How to Become a Remote Island

One Editor’s Opinion, by Colleen McCrory:

We are at a cross roads, with a whole new future on the horizon.  We can go from being a very accessible island (for most us us, a crucial factor in our decision to move here)— to becoming a remote San Juan island.
If living remote is appealing, here are actions that will insure it happens:

    • encourage the Council to disapprove the ferry lease…
    • before we have a plan or funding for a viable alternative
    • in a county that doesn’t have the will, patience or resources to start over
    • after having burned our bridges with Lummi Nation
    • accept mostly passenger ferry service to Fairhaven
    • with occasional vehicle runs, weather permitting
    • because the County only has to provide us with minimum service
    • with maybe some–probably expensive–parking in Fairhaven
    • and all without a marina on the island
    • while we sue to perfect a right-of-way that only includes the uplands…
    • and doesn’t even mention the tidelands
    • and/or sue to enforce the original lease, or other claims
    • without the resources to launch legal actions of this magnitude
    • and no guarantee of success
    • and no support (or money) for this action from the County

I have friends who believe that we can redesign our community to accommodate being more remote;  that new doors will open, and we will morph into a new society of Lummi Islanders.  They are probably right– for those of us who have the energy, freedom and resources to make that transition.  And want to live in that new society.

If you aren’t one of those I encourage you to email your Councilmembers asking them to approve the lease (as well as the Ferry Task Force recommendations).   You can do it in one email to:    council@co.whatcom.wa.us , or better yet, with a personal call, but do it soon.  They will be voting next Tuesday, Sept. 13th.

PS:  There is an interesting discussion about this issue buried in a previous post,  “More Gooseberry Pt. Parking!” , here on the Forum

16 thoughts on “How to Become a Remote Island

  1. Are you sure they will be voting next Tue?
    I’m not even sure if we have been given access to the final version of the lease, then a public hearing, AND a vote – all in the same meeting?
    I thought they had to wait a couple of weeks.

    • The Council has the right to vote as soon as the public hearing has taken place. Actually, since the lease agreements are not ‘ordinances’ I don’t think the Council is even legally required to hold a public hearing, but they’ve promised repeatedly to do so before voting. They have, this past year, even voted on at least one critical ordinance (the rural comp plan update) the same night as the public hearing.

      So it’s best to assume that the vote (with or without islanders present) will happen next Tuesday if the public hearing is held then. I can’t imagine the council majority wanting to drag this on any longer. What would be the point. More ‘discussion’ for the sake of discussion?

      Now’s the time to let Councilor know your viewpoint. Calls are better than emails, I think. Emails are easy to ignore. Call them at home – their numbers are on the County website. http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/council/whatcomcountycouncilcontactinfo.jsp

  2. As readers of the Ferry Forum and friends know, I’m not keen on some aspects of the lease agreement. But I totally agree with Colleen — it’s the best deal we have, the only deal in fact. This lease is not my first preference BUT given *all* the realities she lays out — and I think she’s right on target — I will urge the Council to vote YES on the lease agreement.

    We need to get on with our lives, and having the lease in place *now* is our path to a reasonable level of predictability.

    Chandler is right about many uncertainties with the lease and alternatives and the likelihood that we’ll have it for the full 35 years.

    However, the uncertainties and costs of NO lease are far, far more compelling to me. The costs (time, money, reliability) of going to Fairhaven, even on a restricted basis with the Whatcom Chief or a passenger ferry, also are *way* more expensive and less financially sustainable than the lease. If you (or some County Councilors and non-island residents) think the lease price is too high, the total cost of our only alternative route to Fairhaven is even higher.

    The endless roller coaster of uncertainties of the last two+ years we’ve all been on have been devastating. Think of how they’ve hurt you, your family, your friends, businesses, island elders and others who depend on reliable transportation, property values, etc.

    No, the lease isn’t perfect. Yes, the County and Lummis haven’t exactly done anyone — us, themselves — a big favor with this lease or the route they’ve taken in crafting it.

    But I believe that it’s time to put aside notions of and arguments about How Things Might Have Been, or How Things “Should” Be and urge our County Council to approve lease.

    PS I’d have preferred pursuing the federal road right of way from the start, but our County’s Chief Prosecuting Attorney McEachran, who controls the county’s legal strings, chose not to take that path, just as he supported the County caving in to the Lummi claim that the 1988 lease ‘wasn’t valid’ due to the notorious missing BIA signature(McEachran is Gibson’s boss, just as he was the head county legal advisor in 1988 and ever since — all those years of the missing BIA signature). And, apparently, the PLIC Board’s lawyers didn’t hand the County any legal evidence that supported pursuit of the ROW option with an acceptable level of risk. So I see absolutely no hope of the County asking the Feds for help on the ROW, if the lease is voted down.

    It’s time to get real and get this lease approved.

    • Wynne, Colleen and Chandler make good points as do others that have entered the conversation. We are truly on the horns of a dilemma with the consequences of burnt bridges on both hands. Please, let us hear from more Islanders. How much risk are we, as a community, willing to take?

      • I have wrote to the council on how I feel. I myself do not want the lease passed. I do not like the amount of money as I think it’s more greed than honor thee neighbor.
        I do not want to see free passage in non commercial vehicle’s.
        The tribe should not be using the Island as hostages to get extra money that has nothing to do with the ferry crossing.
        We have a ROW I think that needs to be looked into more. We can build over the tidelands.
        At this point we would prefer to get a short term lease and work on moving the ferry system to Bellingham where we will not ever have to deal with tribal leases again.
        I have lived out here for 19 years been coming out here for 30. Raised 4 kids who can not even afford to visit us at this point. But they to would like to see it moved.

        I have heard back from two of the council members. Both do not like the lease as it is.

  3. With all do respect, Colleen, you make many good points but are based on assumptions/fears of the unknown future that none of us will know the outcomes (But then we are all operating this way based on our own internal stories/scenarios). Yes, LI is at a crossroads that I expect is just one small one of many along a path with many unknown twists and turns I’m sure. But by their very nature islands are REMOTE so one single decision doesn’t really change that. The questions, and there are at least these two: How remote do we want LI to be? Somewhere in the range of a Waldron like island with no public access or an island that has little or no transportation barriers like Samish island with a land bridge? (Personally I moved here in 1975 because I preferred some access to mainland but not be a bedroom community of Bellingham). Second question is what are you wiling to pay for your remoteness/connectedness to the mainland. Pay in dollars, time, dependability and convenience. I think this is where the crux of the GP ferry dock lease discussion is and why there are many differing islander’s points of view. What drives my position is future dollar cost and dependable service. I see neither in this proposed lease agreement. It will cost the county and Islander’s dearly financially and there is no protection from 35 years of this capricious behavior we have seen from the LIBC already. What I know now with the resources at hand, Fairhaven is not a viable alternative port either. But I also view that the Lummi Nation has no legal jurisdiction at this time to deny (blockade) access to the GP ferry dock until more legal clarity is made. Let’s find out what our legal rights are. I’m willing to put my bucks into that pot for now.

    • John

      Your post as well as Colleen and Wynn posts, make excellent poiints. However the the majority of Islanders need regular access until a better solution can be implemented. Would agree 100% the lowest expediency cost may be a much higher indirect cost in the long run.

      Your comment as to not being a bedroom community to Bellingham needs to be contrasted to not being dependent upon or a bedroom community and extension of the Lummi Nation. Personally, I would rather be waiting for the Ferry at Farihaven, Geogia Pacific or other non reservation boundary location with access to a coffee shop or book store and paying more for the ferry ride, than driving thru the reservation and waiting for the next contract breach and other uncertainties with the Lummi Tribe.

      As to the reference of the Island being part of the San Juan Islands, this Island will never be reconginzed as part of the the San Juan Islands by the majority of non-islanders, unless the name of the Island is changed to reflect the identity of the Islanders.

      • One of the HUGE problems with a current Fairhaven “option”, for those who didn’t pay much attention to the Task Force’s work or recommendations, is that it is prohibitively expensive – more costly than Gooseberry Pt even with the lease conditions. It’s not fiscally sustainable. Plus, given the needs (not just ‘wants’) of Lummi Islanders for reliable access to mainland (utilities, power, propane, food, jobs, emergency and fire services, access to medical services, businesses, education etc), a passenger ferry to Fairhaven cannot suffice — and the Chief can’t be relied on since it can’t handle rough weather conditions in Bellingham Bay.

        Paying ‘a bit’ more (it might be a LOT LOT more, incidentally, like $50 a passenger trip — no one knows, but it wouldn’t be cheap) to Fairhaven is not, I think, a reality-based alternative for most people living here right now. As more people move off (I just learned of another 2 this week), maybe that will work, but not now (though fewer people = fewer fares = less income = less service).

        This is just one reason I support approving the lease.

      • Cliff, my point is not that LI has any association with the San Juan islands, though, geographically, it does. My point is the degree of remoteness individual islanders want/accept. You want a coffee shop and a warm mainland terminal and their are some part-time Lummi islanders who prefer to live on Waldron Is., which I consider more remote than LI. I would think one of the reasons people choose to live on an island is “remoteness” otherwise Ferndale or Alabama Hill in B’ham would be just fine. To plan to make LI something it isn’t would be unrealistic and frustrating.
        As to the proposed GP lease agreement I think it’s a political/legal football (as in Charlie Brown and Lucy) made in secrecy and lacks definitive answers to important legal questions. Where is the security in that? I can’t delude myself into thinking there is any real certainty in this “agreement”. The ferry has been operating the last two years (or 27 years if you listen to LIBC) without an agreement and it has generally worked for LI. What’s the difference now? PERCEPTION. What I love about this island is the diverse views and discussion to any issue that affects us and this one is no different.

  4. Hey,
    We could always hire a barge. Who needs a ferry anyway??
    Wonder what it costs………

    From: BBrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us
    To: bbgun1010@aol.com
    Sent: 9/8/2011 2:25:55 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
    Subj: Fwd: Barge Company Information

    —–Original Message—–
    Date: Thu, 08 Sep 2011 14:25:25 -0700
    From: “Lummi_Island_Ferry Lummi_Island_Ferry”
    To: “Lonni Cummings”
    Cc: “Barbara Brenner” ,
    “Pete Kremen”
    Subject: Barge Company Information

    Good afternoon. This is a quick communication to provide information about the barge service vendor used by Public Works. We have had some requests for this information so here it is, for those who are interested.

    San Juan Marine Freight out of Anacortes. The contact number is 360-293-7575.

    Please direct all questions related to the service that they provide to them.

    Thank you,
    The Ferry Department
    360-676-6692
    whatcomchief.or

  5. AS THE MOST STABLE BUSINESS AND EMPLOYER ON LUMMI ISLAND, I’LL PUT MY 2 CENTS WORTH IN. IF WE DON’T GET THIS LEASE AGREEMENT IT WILL PROBABLY END THE STORE, THE BEACH STORE AND PROBABLY THE WILLOWS. WE ALL HAVE BEEN TRYING TO WEATHER NOT JUST THE ECONOMY, BUT THIS DAM FERRY ISSUE, WE CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH UNPREDICTABILITY. THE FERRY GOING TO BELLINGHAM IS NOT AN OPTION FOR ANY OF OUR BUSINESSES. I GUESS IF YOU WANT A REMOTE ISLAND WITH NO BUSINESSES, NO CAUSAL LABOR , OR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPT. THEN THIS IS YOUR CUP OF TEA. I KNOW THE FERRY LEASE AGREEMENT IS NOT PERFECT AND WILL PROBABLY COST US ALL MORE MONEY, BUT THAT MAY BE THE PRICE WE HAVE TO PAY, TO LIVE IN ONE OF THE BEST PLACES ON EARTH TO LIVE. JUST THINK WE MIGHT BE LIVING IN SOME OTHER COUNTRY, I WON’T NAME ANY, BUT WE WON’T EVEN HAVE A CHOICE IN THE MATTER.

    • Very well put, Brad. I am sure that most of the islanders are behind you. We have to get those that put off expressing themselves to email the Council and Pete Kremen. The small anti-lease group are doing lots of heavy lobbying. Those of you that favor the lease and have not yet emailed, please do so today. Council members do not spend much time reading emails the day of the Council meeting.

  6. My email tonight to the County Council:

    Hello, Councilmembers–

    This is a very difficult letter to write, just as I’m sure your vote Tuesday night will be a difficult decision, too. Here are my thoughts on the Gooseberry Point dock lease:

    There are a lot of things about the dock lease that I don’t like. In particular, I don’t like that there’s no cap on the annual increases. I don’t like that the annual increases will be a percentage and not a fixed amount. I don’t like that Lummis would be able to take vehicles across for free. (We don’t even let our kids do that. They ride free unless they are in a vehicle.) I don’t like that there doesn’t seem to be a map of the exact parcels of land as described in the document. I don’t like the gag rules regarding media and negotiations. I don’t like some of the “if” clauses regarding possible future legal disagreements.

    HOWEVER, despite all the things I don’t like about the contract, I’m writing to urge you to APPROVE it on Tuesday. I honestly think we have no other choice. Here are my reasons:

    1. Despite over two years of intensive negotiations, this is the best contract that could be obtained. There is no evidence that more time would result in better terms. In fact, the most recently added terms have made the lease worse, not better.

    2. Getting to this point where you have a contract to vote on has used a tremendous amount of County resources, and has involved enormous amounts of time, money, and stress for Islanders, too. It’s time for a resolution that offers some stability to allow all of us to move on.

    3. This is the most important reason of all: At this time, there is NO VIABLE OPTION to landing the ferry anywhere except at Gooseberry. As I understand it, the County Prosecutor has said that we cannot run the ferry through Gooseberry without a contract if the Lummis want it stopped. That’s really the bottom line. We must have a contract, and this is the one we’ve got.

    Both the County and Islanders are between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and have been for a long time. You have the opportunity to resolve this situation on Tuesday. Though it’s a bitter pill to swallow, I sincerely believe approving this lease contract is the only rational choice. It’s a necessity, and the best action you can take.

    Please approve the lease contract on Tuesday.

    Very sincerely,
    Nancy Ging
    Lummi Island

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