Merle Jefferson Sr.
Director, Lummi Natural Resources Department
The Lummi Nation and its members rely on land at Cherry Point and the adjacent marine waters for commercial, ceremonial, and subsistence fisheries necessary to perpetuate the Lummi Schelangen ("way of life"). Our ancestors made sure that our right to fish and gather at this usual and accustomed site was protected in our treaty with the United States.
Cherry Point, located near the northern border of the Lummi Indian Reservation, is also the site of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project proposed by SSA Marine. The project still has at least two years of extensive environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies before a permit decision can be made.
In February 2011, the Lummi Indian Business Council, by resolution, appointed a multi-disciplinary team to lead the Lummi Nation in a decision making process in order to choose what course of action best sustains the legacy of our ancestors and meets the needs of current and future generations.
The process will be based on a technical, legal and policy review, and ultimately a decision will be made by the elected leadership of the Lummi Nation based upon this review and the knowledge and input from the approximately 4,650 Lummi Nation members.
SSA Marine has already obtained letters of support from several local governments.
In contrast, the Lummi Nation’s knowledge-based decision-making process will advance alongside the Army Corps’ environmental impact study. The Lummi process will involve communication with other tribal stakeholders.
The Lummi Team is fully aware of the economic benefit to the community that SSA Marine forecasts. However, the Lummi Team is also charged with evaluating whether the impacts and risks to Treaty Rights, natural resources, cultural resources, traditional cultural properties and the environment outweigh the potential economic gain.
What we know now is that this proposed development would be the largest to date at Cherry Point, and would substantially impact the ability of Lummi fishermen to exercise their Treaty Rights.
The Gateway Pacific pier, planned to be 3,000 feet long and 100 feet wide, would dwarf the existing piers currently operated by BP Cherry Point, ALCOA-Intalco Aluminum and ConocoPhillips.
The pier would be large enough to accept massive Cape-size ships—which are too big to even travel through the Panama Canal, can carry 250,000 dead weight tons, and may require up to four tugboats to guide them into port.
This increased vessel traffic will present a particular hazard to tribal fishers in their comparatively small fishing boats and will interfere with fishing.
Other Lummi Nation concerns about the terminal include:
- Impacts to irreplaceable cultural resources and traditional cultural properties
- Blocked access to treaty-protected tribal fishing grounds
- Increased risk of vessel/tanker collision, resulting in potential oil spills
- Degraded water quality associated with storm water runoff from the facility
- Eliminated wetlands
- Reduced instream flows needed for impaired Nooksack River salmon and resulting habitat degradation
- Increased train traffic, blocking Slater Road, hurting the local economy
- Global climate change and other air- and water-quality impacts associated with using coal as an energy source
Our Lummi ancestors had a village at Cherry Point because of its unique deep-water resources. Today, this site is also one of the most commercially valuable ports on the West Coast.
As we have in the past, the Lummi Nation will conduct its due diligence to ensure that if this project is developed, negative impacts will be avoided or minimized and any unavoidable impacts appropriately mitigated.
Our Lummi people would expect no less than a thorough investigation when an important aspect of our Lummi Schelangen hangs in the balance.