May 242010

For several months we’ve been faced with the possibility that the Lummis might decide to get rid of the ferry dock at Gooseberry Point or drive such a hard bargain that the County would not be able to afford to use it. In the intervening months all the energy of the community has been directly toward lobbying to maintain, in perpetuity, the Gooseberry Point connection.

But what happens if negotiations fall apart completely? What happens if we end up with a passenger ferry to Fairhaven? The answer is we start from zero with no prior planning by the community for how to deal with this contingency. All of our eggs, all of our gooseberries, are in one basket.

We have had time (seven months) to develop contingency plans for transportation and supply in the event that we are no longer able to make the quick trip by private auto to Gooseberry Point and thus to other destinations in Whatcom County and beyond.

As I understand it, even the Lummi Nation was ahead of us on this as they had already made provisions for a water taxi to get their island employees across the passage to work.

Talking about a passenger ferry to Fairhaven doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Nor does it mean you want to happen (though it might surprise people that those who put themselves in the “economic doomer” category could make a case for why limited future access to the island is preferable to easy access).

The worst thing that can happen is to be caught with no planning. We can’t rely on government to bail us out but because of our small population we will be well down the priority list. And, because of economic decline, government may not be able to afford to help us. Lummi Island needs to do some thinking about how it would be possible to cope without a car ferry. People say it’s “inconceivable” that we could lose the ferry. The fact, is that possibility is very real and the motivation for PLIC, the ferry forum and hours of discussion.

Chances are still good that the County and the Lummis will work something out. In the meantime, give some thought to what happens if they don’t and which existing or new organization(s) should take the lead in planning for all contingencies.


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