewalled this issue. With two of them up for reelection, Tip is making this political.

I'm probably like most readers in that most of what I know about this issue is from Tip's writing. I also know that Tip is a first rate researcher, has a penchant for the truth (over just spouting facts) and is dedicated to the best good for the public community.

In any case, no one will address, much less counter, his findings

The base issue seems simple. Ninety years ago, the Feds secured the county a right of way across the reservation for the ferry. This was done in accordance with the treaty and departmental procedure. Second, the Feds maintain control of tidelands on every inch of U.S. shorelines. Others may have more or fewer rights, but the Supreme Court has always given the Feds jurisdiction when others quarrel. And the Feds have always used that authority to enable navigation. As such, the Feds can easily step in and allow the county to maintain the ferry dock without paying the Lummis any more than a fair rent, or compensate with purchase instead of ongoing leases that have proved to be problematic.

But - this is an election year and neither Rick nor Patty wants to go near this issue. They are afraid that their liberal supporters will misconstrue a legitimate effort to resolve this issue as being anti-Indian. And so they remain silent. And we in Whatcom County continue our approach to chaos on October 15 when the Lummis threaten to close down access to the ferry dock.

I will be signing the petition. The Lummi leadership is overreaching here. Only the Feds can solve this issue. Our county government is powerless and should have asked for federal help a long time ago. I urge you to download a copy and get nine other signatures.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers


Sep 05, 2010

I think it would be great, in the spirit of integrity, and open government, if you would weekly post the total number of collected signatures for the petition, so everyone is fully aware how it is progressing. Thanks.


Tip Johnson

Sep 06, 2010

Curious comment.  First, what integrity is under question?  It is a constitutional right of all U.S. citizens to petition their government.

Second, a petition is not a government matter until it is submitted and becomes a matter of record. Certain lobbying activities may require reporting of expenditures, but a downloadable petition should not exceed any reporting thresholds.

As to the numbers, who knows?  I am not running the petition. The page at was posted to give islanders an example of a different approach to the problem.

The approach of the on-island organization, Protecting Lummi Island Community (PLIC), has been to encourage continued negotiation toward a long-term lease.  Earlier editions of the petition were shared wih PLIC, but not incorporated in their strategy.  Both PLIC and the Lummi Island Community Association, issued a joint statement discouraging the petition due to fears it might anger the Tribe and interfere with negotiations.

Only recently, folks started asking about the petition with an interest in pursuing perfection of the right-of-way, as approved, instead of further leasing, which has proved problematic at best. Based on my own research, I do think that fixing the right-of-way is the best strategy, the only way to resolve the dispute once and for all, and the best way to clear a path toward constructive solutions for the ancillary problems.  I am quite sure that everyone will get a better deal absent the endless wrangling over lease rates.

So now, for those interested in this approach, they can look a the example and use it, do their own, or ignore it.  That’s up to them. It’s their problem.