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State Considering Expansion Of Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve

Courtesy Washington DNR
Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve

One day is left in the public comment period on a proposal from the state Department of Natural Resources to expand one of its Aquatic Reserves.

It would limit use of an additional 45 acres of the area north of Bellingham known as Cherry Point.

The proposal is to incorporate the 45 acres that were reserved for the Gateway Pacific shipping terminalinto the existing Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. This so-called “cutout” is now in limbo after the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permits for Gateway Pacific because it determined it would violate the Lummi tribe’s treaty fishing rights.

The tribe requested the expansion to provide more permanent protection. The Washington Environmental Council is supporting the tribe’s request and emailed its supporters urging people to submit public comments encouraging the state to go ahead with the plan

“So this is a final step to make sure that this really critical area for the tribal treaty rights, as well as health of Puget Sound, is protected,” said Rebecca Ponzio, the group’s oil campaign director.  

A technical advisory committee of scientists has unanimously recommended the expansion. Joe Smilie, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources,  says the primary concern is the population of herring that lives off the strait of Georgia in Cherry Point.

“They’re kind of a building block of the food web. Herring feed salmon which feed orcas and all sorts of other megafauna,” Smilie said.

The area is also home to two oil refineries, an aluminum smelter and zoning for heavy industry. But the proposed expansion of the reserve comes at the same time that the Whatcom County Council is considering restricting new developments for handling of fossil fuels. After the comment period ends on Friday, Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark will decide on whether to add the land to the reserve.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to