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Lummi Nation, Whatcom County Close Deal on Ferry Lease

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The Lummi Nation and Whatcom County in Washington agreed on a new 35-year lease for the Lummi Island ferry dock, reported The Bellingham Herald.

On Tuesday, May 17, Dan Gibson, the county's assistant prosecuting attorney, announced an "agreement in concept" to the ferry lease, which previously expired in February 2010.

The parties decided on a county lease of tribal tidelands and an uplands lease to allow continued operation of the car ferry dock on the Lummi Reservation.

The ferry is the “lifeline to the mainland” for about 900 island residents, the Herald previously reported.

Gibson declined to answer the Herald's questions about the cost of the new lease. It was previously reported that the tribe was trying to negotiate for more money than the offered $200,000 a year for 25 years, with annual inflation adjustments. The Lummi Nation had been pushing for a 35-year lease and additional sums to cover leases of upland acreage next to the dock, as well as millions of dollars in safety and pedestrian improvements in and around the dock. It was unclear on Tuesday whether any kind of safety improvements might be included in the new deal, stated the Herald.

The tribe had also previously stressed that leasing the ferry dock would increase the cost of its plans for a Gooseberry Point marina by more than $4 million, reported the Herald in March.

"Once the contract language is finalized, both councils will vote on the final contracts. Additional details will become available as the contract language is developed in concert by the parties," said the joint statement.

Over the past year, Islanders have dealt with steep hikes in ferry fares intended to cover the rising cost of ferry operations. They could face another fare hike if the cost of the new deal exceeds the $200,000-a-year payment, stated the newspaper.