Word is that the Gooseberry Pt lease (tidelands and uplands) and agreements now have all the needed signatures. For those interested, all three final contractual agreements are on the Whatcom County Ferry site. Thanks to Public Works for posting the documents and Mike McKenzie and Paul Davis for sending out notices about this completion of what was in truth about an 11-year process.
At its last meeting, the County Council introduced an ordinance to set up a “Lummi Nation Lease Fund,” to be voted on soon, maybe at the November 22, 2012 Council meeting. The purpose is to have a special fund and move monies into it it to pay for those Very Important Road Safety Improvements agreed to in negotiations. Our elected officials have repeatedly assured islanders that we will not be solely responsible for paying for those millions, since general county road improvements come out of the Road Fund. Whether those assurances will hold for 35 years of changing politicians and fiscal conditions is unknowable.
Opinion. Doubtless most of us will say, great, we’re safe at Gooseberry for the next 35 years. No worries of being shunted to Fairhaven. But as with the rest of life, I personally think we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, especially as the annual lease rental fee to the Lummis will rise over the years (which increased fares and/or reduced operating hours etc will have to cover, regardless of what happens with “road improvement” funding). What happens if those increases really become unaffordable, especially in conjunction with increased repair and maintenance costs? And then there’s the question of a new vessel, the life span of which will exceed the length of the lease. Should a vessel be purchased that could, once again, only go to safely to Gooseberry (like the 3X more expensive-to-run design the County came up with a few years ago)?
My hope is that at least a few diligent islanders will keep unflagging and unbiased eyes on ‘all things ferry’ in the years ahead, and keep the entire community informed when new potential issues come up.