Lummi Influence Over the Waterfront Planning Process Continues to Grow

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Today, the Department of Ecology (DOE) released a summary response to the public comments submitted for the Cornwall Avenue Landfill RI/FS review (the clean up process under the Model Toxic Control Act).

I have two interesting things to note thus far. Virtually every commenter has objected to the proposed cleanup strategy, and many commenters objected in total to the dioxin cap and on-site containment proposal. This continues the pattern of forcing predetermined waterfront plans upon an unwilling public.

Second, the Lummis continue to be the ones with power to shut this all down. The Lummis submitted a letter to DOE taking great offense at the preferred cleanup proposal. A letter from the Army Corps Of Engineers followed, advising DOE that “our permit request review process includes consultation with the affected Tribes, like the Lummi. We will have to ensure that all tribal concerns are properly addressed and that the Tribe has no objections prior to issuing a permit for the work.”

Even more interesting was the summary of this comment in the DOE report, which paraphrases the letter by stating, “You note receiving a copy of the letter from the Lummi Nation, and that future permit requests for work at the site will require consultation with affected Tribes, like the Lummi.” Notice the problem? It fails to acknowledge that this is not a consultation requirement… it is a tribal concurrency requirement.

Failure to obtain Lummi concurrence has already delayed progress on the Bellingham Bay overwater walkway. (I receive status reports advising that the mayor is close to a settlement, but I have been hearing this for the last 2 years without any evidence of progress.)

Nobody likes to hear, “I told you so…,” but in the June, 2012 issue of the Whatcom Watch, I published the article, “Waterfront Development Requires Lummi Approval.” I asserted that “the city and port have spent the public’s money developing waterfront plans, but failed to secure the right to develop these plans. Waterfront development projects that require federal permits, or rely upon federal grants, cannot move forward without the consent of Lummi Nation.”

It is unfortunate that, as the mayor recently advised someone, she does not listen to anything I say. Even worse is the type of sloppy and haphazard planning this reflects. And the problem continues to grow. Recently, the city transferred waterfront tidal land to the port without consulting the Lummis regarding their treaty rights. Apparently, the city and DOE are operating under the assumption that if they do not admit something, it is not true.

This needs to be brought into the open. The public needs to know about this potential deal breaker before we are required to invest more time and money in the waterfront, and before publicly held tidal lands and uplands are transferred from the port to private parties, and forever lost. I knew the city struggled with its planning policies, but I had no idea it was building the waterfront on an hope and a prayer.

About Wendy Harris

Citizen Journalist • Member since Mar 31, 2008

Comments by Readers

Abe Jacobson

Dec 17, 2013

It seems to me that the Lummi Nation could benefit from a luxury marina for large yachts a heck of a lot more than Port of Bellingham can. I mean, in terms of economic benefits from such a thing, shouldn’t the Lummi have right of first refusal to benefit from siting the large-yacht marina? That way, the ASB could be used for what it’s truly good for, namely storm water detention, and the Caymen-flagged luxury yachts can actually pay for a useful outcome.

Abe Jacobson


Barbara Perry

Jan 13, 2014

Wendy, When you write “(I receive status reports advising that the mayor is close to a settlement, but I have been hearing this for the last 2 years without any evidence of progress.)”, you make me wonder what is going on behind closed doors for Kelly to have such confidence. This is no excuse for her trickery.

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