Lummi Nation, County Reach Agreement on Ferry Landing Lease

After more than 18 months of negotiation, the Lummi Nation and Whatcom County have reached a tentative agreement on a 35-year lease that will permit continued operation of a county ferry terminal on Lummi Nation land in Lummi, Washington.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 26 before the Whatcom County Council.

Under the new lease, the county will pay Lummi Nation $16,600 a month, the amount it has been paying since its earlier 25-year lease expired in February 2010. That amount, which totals $200,000 a year, will be adjusted based on inflation. In addition, the county will provide $6 million over 15 years for road improvements, including pedestrian and traffic safety.

Both sides also agree to present joint statements in the future regarding the lease “to ensure that the sentiments expressed represent an accurate and balanced description of the subject matter involved.” They also agree to not make statements to the media characterizing the position of the other party.

Negotiations were tense for both sides. The 900 residents of Lummi Island, which is outside of the reservation, depend on the car ferry to get to and from the mainland. Lummi Nation officials felt the earlier lease of $13,400 a year didn’t reflect the true value of the tidelands and uplands being used by the ferry service, and Lummi officials also wanted road and safety improvements on routes used by ferry commuters.

The county’s ferry, the Whatcom Chief, carries more than 420 cars on weekdays and more than 180 cars weekends, according to county records. Round-trip fare for a vehicle with driver is $13, with passenger $20.

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