State Senator Doug Ericksen moved this week to insert language into an unrelated bill that would strip protections from Cherry Point. The same language was earlier included in SB 5171, which would remove protections recently issued to Cherry Point by the state and make it harder for the state to expand aquatic reserves in the future. The original bill was not passed out of committee. Seven tribes and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission were joined by a dozen organizations and individuals to oppose the bill. No one testified in favor.

Now Senator Ericksen is attempting to revive the same language and insert it into another bill about utility easements.

Lummi Nation business council-member Victor Johnson testified against the proposed amendment:

We opposed the striking amendment because the edit is another attempt to circumvent our treaty rights.

This amendment would prevent Washington State Tribes from exercising their treaty protected right to fish in their usual and accustomed areas.

It runs counter to the state’s interest in protecting unique aquatic ecosystems and especially a rich and fertile marine environment that serves as important habitat.

The state DNR received 5,000 comments in favor of expanding the aquatic reserve and only 10 that opposed it.

The proposed amendment would be a direct hit on the decision by the state Department of Natural Resources to expand the state aquatic reserve at Cherry Point.

At Cherry Point, the Lummi Indian Business Council cited its treaty rights last fall when they asked to add the area originally proposed for the terminal to the reserve’s boundaries. DNR then convened a committee of scientists and conducted a public State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review to evaluate the boundary change. The technical review committee unanimously recommended incorporating the additional 45 acres, citing important herring and eelgrass habitat vital to local salmon runs.  

Last year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, acting upon a request by the Lummi Nation, rejected a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point. The Army Corps sided with the tribe, agreeing that the coal port would harm the tribe’s treaty-reserved fishing rights. In addition to reversing the protections by DNR, Ericksen’s bill would also require the lands commissioner to get legislative approval before authorizing any other expansions. Also in the bill is a provision to significantly lower the costs for easements across state aquatic reserves.