I found Council Member Lehman's questions regarding the overwater walkway, during yesterday's COB city council waterfront work session, particularly interesting. The adminstrative staff’s responses reflect a continuing pattern of ignoring treaty rights, public process and habitat and wildlife impacts from waterfront redevelopment.
Council Member Lehman questioned whether the overwater walkway had ever been officially approved by the council. The answer is no. It has been funded in the TIP (Transporation Improvement Plan), but that allows the staff to plan and develop the project. It does not represent official approval of the project developed by the staff.
In fact, this project has been on hold for the last 2 years due to the city's failure to obtain approval from the Lummi Nation for impacts to its treaty rights, something that should have been obtained through co-management at the very beginning of development. Under the last two administrations, the city has been unable to obtain Lummi approval, largely due to its refusal to protect treaty rights by mitigating project impacts on fish and wildlife. How unfortunate that these concerns, also raised by myself and other residents 2 years ago, were ignored by the city and the Hearing Examiner.
Most recently, the Lummi filed with DOE an objection to the MTCA cleanup plan proposed for the Cornwall site, again based on failure to consider and value treaty rights. This complicates matters and makes it even less likely that there will be a speedy resolution to the continuing conflict over development of the overwater walkway. This will also have implications for development of other waterfront areas that rely upon federal funding and grants.
Thus, I found it troubling that the Parks Director advised the city council that the administration essentially considers the overwater walkway a done deal that will be moving forward. I would like to hear a more detailed explanation of the city's position.
Without Lummi concurrency, which is necessary before the Washington State Department of Transportation can process the city's application and release federal FHA funding, this project can not move forward. It is also my understanding that there are time constraints attached to the federal funding that could be jeopardized by on-going delays with this project.
The overwater walkway is a matter of concern to many residents commenting on the waterfront planning process. The administration should not be determining outcomes for projects that have not been through final public process and approval. Here, the NEPA process for the overwater walkway has not even begun. (And the WSDOT refuses to reveal how public notice for the NEPA process will be provided, leaving the public unable to track the status of the environmental review.)
I would like to thank Council Member Lehman and the city council for considering these issues. I hope that in light of the concerns that are raised, council will pursue this issue further. The 4 million dollars in Greenway Levy III funds allocated to the overwater walkway could be spent developing the waterfront in ways that protect treaty rights, habitat and local wildlife.