Marie Hitchman

Bellingham, Washington, conservationist

“Cherry Point’s biological diversity along the entire reach from Point Whitehorn on down to Sandy Shores is what makes it so valuable.  We’ve found hundreds of molten Dungeness crab carapaces right at the point where they plan to put the pier. There is an important connection between the steep gradient drop-off and biological richness, where we see increases in phytoplankton and zooplankton. These SSA folks look at that and see a place that doesn’t need dredging.

“Along the entire drift, I’ve identified over 40 species of marine algae. 25 of those are listed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as substrate for herring spawning. The Cherry Point Pacific herring are the only late (spring) spawning herring in the entire region. They’re crucial because they’re some of the only spring food for the salmon and other organisms. And the only salt water marsh in the region, right at the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal site, provides habitat and support for over 150 avian and marine species.

“It irritates me that jobs are so high on the list with this project, that’s a phony issue. There was a viable fishery out there in the 1970s, when Whatcom County used to have 1/3 of the annual commercial and sport fishery value for Greater Puget Sound. I don’t think the trade-off of the impacts of this terminal and its jobs is worth the chance of recovery of the Cherry Point ecosystem. If we had left it alone in the first place, we would have a very viable fishery there.

“I am also deeply concerned about vessel traffic, the whole picture of vessel traffic up Haro Strait, Rosario Strait, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The volume of traffic we have right now is shocking, along with the Trident subs. The Straits are so busy right now—if we add more of these Cape size bulk vessels with the highest accident rate in all of shipping, plus the cargo vessels from British Columbia and an increase in oil tankers from Burrard Inlet, the chance of accidents skyrockets.

“People forget it isn’t just Cherry Point—it’s the entire San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands, which are very special and big economic assets for tourists, orcas, and pleasure boaters.

“One accident up here would wipe out everything.”


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Marie Hitchman has been an active member of the Native Plant Society, Whatcom County Beach Watchers, served on the original Shoreline Management Program citizen task force, Cherry Point work group, and RE Sources Beach Naturalists. Throughout her expansive environmental advocacy, Marie has worked to reduce logging in old growth forests, end above-ground nuclear testing, develop a nuclear weapons freeze, counter plans to develop a hydroelectric plant near Sulphur Creek, restore Cascade Pass vegetation, mitigate noxious species at Deception Pass, develop extensive regional plant lists, and provide interactive education with community groups and schools.