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KUOW: Treaty rights affected by coal terminal in Washington

Tribes with treaty rights could affect a controversial coal export terminal in Washington:
Dozens upon dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point. The spit of land juts into northern Puget Sound.

SSA Marine says Cherry Point is an excellent location to build a terminal because it’s surrounded by deep water with quick access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. If the company has its way, up to 48 million tons of coal could move through these waters each year aboard more than 450 large ships bound for the Asian market.

But if the Lummi and other tribes exercise their treaty fishing rights, there may not be any coal ships servicing American terminals in these waters.

One out of every ten members of the Lummi Nation has a fishing license. Ancestors of the Lummi, or “People of the Sea” as they are known, and other Salish Sea peoples have fished the waters surrounding Cherry Point for more than 3,000 years. Today Lummi tribal officials are sounding the alarm about the impacts the Gateway Pacific Terminal could have on the tribe’s halibut, shrimp, shellfish and salmon fishery, which is worth a combined $15 million annually.

“You have numerous fishermen up here right now,” says Julius, a member of the Lummi tribal council. He’s gesturing at the nearby crab pots as his boat idles a little more than 50 yards from the proposed site of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, one of three coal export facilities under consideration in Oregon and Washington. “What does that mean to our treaty right to fish? This would be no more.”

Tribal treaty fishing rights could play a major role in the review process for the Gateway Pacific Terminal. According to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, nine tribes’ treaty fishing grounds would be impacted by the Gateway Pacific Terminal and the vessel traffic it would draw.

Get the Story:
Coal Ships And Tribal Fishing Grounds (KUOW 11/26)

Related Stories:
KUOW: Energy company damages historic Lummi Nation site (11/25)

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