by Albert W. Marshall
Editor’s Note: Lummi Island has been spared the wrecking ball. In 2015, the Lummi Island Heritage Trust secured a deal to purchase the 105-acre Lummi Island quarry property. The April issue of Whatcom Watch will have an update on the quarry purchase.
It is difficult now to write about the proposed comprehensive plan which appears to be in an uncertain state of flux, with very little hard information available to the public at this time. Some of the issues that concern us are summarized here.
It is generally acknowledged that growth on Lummi Island will be limited by availability of potable water. Saltwater intrusion is already a problem with some wells, and the problem can only become worse as more water is withdrawn from the aquifer. It seems likely that on the mainland, water will also become a limiting factor to growth; water is essential for fish, agriculture, residential use, and for much of industry. Consequently, it is disturbing to suspect that the proposed comprehensive plan will not seek to properly identify and protect the water supplies necessary for future development in Whatcom County.
Lummi Island Quarry
The quarry committee of the Lummi Island Conservancy has been actively opposing the proposed expansion of the 16+ acre quarry here (permitted for 10 acres). This quarry, on the southeast shore of Lummi Mountain in full view of Bellingham, has been proposed for a 20-acre MRL (Mineral Resource Lands) designation in the proposed comprehensive plan. The quarry operator has recently asked the Whatcom County Council to increase the MRL designation to about 144 acres.
Here is some background. In December of 1995, the quarry operator applied for a MRL designation on about 240 acres of Lummi Mountain. The State Environmental Policy Act review led to a determination of significance, meaning that an environmental impact statement would be required. Issues to be addressed by the environmental impact statement were “geology, topography, air quality, public water supplies, wildlife habitat — including unique and endangered species, scenic resources, noise, relationship to existing land use and shoreline plans, and public safety.” Faced with this requirement, the quarry operator withdrew the MRL application. Even in the absence of a formal application or environmental review, a MRL designation can be placed in the comprehensive plan. However, all of the issues listed in the State Environmental Policy Act determination apply equally well here to a MRL designation of any size. These concerns deserve to be addressed before a MRI designation of any size is given to the property.
There is a concern that a MRL designation would obviate the need for a conditional use permit, which could impose conditions on such things as the hours of operation or even on the rate of extraction. At a minimum, the county owes its citizens an opportunity to express concerns in front of the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner and to have those concerns considered.
We do not think that a mine should be allowed to open or expand near an existing residential development. The resulting drop in property values and the loss of domestic tranquility amounts to an unjust taking of private property without compensation.
Revised Comprehensive Plan
It has been very hard to keep track of the various changes proposed for the comprehensive plan during recent meetings of the Planning and Development Committee of the council. Some of the written material I have seen is so obscure that it might have been written by a lawyer. Some is also ambiguous and open to several interpretations that even the planning department could not explain. If the final plan is not written more clearly and precisely, there will surely be conflicts and only the lawyers will win. This is a very unfortunate time to have a decimated planning department.
Sometimes in frustration, I wonder if it matters what goes into the comprehensive plan. In many instances, development on Lummi Island has been allowed that clearly violates both the intent of the old comprehensive plan and the zoning laws. The state has failed to enforce logging regulations, and has turned a blind eye towards violations of the quarry permit. What difference do all of the regulations make if they are not enforced? And enforcement failure has been the rule on Lummi Island.
In 1997, Albert W. Marshall was an adjunct professor of mathematics at Western Washington University and president of the Lummi Island Conservancy
Lummi Island Under the Wrecking Ball
by Maribeth Hardmeyer
Lummi Island, Whatcom County’s piece of the San Juan Islands, is under the wrecking ball. While our sister islands are staying healthy and whole by preserving their beauty and promoting their natural good looks for all the world to see (and the world does see, as tourism is the main source of revenue for these pieces of pristine beauty), Lummi Island on the other hand is losing its beauty rock by rock. And this damage is occurring with the approval of Whatcom County and state officials.
Smuggler’s Cove was once the most beautiful small harbor on Lummi Island, appreciated for its breathtaking landscape. Now it is the home of the Lummi Island quarry. The quarry, in full view of Bellingham, has changed forever the uniqueness of the cove and what remains is a gaping hole, sterile and stripped of its natural wonders.
Wildlife habitat is also suffering. Lummi Island, nestled in Bellingham’s front yard, should have its scenic beauty preserved so that Whatcom County’s piece of the San Juan Islands can maintain its place as one of our most treasured scenic resources.
Maribeth Hardmeyer is a concerned citizen of Whatcom County.