Between a rock and a hard place, or casino and ferry

Weeks ago as the Lummi Nation decided to flex their sovereignty by cutting off the most practical access to Lummi Island, I wondered how island residents would cope with and hour long ferry ride and I wondered if island schools would become part of Bellingham rather than Ferndale.   I also pondered the fate of the Haxton Way improvement projects with hopes that taxpayers would be saving millions of dollars in what should now be a defunct project.

If you remember, we taxpayers are funding improvements on Haxton between Slater Road and Chief Kwina Road, the mostly flat are between the Casino and the more residential areas of tribal land.  Everything I’ve read and even watched on BTV has identified the improvements as necessary pedestrian safety items due to increased traffic heading out to the ferry landing.  It was difficult to buy into that argument not because it couldn’t be valid, but because no one would address the casino elephant in the room.  The casino is a relatively recent addition and it would seem obvious to also look into it’s  impact on pedestrian safety.  I looked and I don’t recall seeing any such investigation so it’s pretty tough to buy into an assessment when your not sure whether one was actually done.

Realistically, why would the Lummi Nation bother with any research that might point a finger at a casino as a safety issue.  They’d be shooting themselves and other tribal ventures in the area (read that Northwood Casino) in the foot.   My suspicion is that the ferry traffic argument was made stronger than reality to divert attention away from the casino as an issue.

I’ve more than once wondered where allegience falls when people with strong tribal affiliations hold government office, but lets cast aside conspiracy theories for now and look at the issue at hand.  With the Lummi Nation not renewing the County’s lease for the ferry terminal, we should expect that the millions being allocated for the improvements would be cancelled poste haste:)   If you’ve read much about dealing with tribal related issues you may have noticed a big disconnect between what should be done and what actually is done.  I have little doubt that things will be different with this issue and until yesterday wasn’t thinking I ever would.

Apparently the Whatcom County Council has put part of the Haxton improvement project on hold while negotiations over the ferry landing continue, but the Whatcom County of Governments still has this  project on their list of items to lobby for in Olympia.  And it’s still on the list to the tune of $10 million dollars.  Thankfully, Councilman Sam Crawford caught this and is making various local officials aware, so I’m sure it will be in the news soon. He has suggested that “this item be removed from the state legislative lobbying agenda until more is understood and decided regarding the use of Gooseberry Point, and its direct impact to the traffic and overall use of Haxton Road.”

I think that Sam’s suggestion is a good one from both the taxpayer and negotiator perspective.  I’m also looking at his suggestion with a bit ammusement wondering what the tribes will come up with to keep us taxpayers paying for their road improvements around their casino.  They can’t say it needs to be done for the ferry traffic and they can’t say that the casino causes safety issues; seams they are between a rock and a hard place.

**updated** I noticed that Jared Paben had some of Sam Crawford’s comments up on his Herald blog Crawford suggests removing Haxton Way project from transportation lobbying list

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