The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced its plans to consider a change to the boundary of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve in response to a request by the Lummi Nation. The proposed change would incorporate a cutout area that was intended to house the Gateway Pacific Terminal into the reserve area. The terminal project has faced significant obstacles, as the Army Corps of Engineers denied permitting to build the terminal based on a finding that it would negatively impact the Lummi Nation’s treaty-protected fishing rights. DNR relied on similar grounds in denying a lease application for the site.
If incorporated into the aquatic reserve, the cutout would unavailable for leasing by state to private parties for uses that conflict with the environmental protection goals of the reserve. Under state law, the DNR is responsible for managing state owned aquatic lands, which are held in trust for the public benefit. DNR must balance environmental protection with other public benefits, including economic use. Aquatic lands that have particular environmental significance can be designated by DNR as an aquatic reserve, which provides an additional measure of environmental protection. The Cherry Point area was designated as an aquatic reserve in 2000.
DNR’s decision whether to amend the boundary of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve will involve a public review process under SEPA. For more information about this proposed change, please contact our office.