By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
Now that the chances of building a coal terminal look like a longshot, the future of business at Cherry Point near Ferndale is up for debate.
In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point on grounds that it would interfere with the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights.
The terminal would have been one of the largest ports to export U.S. coal to Asia.
At Bellingham City Club’s Wednesday, June 22 meeting, three experts with three very different
perspectives came together to talk about what the future of the area near Ferndale, which has been an industry hub for decades, might look like.
Tim Ballew II, the chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council, spoke first.
He said his main hope for Cherry Point was to “find a future that fits our past, find a future that acknowledges our past.”
He rejected the notion that in fighting the Gateway Pacific Coal Terminal the Lummi Nation was merely being obstructionist or trying to limit jobs.
“We fully support the existing industry,” he said.
Mark Lowry is a labor activist.
He emphasized the need to create more jobs in Whatcom County, including manufacturing.
“It is apparent to labor that if we can’t make things here anymore, we will lose the middle class,” he said.
Lowry also serves as the president of the Northwest Labor Council, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 843 and vice president of the
Washington State Labor Council.
Also speaking was James McCafferty, assistant director of the Center of Economic Development and Business Research at Western Washington University.
The speakers also addressed suggestions guests had submitted.
One of the suggestions was to do nothing at Cherry Point.
“The overriding imperative is that we do something, somewhere,” Lowry said.
He said if we don’t start building industry and creating jobs at Cherry Point, we’ll just have to put them somewhere else.
Another suggestion was to put alternative energy industries in the area.
“Should we go green? Of course,” McCafferty said.
The question, he said, is how long that transition will take, and what will be helping to driving the economy in the meantime.
One suggestion was to rehabilitate the ecosystem around Cherry Point and return to gathering shellfish and fishing there.
Ballew’s response was simple: “Agreed.”
McCafferty cautioned that climate change and rising water temperatures could actually mean it is now impossible to restore the ecosystem that once thrived there.