by Rebecca Rettmer
Following two years of intense negotiations with the court-appointed receiver, Lummi Island Heritage Trust has secured a deal to purchase the 105-acre Lummi Island quarry property. The property includes 4,000 feet of shoreline opening onto Smugglers Cove and Hale Passage on the southeastern slope of Lummi Mountain. A 20-acre scar created by decades of mining is visible from Bellingham, to as far north as Gooseberry Pt. and south to Chuckanut Drive.
The Trust will implement an extensive restoration project at the site. once the acquisition is completed. The first phase of the project will be determining reclamation strategies for approximately 20 acres of uplands damaged by mining as well as restoration strategies for approximately 500 feet of the shoreline used for barging rock and gravel from the mine.
The Heritage Trust will partner with Northwest Straits Foundation, Whatcom County and Washington Department of Natural Resources to repair and re-vegetate the land and shoreline to a more natural state, while making sure the area is safe for what will one day be a saltwater access preserve for low impact public use.
The two-year purchase effort was fraught with uncertainty as the receiver marketed the property for mining and residential development. A last minute offer from a mining company threatened to trump the Trust’s offer, but an emergency bridge loan from concerned citizens enabled the Trust to prevail. The deal was finally closed on September 30, 2015. During these two years of negotiation, the Heritage Trust has worked diligently to secure grants and private donations, now totaling $1,080,000 toward the total acquisition cost of $1,550,000. The acquisition cost includes purchase of the property and funds required to safeguard stewardship into the future. A capital campaign is being launched to raise the remaining funding.
The property has both local and regional conservation significance and has attracted numerous partners for the purchase and restoration. The Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Shore Program has awarded a $600,000 Marine Shoreline Protection grant and Whatcom County has committed $400,000 toward the purchase. The Rose Foundation has awarded $100,000 to begin restoration feasibility work. Other partners include the Northwest Straits Foundation, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee, and many private individuals. Whatcom County Parks and Recreation will acquire an easement with the Heritage Trust to help develop a low impact saltwater access preserve in the future.
The property’s 4,000 foot shoreline includes four intact pocket beaches abutting nearby eel grass beds. This is prime habitat for essential forage fish species and migrating juvenile salmon. The property also abuts prime fishing and crabbing waters.
Once an industrial eyesore to kayakers, fishers and boaters, the scenic shoreline will be restored and once again become home to a variety of marine creatures: eagles, herons, loons, migrating shorebirds, otters, and seals among them. The over 80 un-mined upland acres consist of mature forest habitat, providing home to native plants and wildlife. These include local priority species like Pileated woodpeckers.
Established in 1998, the Lummi Island Heritage Trust is a nationally accredited land trust. With this project, the Trust has now conserved 1,088 acres of land on Lummi Island. As development threatens the natural areas of Whatcom County, the San Juan Islands and the entire Puget Sound basin, conservation of remaining habitat and open spaces becomes increasingly urgent.
To this end, Lummi Island Heritage Trust is inviting the greater, off-island community to help raise the remaining funds needed to complete the acquisition phase of this project. Restoration of the scenic shoreline view seen from Bellingham and Chuckanut will be but one of the benefits to the broader community. Local fisheries will benefit from enhanced salmon and crab habitat, and in the future a low impact saltwater access preserve will allow small boat and pedestrian access.
To learn how concerned citizens were instrumental in successfully working with community and government to bring about this significant conservation opportunity, look for a follow-up article in the December issue of Whatcom Watch.
History of Lummi Island Quarry
1934 Quarry closed after four months of operations; forest regenerates
1948 Homer and Marguerite (Peggy) Aiston purchase the 105 acre property
1958 Property sold to local Neidhamer family
1964 Lease granted on ten acres for quarrying
1990 Everett Rock takes over quarry operations
1996 County issues Stop Work Order; mining boundaries challenged in court
1997 County Council approves 20-acre Mineral Lands Resource (MRL) on property; mining resumes
1999 Neidhamers sell property to Everett Rock parties and partners
2004 Aggregates West, Inc. takes over quarry operations
2005 Lummi Rock LLC incorporates (previous owners plus Aggregates West principals) and borrows 3.5 million from Frontier Bank
August 2007 WA Department of Ecology issues corrections for violations at site
December 2007 County approves mining on remaining 9.5 acres of 20 acre MRL
April 2010 Northwest Clean Air Agency issues violations for air quality and unpermitted crusher plant
December 2010 County and WA Dept. of Natural Resources issue violations for mining operations outside permit boundaries including a new road
December 2010 Lummi Rock applies for MRL rezone to expand mining to an additional 27.5 acres
March 2011 WA Dept. of Ecology issues corrections for violations at site
June 2011 WA Department of Natural Resources issues shoreline lease violation
November 2011 County issues shoreline violations for unpermitted pier and moorage construction
November 2011 Army Corps of Engineers determines violations of the Clean Water Act have occurred
January/June 2012 County issues Stop Work Orders for on-going violations; operations are allowed to continue using original dock and road
March/Sept 2012 Sunken barge hulls leaking oil are removed; oil spills lead to fines from Ecology (2013)
October 2012 Ballard Diving and Salvage sues Lummi Rock for $275,000 non-payment
October 2012 Lummi Rock appeals Stop Work Orders to Whatcom County Hearing Examiner
November 2012 Union bank (formerly Frontier) sues Lummi Rock for default on 3.5 million loan
May 2013 County issues 30-day deadline to Lummi Rock to follow through on compliance requirements
June 2013 Lummi Rock seeks court receivership
Summer 2013–2015 Quarry operations wind down; receiver seeks buyer for property