Blaine officials, Lummi representatives meet to discuss no shooting zone in Drayton Harbor

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Mayor Bonnie Onyon, city councilmember Mary Lou Steward and city manager Michael Jones recently met with members of the Lummi Indian Business Council to discuss a potential compromise regarding the no shooting zone that the city of Blaine wants Whatcom County to establish over Drayton Harbor.

The meeting took place at the request of Whatcom County councilmember Rud Browne, who was also present. The city of Blaine is seeking the creation of a no shooting zone in all of Drayton Harbor, much of which is outside of Blaine city limits, in order to address some residents’ concerns about gunfire near homes and property. Hunters, including tribal members, have largely opposed Blaine’s request, telling Whatcom County Council that tribal hunting rights and ceremonial practices would be affected.

At their February 10 meeting, Jones briefed Blaine city councilmembers on the meeting that took place on February 5 at the Lummi administrative offices. “I would say there was a lot of good back and forth in the meeting, but the general forward progress that we agreed to after the meeting was that I would be speaking with you about a potential compromise position,” Jones said. “And the Lummi Indian Business Council was going to call a meeting of any of their interested hunters, of which they suggested there were 200 to 300 hunters who were likely to participate, and they are going to get some additional feedback from them.”

Whereas Browne had previously suggested a 1,000-foot buffer around Drayton Harbor’s shoreline in which no shooting would be allowed, with hunting allowed to continue in the middle area of the harbor under county jurisdiction, Jones has now formulated a different compromise position for consideration.

“It’s not consistent with the [city of Blaine] resolution because the resolution seeks closure of the entire harbor,” Jones said. “The suggestion that I had put forward was the idea of leaving the southern part of the harbor open for shooting, which would primarily be duck hunting, and that a no shooting zone would basically extend from the city limits on one side of the harbor to the city limits on the other side of the harbor, making that whole center portion of the harbor that is under Whatcom County jurisdiction into a no shooting zone.”

Councilmember Eric Davidson asked: “And that’s significantly larger than what Rud Browne had initially put forth, correct?” Jones answered, “Yes, it is significantly more than what Mr. Browne put forward.”

After he was asked by councilmember Charlie Hawkins to clarify his proposed boundaries, Jones referenced the city’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) limits. “To be a little more clear, my suggestion is from the city’s Urban Growth boundary, the UGA limit, across, so it’s roughly from near Hall Road where that ends at the water across to about Shintaffer Road,” said Jones. “South of that, there are really only a handful of houses, and they are also all in Whatcom County jurisdiction outside of your Urban Growth Area, so those really would be entirely up to the county council to decide how they want to address those citizens’ concerns.”

In response to a question from mayor Onyon, Jones said that approval of the proposed compromise is not needed from Blaine City Council, because the decision is up to Whatcom County Council on whether to amend the Whatcom County Code to create a no shooting zone. “Ultimately, their action will be their action, and I don’t really need a nod of approval or any kind of a vote from you, but I wanted to let you know, so that you could reach out to me and give me feedback,” said Jones. “Currently, your resolution says closure of the entire harbor. My impression is, we may need some alternatives.”

Mayor Onyon described the position of the Lummi hunters, saying that they have largely been against the creation of a no shooting zone by the county. “They have the right to shoot anywhere in all open waters, and they know that,” she said. “By their treaty, they can do that. But they don’t want to be singled out as being allowed to do that and there to be a question, if law enforcement sees somebody out there shooting, where [an officer] has to wonder: Is that Lummi? Is that non-Lummi or non-tribal? They just don’t want to have to deal with that.”

Councilmember Steward said that there are precedents for the proposed no shooting zone, including Wiser Lake. “The one thing that we put forward … was the fact that we’re not setting a precedent here because there is, in the county, Wiser Lake, which has very much fewer houses around it, and it is totally non-shooting, non-hunting,” said Steward. “So I think the Lummi Indians were not aware of this, and so we put this forward: that we are not setting a new precedent, we in fact have more rational reasons for asking for non-shooting because we have way many more houses around our lake, our harbor, if you want, than Wiser does, so we were not being unreasonable.”

Mayor Onyon said that Blaine is in an urban area, whereas Wiser Lake is in a rural area, but that this only bolsters Blaine’s case for the creation of a no shooting zone. “All the more reason why we’re justified in asking for the no-shoot zone,” she said. “And our city limits surround it all. How much credence they’ll place on that, because it’s a county council decision on this? We’ll see where it goes.”

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