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Ericksen’s bill seeks to undo expansion of Cherry Point aquatic lands

A ship is seen in the distance moored at the BP oil refinery in the Strait of Georgia on Oct. 23, 2012, just beyond the location of a proposed coal exporting terminal in Ferndale, Wash.
A ship is seen in the distance moored at the BP oil refinery in the Strait of Georgia on Oct. 23, 2012, just beyond the location of a proposed coal exporting terminal in Ferndale, Wash. AP

A Republican state lawmaker from Ferndale is seeking to reverse a recent state action that expanded protection of 45 acres of aquatic lands at Cherry Point.

Senate Bill 5171 would reverse an order that expanded the boundaries of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark signed the order before leaving office this month. The move came a little more than three months after Lummi Nation requested Goldmark consider the change.

Leaders of several tribes, including the Lummis, testified against the bill at a hearing Tuesday.

The bill is sponsored Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who recently took a temporary position with President Donald Trump’s administration. Ericksen will act as communications director for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill, currently before the Committee on Natural Resources & Parks, would also require legislative approval before other aquatic reserves can be expanded or established.

The 45 acres at Cherry Point had been set aside for a proposed coal-export shipping terminal. But when the Gateway Pacific Terminal did not get a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers last May, the Lummi Nation asked the Department of Natural Resources to incorporate that land into the aquatic reserve.

Goldmark said incorporating the land into the reserve would ensure Lummi and other tribes retain the right to fish in their usual and accustomed areas.

“All of the ancient village sites of the Lummi people hold a special place for us, and Cherry Point is also a fishing village site, so it’s deeply connected to our fishing history as Lummi people,” Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew II said at the time. “We commend the state for taking leadership in recognizing the treaty rights of the tribe as well as the health of the water.”

Land designated as part of a reserve is basically unavailable to be leased from the state for new uses, and the intent of creating the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve was to ensure long-term environmental protection of that area, according to the area’s management plan.

Watch testimony at a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday (begins at 24:40 of video)
 
 
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