This December 2013 photo shows Smugglers Cove after shoreline barging and loading activities ceased in 2013. This past May during the "fish window" for juvenile salmon, large numbers of fish were seen in the Cove, leaping out of the water to the delight of local kayakers.
So far, as of August 1, 2014, another island organization The Lummi Island Heritage Trust continues their efforts to come to an agreement with the receiver for purchase of the Lummi Island quarry property for conservation and restoration. At this time the Heritage Trust does not have the property under contract. Although the Heritage Trust has not given up their attempts to negotiate a deal, we, The Lummi Island Conservancy, have stepped up our vigilance in monitoring activity related to the quarry.
The Lummi Island Conservancy remains fully committed to preventing mining at the Lummi Island quarry beyond the currently approved 19.5 acres. Any continued mining at the site faces numerous obstacles. The current 19.5 permitted acres of the quarry are nearly exhausted with less than an acre left to mine according to a recent WA Department of Natural Resources report.
Three stop work orders imposed by Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (WCPDS) are still in effect at the site: 1) for a haul road constructed outside of mining permit boundaries to access the upper benches; 2) for a new conveyor loading pier on the shoreline; and 3) for an accessory moorage in Smugglers Cove. None of these developments were permitted before construction and quarry owners have applied for after-the-fact permits. The applications are on hold during resolution of the receivership. Quarry managers have indicated the unpermitted infrastructure is needed for efficient operation of the mine to continue.
In a letter to Lummi Rock’s attorney dated Feb. 1, 2013, Whatcom County signaled its intention to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for all pending applications. County officials had determined that the close relationship between the various proposals necessitated their consideration as a single course of action with “a probable significant adverse environmental impact.” Therefore, a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) determination of significance (DS) would be issued requiring an EIS. Preparation of an EIS is a lengthy (1-3 years) and expensive process ($100,000-$250,000). In a letter to the quarry owners in May 2013, WCPDS issued a June 2013 deadline for owners to commit to the EIS process or withdraw all applications and remove the illegal infrastructure. The Lummi Rock LLC receivership announcement that same month put the entire process on hold which is where it stands now.
An EIS must be done for this biologically sensitive site. No impartial in-depth environmental review has ever been conducted at the site which has been mined since 1964 before shoreline protections were put into place. The entire 105-acre property is located within a state Department of Fish and Wildlife designated biodiversity corridor. Whatcom County Critical Areas Ordinance maps and GIS (Geographical Information System) data define Habitat Conservation Areas for protected wildlife throughout the property, both marine and upland. Although shoreline modifications made by quarry operators have eliminated significant portions of nearshore habitat, Smugglers Cove still nurtures GIS mapped forage fish habitat with eelgrass beds. Opening onto Hale Passage and the greater Salish Sea, the cove is adjacent to the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds.
Species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are found in the area. These include ESA threatened Puget Sound Chinook (king) and Puget Sound steelhead. Also found in or around the property are local priority and sensitive species, such as Pacific herring, bald eagle, common loon, great blue heron, band-tailed pigeon, pileated woodpecker, turkey vulture, harbor seal, rockfish, Pacific sand lance, and surf smelt. The Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee has mapped sand lance larvae throughout Smugglers Cove and Hale Passage.
Along with Pacific herring, sand lance are an important food source for salmon. A federally protected peregrine falcon refuge is located barely a mile away on the west side of Lummi Island. Protected orca whales may venture into the area.
The property’s approximate 3,000 feet of shoreline has Whatcom County conservancy status and is subject to its Shoreline Management Program restrictions. All Lummi Island shoreline is classified as “of statewide significance.” NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has designated all Lummi Island shoreline as ESA Critical Habitat for threatened Puget Sound Chinook and is considering similar protection for Puget Sound steelhead.
Additional opposition could come from the Lummi Nation which has repeatedly expressed concern for interference with their treaty rights due to quarry operations. They have also demanded that an EIS be done for the site.
Adding to the cost of an EIS, an engineered stormwater plan would need to be implemented and a required shoreline vegetation mitigation plan approved and permitted. Costs would be involved for still-to-be-determined mitigations to protect the environment. Given these costs and associated time delays for resuming any mining at all, it seems unlikely profit could be expected in return for mining a half acre or so of remaining resource….unless acreage to be mined is expanded.
This raises the issue of expansion beyond the current 19.5 acres. A zone change approved by the Whatcom County Council would be required in order to do this. Public opposition to such an expansion approval could be fierce. Lengthy legal wrangling and appeals could be involved. The Conservancy is committed to fighting such an expansion for as long as it takes to stop it.
The Lummi Island Conservancy is an all-volunteer non-profit 501(c) 3 organization. We have enlisted sophisticated legal assistance and maintain a legal war chest funded entirely by donations from members and concerned citizens in Whatcom County and beyond. 100% of donations received go toward this campaign. Hopefully, the Lummi Island Heritage Trust will be able to purchase the property. In which case, we will have the happy option of applying these funds toward purchase of the property once we know it is safe.
In the meantime, we remain vigilant and ready to take action. Stay in touch for continuing updates.