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Archive for September, 2011

PLIC Plain Talk: support the ferry lease

Saturday, September 10, 2011 @ 02:09 PM
posted by mike

PLIC PLAIN TALK on APPROVING THE FERRY LEASE

Greetings, Friends, on this gorgeous 9-10-11.

We have reached the end game. You are needed. Tuesday night, Sept. 13—just 3 days out— Whatcom County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed lease agreement with Lummi Indian Business Council (LIBC) for ferry service at Gooseberry Point. The Council might vote to approve or reject the proposal that night. And their vote is hanging in the balance.

We need to get this deal done now. No more delays. No more uncertainty. Now is the time. Please participate in getting it signed.

Two calls to action are extremely urgent:

1.       Write now. Right now. Write a short, to-the-point email or letter to County Council asking for their ‘yes’ vote  to approve the lease. Councilman Ken Mann has requested this in writing, so the Council will know that it is the consensus position of Lummi Island stakeholders. There is no other viable option. Send your email to: council@co.whatcom.wa.us (it will be distributed to each Council member).

2.       Attend the County Council meeting Tuesday night. PLIC Board of Directors is organizing car pools and renting a bus. PLIC Board also is preparing speakers for the public hearing, to stress that this lease agreement is the ONLY and best assurance for reliable access to the mainland and to prevent further major delays, disruptions, and costs.

Approval of this lease agreement is best for Whatcom County as a whole, for many reasons tied to costs and economic impact, and obviously it is best for its Lummi Island constituents for safety and stability.

Our Ferry Task Force ran the numbers for us.  We can afford the lease if the County Council acts on their final report. The lease and the Ferry Task Force recommendations provide the best options for Whatcom County.

When the County Council last met, August 9, and discussed the lease proposal in a Committee of the Whole, PLIC Board had, through personal contact and discussion, assurances that the Council favored the proposal, 5-2.

As of Friday, Sept. 9, again through person-to-person conversations and email exchanges, we know that some circumstances have caused some Council members to reconsider their approval. The result is that our ferry transportation once again could continue unresolved and leave the County and us in further, protracted, extremely costly turmoil – with no immediate resolution available.

The reasons that the proposed lease agreement is the best choice for the County and for Lummi Island:

  • It is the least costly of other possibilities (e.g., litigation, ferry to Fairhaven, newer ferry, economic impact, and more).
  • There is no Plan B in place. The only other possibility discussed has been Fairhaven, and thorough studies have shown clearly this would be dangerous, more expensive, and not provide adequate service.
  • By rejecting the proposal, the County becomes vulnerable to legal action – either or both through individual or public law suits and through brinksmanship if the ferry kept running to Gooseberry without a lease.

PLIC membership and the PLIC Board have spent countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars researching what would be in the best interest of Whatcom County as a whole, and Lummi Island within that framework.

Through two years of public meetings, on island and at County Council, of face-to-face meetings with County government, and of seeking research and the best advice from some of the best legal resources in the country, the conclusion comes back to the No. 1 mission of PLIC since its formation:

Long-term ferry service at Gooseberry Point.

PLIC’s legal team concurs. Our Congressional delegation concurs. We need County Council to concur.

Voices have been raised to County government about rejecting the proposal and pursuing legal entitlements involving the federally-mandated Right of Way (ROW) and the consent decree attached to the last lease, which expired in February 2010. PLIC neither disputes nor discount these issues, and we respect the right to all opinions.

The PLIC Board, on behalf of its membership of about 500, vigorously pursued those avenues. The feedback, after exhaustive research and discovery, was clear: going to court with no assurance of a favorable ruling is a terrible option. It would cost the County and the public millions, and take many years. Those attorneys worked hand-in-hand with County government attorneys throughout the negotiation process to arrive at the best possible resolution through negotiation.

Heeding the best legal advice available, with deep experience in tribal law and work with the Dept. of Interior and the BIA, the County’s best and only financially-viable resolution to transportation for Lummi Island is a negotiated lease for continued, long-term service to Gooseberry Point.

PLIC’s legal team concurs. Our Congressional delegation concurs. We need County Council to concur.

Please make your voice heard on this.

  • Write now.
  • Attend Tuesday.

Let us know by email if you have special needs requirements to get to the public hearing Tuesday.

Each of you who lives off the island, please arrange to join us Tuesday night at County Council.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.

Sincerely,

The PLIC Board of Directors:
Stuart Rich, President
Mark Sexton, Vice President
Joan Moye, Treasurer
Rhayma Blake, Secretary
Michael McKenzie
David Wing

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