Trial Docking . . . Weather Permitting?

I thought you might be interested in this exchange regarding Whatcom Public Work’s docking exercise in Fairhaven …
Hi Colleen–
We just got this announcement from the county about conducting a trial docking of the Whatcom Chief in Fairhaven on Tuesday. I’m wondering if you or others on the island would want to call or email me with comments or reactions.
John Stark, Reporter
Bellingham Herald

Hi John,
None of us are sleeping well out here on the island, as you might expect.

The most interesting phrase in the Press Release from the County regarding the docking exercise was:  “this exercise is weather-dependent……”.
That statement grabbed me.  My first thoughts were:  Do our kids get to school weather-depending? Do all the people who work in town get to their jobs weather-depending? Do we get to the doctor or other appointments weather-depending? Do we get emergency medical treatment weather-depending? How about garbage pick-up, propane deliveries, fire and police assistance, power outages?  You get the picture. 

Bellingham Bay is notorious for rough weather conditions, and our little ferry is not up to the job unless the water is relatively  flat.  Our lives, kids, jobs, community and homes are on the line.  The County has run a ferry to Lummi Island from Gooseberry Point since 1921.  Most of us came here because the ferry access made it possible.  We don’t know how we will survive without it, and never dreamed that we would have to face this possibility.

The County has mentioned passenger-only ferry service as an alternative.  We are familiar with this because our boat goes out of service ever year for maintenance and we have a passenger ferry during this time.  The planning and stocking-up that precedes this 2-3 week period is challenging.   Everything heavy must be on the island in advance, and emergencies involving things like a broken refrigerator are not allowed.  Groceries, business supplies, building materials, equipment, hay, animal feed, and even gas (we don’t have a gas station) must be stockpiled.  We have the experience to know that a passenger-only ferry is not a solution to our problem, even in the short term.  Been there, done that.–like every year.

We are all hoping for a break-through in negotiations with the Lummi Tribe.  We know that there are mutually beneficial solutions that will preserve the integrity, well-being and safety of Islanders as well as the Lummis.    We just have to find a way to work together to find them.

Thank you for your interest,
Colleen McCrory

4 thoughts on “Trial Docking . . . Weather Permitting?

  1. Thanks, Colleen. That pretty well sums things up.

    There’s a couple of other things that I think the public in Whatcom County might do well to be reminded about, especially when some “journalists” (a certain KGMI talk show host) are complaining about what the possibility of moving the ferry dock would cost county taxpayers.

    It was Lummi Islanders working very hard, with a tremendous amount of assistance from County Councilmember Carl Weimer, who stopped the County administration recently from spending $16 to $18 million dollars on a new ferry and docks which we knew would not meet our needs–even if we continue to use the Gooseberry dock. According to the County’s own feasibility study, the proposed ferry would have been no better suited to Bellingham Bay runs than the Whatcom Chief. And aren’t we glad they didn’t begin rebuilding the Gooseberry Point dock as proposed to go along with the new ferry? (Most Islanders never even saw the dock plans. Those plans were nearly as troubling as the plans for the new vessel, in my opinion.)

    Some might say that the cost of the vessel was going to come from the state, not the county, but we all know it comes from the same taxpayer pockets. There also still would have been millions of dollars spent by the county itself beyond what funds the state offered.

    In short, we Islanders can demonstrate that we are not asking for more than we need. We’re just trying to maintain a basic level of service.

    People sometimes also talk about “those rich Lummi Islanders”. I did some research on that a couple of years ago. According to the 2000 census, the income distribution of Lummi Islanders is very similar to the statewide income distribution. (See ) We have just about the same proportion of people who are in poverty as the rest of the state, and the same proportion of people who are wealthy as the rest of the state.

    So how do we offset the extra cost of living on the Island if we’re no wealthier than anyone else? We make different choices–choices folks on the mainland might consider inconvenient or intolerable. We have all chosen to spend more of our income on transportation costs.We may be living in smaller, older homes, and we may be paying higher property taxes because our home is near the beach. We’ve chosen to spend more of our time for transportation–waiting in ferry lines and driving when we have to go to town. And we’ve chosen to include in our lives a sometimes dangerous means of getting home.

    Others in the county have made different living choices that may seem equally “inconvenient.” People in the foothills spend more time and money on snow removal, studded tires, and dangerous driving conditions. People living by rivers have to deal with occasional floods. Some of that costs more taxpayer dollars, too. It’s all relative.

    Living in Whatcom County is all about wonderful lifestyle choices. We live in paradise. We are incredibly fortunate to have so many kinds of lifestyles available within our county boundaries. I like that we can all support each other in our choices, whether we live in the mountains, or on family farms, or in urban areas, or by rivers, or on islands. The cost of services we require varies depending on our choices, but I really think if we look at the whole picture, it balances out.

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