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Archive for August, 2010

PLIC Blog

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 @ 08:08 PM
posted by mike

8-24-2010 PLIC message to County Council: Aggressive pursuit of Congressional and BIA intervention for funding, mediation

The PLIC Board’s position and urgent message to the Whatcom County delegation at the County Council special meeting on Lummi Island:

The time is NOW for Whatcom County government to meet immediately with our Congressional delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. PLIC asks that County implore these representatives to aggressively seek funding to meet the financial needs of both Lummi Nation and of Whatcom County that have led to the impasse in Lummi Island ferry negotiations.

PLIC also intends to approach representatives assertively in Congress, in Washington State Legislature, in the Governor’s office, and in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to seek relief from the potential drastic effects on the community stemming from the negotiation breakdown.

The unresolved issues are between Whatcom County and Lummi Nation, and Lummi Island Community stands to lose the most under the deadline of a ferry shutdown or unreasonable settlement. Therefore, our only recourse is to pursue intervention and action from other governmental resources.

PLIC also reiterates its belief that mediation by a qualified, impartial outside party, coupled with funding relief, would lead to a negotiated lease settlement that is in the best interest of the Lummi Nation, Whatcom County, and Lummi Island.

Further, PLIC thanks County Executive Pete Kremen for contacting the Northwest regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Stanley Speaks, to seek assistance in moving toward mediation and helping to discover alternate sources of funding. This is a positive move forward.  We encourage Lummi Nation to accept the offer to mediate. (Kremen said during the County Council meeting that he copied the Washington Congressional representatives, and that he also intends to approach the Department of Interior.)

PLIC’s position is formulated on long volunteer hours of voluminous research and on public statements from both the County Council and Lummi Indian Business Council. We are aware of LIBC’s desire for financing its economic development projects, and we are aware of Whatcom County’s financial needs for sustaining Lummi Island ferry service, both in the short term and long term.

It has become obvious that neither side has the capability for meeting the desired and necessary funds, which has stalled the negotiation process. That is why we ask the County to seek intervention at the Congressional level, and why we will vigorously pursue Congress, Washington State, and the BIA in support of:

• Lummi Nation’s economic growth grant and a desirable ferry lease,

• Whatcom County’s extreme financial needs to continue the ferry lease and maintain service levels, reasonable costs, and the ferry run to Gooseberry Point.

The financial relief we request of our Congressional delegation would include such issues as parking, ferry maintenance, a plan for eventually replacing the Whatcom Chief, and much-needed work on the ferry dock.

Thank you for your continued work on behalf of Lummi Island Community.

8-18-2010 PLIC seeks mediation, Congressional & BIA intervention

On February 4, 2010, the Lummi Nation and Whatcom County made the following joint announcement:

“The Lummi Nation and Whatcom County today reached an agreement that will ensure ferry service between Gooseberry Point and Lummi Island will continue uninterrupted. While there is much work to be done, there is a conceptual agreement for a 25-year lease with an option to renew for an additional 25 years….”

More than six months have passed since that announcement and it now appears unlikely that Whatcom County and the Lummi Nation will reach agreement for long-term ferry service to Lummi Island from Gooseberry Point without the help of impartial outside mediation.

The Board of Directors of Protect Lummi Island Community believes that negotiations of such importance should be conducted in an atmosphere conducive to compromise by the parties in order to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. We believe public statements result in a hardening of positions and are not conducive to a negotiated settlement. We urge the Lummi Nation and the County to return to the negotiating table and to seek the assistance of an impartial mediator to help them resolve all outstanding matters. Failure to reach a negotiated agreement will undoubtedly lead to prolonged and expensive litigation that will benefit no one.

As residents of Lummi Island our members will be among those most affected if an agreement is not forthcoming. We ask that our Congressional Delegation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs encourage Whatcom County and the Lummi Nation to resolve their differences through mediation. If additional funding is necessary to implement an agreement, we ask the Delegation and Bureau of Indian Affairs help the Tribe and County find those resources. In conclusion, we urge that the parties to avoid polarizing actions and use their creativity to achieve the long lasting agreement that assures long-term ferry service from Gooseberry Point.

7-14-2010 Plain Talk Letter from the President

Whatcom County officials declined an invitation in June to hear new legal information from PLIC’s contracted law firm in closed session, but left open the possibility. This week, PLIC representatives met with top County officials, and the result was positive — an agreement to hear what our attorneys have learned. Board President Stuart Rich composed the following summation of events leading up to and including the meeting on July 6:

During an open community meeting at The Grange in March 2010, official representatives from both Whatcom County and Lummi Nation made Lummi Islanders a promise. PLIC has taken several actions to assist them in keeping that promise.

On February 4, 2010 a joint statement stated: ”The Lummi Nation and Whatcom County today reached an agreement that will ensure that ferry service between Gooseberry Point and Lummi Island will continue uninterrupted…Much work needs to be done, there is a conceptual agreement for a 25-year lease with an option to renew 25 years….Both (parties) are committed to continuing to work in a spirit of cooperation to develop a final agreement in a timely manner.”

Negotiations representatives affirmed the “agreement in principle” and spoke positively and optimistically to Lummi Islanders soon thereafter. They suggested that a contract could be attained by June.

May 11, immediately after a no-results negotiating session the County Council voted 7-0 to enter into discussion with the Bellingham Port Authority for ferry service to Bellingham.

June 8, the Whatcom Chief developed a leak, which required an emergency dry dock. Another dry dock takes place the rest of July and into August, and Lummi Island ferry service remains in limbo on a month-to-month arrangement.

In light of the continuing struggle to reach a lease agreement, PLIC contracted our attorneys, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, (GTH) to expand their legal research to provide the County with new ferry information for both the County and Lummi Nation to consider in negotiations.

PLIC, representing now more than 425 members and open to all residents, property owners, and other stakeholders, then took another step forward:

We made an offer to the County Executive and County Council (see PLIC letter dated 6/21/10 on www.plicferry.org) for GTH to share with the County, at no cost to the County, important information that would be helpful to the negotiation process. PLIC made this offer in response to comments from the County Executive and several members of the County Council who welcomed both outside legal expertise and constructive ideas.

On June 24, PLIC received a letter from the County stating that our offer of assistance was at this time “not warranted.”

PLIC board members subsequently met with the County Executive last week to discuss our offer for a legal briefing to help our county representatives determine the best course of action.

I am happy to report that we have addressed the concerns of county officials and that the County Executive and the County’s legal counsel have agreed to meet with GTH and members of the County Council in the near future to consider GTH research.

PLIC’s nonpartisan support is based upon the consensus that we need to continue the Gooseberry ferry—our lifeline—for the well-being of the community. Our goal is a resolution through negotiations, not litigation, where the County and the Lummi Nation can consider all the pertinent issues, pro and con, in this complex area of law.

We thank the County and our neighbors in the Lummi Nation for their hard work during the negotiations. We urge both parties to keep their promise to reach a lease agreement that is fair for everyone.

Stuart Rich, President
PLIC Board of Directors

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