Submitted by: Port of Bellingham
The Port of Bellingham and Lummi Nation have reached a landmark agreement setting the stage for a new era of cooperation and economic growth.
This agreement addresses a number of long-standing issues associated with modifications to Bellingham Bay and Drayton Harbor in the Lummi Nation’s “Usual and Accustomed” (U&A) fishing grounds and stations.
Starting around the turn of the century, white settlers began dredging, filling, and armoring tidelands in Bellingham Bay and Drayton Harbor to create flat land for industrial and commercial development. These changes destroyed valuable finfish and shellfish habitat and created a permanent obstruction to Lummi fishing areas protected by the Point Elliot Treaty of 1855 with the Federal Government. Although some of these changes occurred before the Port of Bellingham existed or were built by others, the Port now owns and/or operates in areas that were impacted by these changes.
Rather than turning to the courts to resolve these issues, the Lummi Nation and Port worked together to craft an agreement acknowledging the historical structural impacts while celebrating the environmental and economic importance of Bellingham Bay and Drayton Harbor to our mutual community.
This agreement allows the Port to maintain and modernize its in-water facilities and provides the Lummi Nation with vessel moorage in Squalicum and Blaine Harbors for the Lummi fishing fleet.
For the Lummi Nation, the agreement is a reflection of the Nation’s past leaders and their teachings of sustainability and conserving resources for future generations. It recognizes and honors Lummi as a fishing Nation, who have worked and celebrated life on the shores and waters of Puget Sound since time immemorial. The Lummi Nation tradition as a salmon people continues today with the largest native commercial fishing fleet in the country and strong cultural and economic ties to salmon.
For the Port, marine trades are a critical part of the regional economy with over 6,000 jobs created or supported by the working waterfront. Squalicum Harbor and Blaine Harbor are home port to more than 2,000 commercial and pleasure boats and the Port is making significant investments to modernize Whatcom County’s waterfront infrastructure and promote economic growth.
This agreement sets the stage for a new era of cooperation and economic prosperity. The Port and Lummi Nation are working collaboratively to not only increase the number of salmon in local waters, but to also increase public understanding of the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights and cultural heritage.