Lummi Nation has released a written statement responding to the letter sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, expressing concern over the statemate in negotiations beween Lummi Nation and Whatcom County over a new lease for the mainland Lummi Island Ferry dock on the Lummi Reservation.
The statement reiterates tribal concerns about traffic safety and the need for a hefty county expenditure on safety improvements in the area as part of any new lease deal.
The statement also refers to a 2009 traffic study prepared for both the county and tribe. In general, the study tends to downplay the safety issues arising from ferry operations.
The emailed statement also includes an interesting chronology of ferry history from the tribe’s perspective. Among other things, the chronology mentions unsuccessful efforts to get funding for traffic safety improvements.
Here is the text of the tribe’s statement, which is silent on the question of whether the tribe is prepared to take steps to stop ferry operations after April 10, 2011, when the tribe’s deadline expires:
The Lummi Nation appreciates Congressman Larsen, Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell engaging in this complex, longstanding issue.
For ten years the Lummi Nation has worked to resolve these issues and obtain a lease that is fair for everyone.
Safety is of paramount concern to the Lummi Nation.
There are numerous safety issues associated with the ferry traffic through the Lummi reservation: increased traffic volume, increased speeding that has contributed to fatalities, delayed access to the roadway because of traffic volume, and fear that our families and our community feel for their safety.
There are numerous safety issues at the side of the ferry dock that is on the Lummi Reservation: ferry line-up interferes with fishermen’s ability to exercise Treaty rights, and ferry line-up impacts pedestrians, including school children and families trying to go to the grocery store. Treaty-protected fishermen often find the boat ramp blocked by the ferry line-up, and ferry wake has damaged boats and led to injuries.
“At the Lummi Nation’s request Whatcom County has studied traffic safety and boat safety related to the side of the Gooseberry Point ferry dock, and these studies identified simple solutions that improve safety for everyone,” Lummi Nation Chairman Cliff Cultee said. “The Lummi Nation has participated in negotiations with Whatcom County for 10 years. The county need only review the findings in its own studies to understand our safety concerns.”