Our Lummi Island Community

Public Dock FAQ’s

The LICA-sponsored Public Dock Advisory Committee was formed in September 2021 (click here to go to the committee’s main page). The goal is to work toward meeting the needs of our community by gathering islander opinion, input, and ideas about building a permanent public dock.  Over the next 6 to 8 months, the committee will continue to hold public meetings, host discussion groups, and launch community surveys to build awareness and share feedback.

You can check this page again for updated FAQs. 

*** Want to add a question to the FAQs or have a comment? Click here to contact the Public Dock Advisory Committee Leads. ***

Click on + to Expand Answers

Why is a public dock needed? People can already request a helicopter or use the ferry for emergency medical treatment. The ferry is very reliable and I do not understand why a public dock would be necessary.

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

The public dock would NOT be a replacement for the existing emergency response system, it would be complementary. A dock could offer redundant access during a ferry outage or evacuation. Adding a dock as a resource would serve as a backup plan and act as an insurance policy to protect us against a single point of failure.

Emergency management access scenarios:

  • Handled by the Lummi Island Fire Department emergency response with support from Whatcom County as needed
  • Emergency response plans could be enhanced with access to an additional dock
  • Future ferry terminal is expected to support improved emergency access, but will NOT be intended for use by the general public

Urgent access scenarios for general public service:

  • Occur during ferry outages - planned and unplanned
  • Situations that are not life threatening, but important
  • Examples include reaching the mainland for medical appointments, time-sensitive reservations, travel plans, etc.
  • Could provide alternate access to Bellingham via boat during flooding on the mainland

Proposed site for a new public dock at Beach Access Park across from Beach Store Café The committee is proposing to build the public dock at the site of the Lummi Island Beach Access Park on N Nugent Road across from the Beach Store Café.

Whatcom County Parks & Recreation owns this property which includes a platform, stairs down to the beach, and 125 feet of waterfront.

Whatcom County does not own the land extending into the tidelands which would be needed to reach deeper water. A lease with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would need to be negotiated.

Community meetings will be planned over the next several months to generate ideas and input about potential alternatives.  So far, the committee has considered a variety of possible access points, but have not found another good solution for urgent access:

  1. Near the ferry terminal – rip rap (boulders) presents a physical barrier to even the most agile people. The ferry replacement project includes enhancements for emergency access, but is not intended for public use or for private boats during a ferry outage.
  2. Aiston Preserve (Lummi Island Heritage Trust) – The site will provide public access for day-use, low impact, and passive recreation. It is intended to support emergency beach access for a landing craft and a landing zone for a helicopter, but includes no plans for a public dock. Vehicle access to the preserve is constrained by very narrow roads.
  3. Scenic Estates (residential community) – provides seasonal docks that are intended for Scenic Estate residents to use.
  4. Village Point Marina on Legoe Bay – the property is currently for sale, so the future of a boat launch and access to a dock is uncertain. The winds and current make the site challenging and the location is not easily accessible to Gooseberry Point.
  5. Sunset Beach on West Shore Drive – public beach on the west side owned by Whatcom County Parks & Recreation. Requires a landing craft and is not easily accessible to Gooseberry Point.
  6. Isle Aire Beach – private beach on the west side intended for Isle Aire resident use. Requires a landing craft and is not easily accessible to Gooseberry Point.
  7. Private beach access – no viable options were found.

Lummi Island needs a community dock for emergencies…a way to evacuate in non-life-threatening situations. Walking down the riprap is not acceptable or safe.
(From an Island resident who needed urgent access during a ferry outage)

The committee is recommending that the pier be built to comply with ADA guidelines and be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or a gurney. Degree of slope of the gangway will vary with tidal changes and compliance might not be guaranteed under all conditions.

Passengers climbing up riprap near the Lummi Island ferry terminal in 2021 Passengers climbing up riprap near the Lummi Island ferry terminal. These residents were stuck on Gooseberry Point during an unplanned ferry outage in July 2021 and used private boats to return to the island.

What happens if a boat or dinghy is tied up to the dock and there is an emergency? We don't want to have a situation where visiting boats block access.

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

Sign reading The committee is recommending that the dock include a Red Zone to be kept clear for emergency access.

Damaged public dock at Sinclair Island
Damaged public dock at Sinclair Island


Other nearby islands have experienced storm damage to existing docks and then had long waits for costly repairs.

How will we protect a public dock on Lummi Island?

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

You can select this link to access the Skagit County Department of Public Works web site to learn more about this damage and the repair plan for the public dock on Sinclair Island.

The committee is proposing a design that could easily lift the dock in and out of the water for response to storms or other conditions and for the off season. The committee will be holding a series of public workshops through Summer and Fall 2022 to collect ideas for dock design alternatives.

NOTE: The dock must be designed to comply with the Washington State Department of Ecology Shoreline Master Plan (SMP). The SMP Guidelines address shoreline modifications including piers and docks, shoreline stabilization, breakwaters and others [WAC 173-26-231]. Open this link in a new web page to read chapter 12 on Piers, Docks and Overwater Structures.

Since there are few safe anchorages surrounding Lummi Island, could consideration be made to allow overnight use of the dock for visiting boats? I have occasionally anchored and rowed ashore, but the strong current and surrounding shoreline are challenging.

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

The current discussion by the committee has focused ONLY on short term tie ups with no overnight stays, similar to other community docks in the San Juan Islands. 

The proposed public dock is NOT a marina. There is NO intention to include a fuel dock.

Most of the San Juan Islands offer a place to tie up a dinghy on land. Is this capability part of the proposed public dock?

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

The committee is recommending that the dock include a dinghy tie up zone for short term use.

Leaving a dinghy on the shore at the proposed site (the Lummi Island Beach Access park in front of the Beach Store Cafe) is probably not a feasible solution. First, because there is a lack of access to public land at the site. Second because of the wide variability in tide height, often putting the entire beach under water.

I support the idea, but am concerned about multiple practical issues such as how a public dock would be funded.  What are potential costs to islanders, via taxes or otherwise?

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

At this very early stage of discussion, the committee does not have any estimates of final cost. There are MANY more steps in evaluating options and trying to scope the project and figure out multiple phases.

We will plan for much more public discussion, community meetings, and collecting input. Then if there is a consensus to go forward, the committee would hope to coordinate with state, regional, and/or local organizations which have compatible objectives. Similar to Aiston Preserve, a project this large will require a group of partners to move forward.

One example  of potential funding would be the Recreational Conservation Office (RCO) Boating Facilities Program Grant. The program is described as “Users Pay – Public Benefits” because funding comes from existing boat fuel taxes and excise taxes paid by boaters and anglers purchasing fishing and boating equipment.

There is no plan to request a new tax levy on Lummi Islanders to pay for a dock.

How would you coordinate funding raising actions for the public dock so as not to compete with the county’s fund raising efforts for a new ferry and ferry docks?

[Source - Attendee at a Public Meeting]

The money for a replacement ferry is expected to come from sources related to transportation and would not compete with potential funding for a public dock.

One potential source of funding for a new ferry has been to apply for a County Road Administration Board (CRAB) grant. (Use this link to view the Whatcom Count Public Works CRAB grant application.)

In addition, “Move Ahead Washington” is a 16-year transportation investment package that includes $5.3 million for the Lummi Island Ferry System Modernization and Preservation Project. These funds will be used for pre-construction work as well as construction work at the Lummi Island and Gooseberry ferry terminals to prepare them for the new vessel.

The committee plans to conduct more discussion with the community, property owners on N Nugent Road, and with Whatcom County to get input on factors such as:

  • How much short term parking would be estimated for those who want to access the dock?
  • Is it possible to create a safe drop off zone for passengers and supplies?
  • What would happen during dry dock when there is overflow parking along the N Nugent Rd?
  • Is there a possibility that N Nugent Rd will be re-routed due to concerns about shore stability?

Is there a plan to build a public launch ramp near the dock?  If there is no boat launch near the public dock, how would vessels deploy?

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

It is very early in the design process to make a final decision on this, however the proposed dock site is not well-suited to adding launch facilities.

The committee will be holding a series of public workshops to collect ideas for where and how a boat launch might be incorporated.

Symbol for a boat launch ramp During past ferry outages, some boats offering to transport passengers deployed from the Village Point Marina boat launch or from the Scenic Estates dock (each of which is a 15 to 20 minute trip).

Other boats were tied up to mooring buoys around the island, so offered varying response times.

This will add foot and car traffic in what is already an unsafe area. I have witnessed several near misses of cars almost hitting pedestrians and have seen cars go off the road and damage the cabins on the water side or cause other damage.

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

The narrow road and lack of sidewalks has been a long standing issue for pedestrian safety along North Nugent Rd.  The committee will be hosting public meetings to discuss the dock over the next 3 months and hope to generate suggestions to improve pedestrian access. Then we can talk to Whatcom County Public Works about options.

"This will be an invitation for people to use the beach area in front of adjacent properties - but that is private property. We have heard that damage to neighboring properties already occurs as a result of the existing deck and steps."  

(Source: Response to the Spring 2022 opinion survey.)

The committee understands that neighbors of the existing Lummi Island Access Beach Park have experienced trespassing and vandalism and recognize this as an important objection that needs to be addressed. In the next few months, we propose meeting in person with property owners to discuss their concerns and learn more about the existing problems.

Some of the recreational activities that the committee expect could be included:

  • Offer a place for non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks
  • Provide an accessible place to go fishing and crabbing
  • Give access to the water for radio-controlled boats
  • Support outdoor education activities along the water
  • Expand opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography


Advisory Committee, Answers, Questions,

Updated: 2022/06/27 @ 3:58 pm Tark Henderson

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