Tribal leaders told a state senate committee that Cherry Point should not be stripped of its protections.
The tribes testified in opposition to SB 5171, which would shrink the size of an aquatic reserve protecting Cherry Point.
Cherry Point was the site of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal that would have been the largest coal port in North America. The Lummi Nation and a number of environmental groups spent years trying to shut the project down. Last year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sided with the tribe to deny a permit to construct the port. Last month the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) backed up that decision by adding further protections to the site.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), would remove those protections and make it harder for the state to expand aquatic reserves in the future.
Tim Ballew II, chair of the Lummi Nation:
It is essential that we protect what remains. The bill circumvents the strong public process in favor of expanding the reserve. The DNR received 5,000 comments in favor of expanding the aquatic reserve and only 10 against.
We applaud the DNR’s decision to recognize treaty rights and the will of the people.
Mel Tonasket, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and former president of the National Congress of American Indians:
It seems easier to take Indian land and cultural sites for outside developers to use, which is what I’m seeing up in Lummi County. We developed one of the best working relationships between tribes and the state in the nation. DNR and the state have been successful keeping shipments out of that bay and we commend that work.
Willie Frank III, Nisqually Indian Tribe:
Our concern at Nisqually is an accident, that something would happen that would ruin our Puget Sound that we all enjoy… It means so much that we can protect this natural resource that we all enjoy.
The hearing will be posted here later today.