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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Whatcom County Council hears debate on restrictive ‘No Shooting’ ordinance

By Garrett Rahn

The Whatcom County Council introduced an ordinance “to establish a no shooting zone in the Drayton Harbor Area of Whatcom County” during the council meeting on Oct. 8.

The ordinance, AB2019-472, would amend Whatcom County Code 9.32, Unlawful Discharge of Firearms. Drayton Harbor, which lies just outside of the city of Blaine, was subject to rapid urbanization within the last decade, and the citizens living there now are concerned that waterfowl hunting in the area is a threat to public safety.

A petition, signed by approximately 60 residents of the area, is what started the ordinance, according to Blaine City Manager Michael Jones. Supporters of the change, such as Blaine Mayor Bonnie Onyon, voiced their concerns around the frequency of police calls to gunshots and trespassing in the area, noise complaints from very early hours of the morning to late at night and fears of injury to citizens or property. 

“It’s a very difficult thing to police,” Onyon said.

However, a slew of hunters, a Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officer and members of local Coast Salish tribes came to plead that the ordinance be rejected or to point out inaccuracies in their areas of expertise.

Hunters told stories of how they rely on the birds they shoot as their primary source of food for their families. Members of the Washington Waterfowl Association spoke of possible repercussions of not grooming the duck population. A member of the Swinomish tribe spoke about the historical and ceremonial significance of the black duck hunting in the area.

An overwhelming tone in message from the hunters was the lack of understanding and acceptance they felt from people who had moved into the area recently. 

“The citizen petition that began this effort is flawed and based on ignorance and anti-hunting sentiment rather than fact,” said Matt Berry, treasurer for the Whatcom Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association.

After hearing from all who came to speak on the matter, council member Todd Donovan moved to push the issue to the committee of the whole to be voted on instead in four weeks. The motion passed unanimously. 

After that, the council breezed through the rest of the meeting. The remaining public hearing items and all of the consent agenda items passed, the most significant of which being a request for authorization “for the county executive to enter into an interlocal agreement between Whatcom County and Washington State Health Care Authority for substance use prevention services in high-need communities, in the amount of $577,550.”

The agreement would fund programs around the county for intervening in the misuse of drugs and alcohol, suicide prevention and mental health awareness until 2021.

This motion passed six to one, with council member Tyler Byrd voting nay. Byrd took issue with the wording of the proposal, specifically the definition of “health equity.” This specific request was for the most money, with the second closest at $174,881, giving it a higher expectation for scrutiny.

In the Open Public Hearing, a HomesNOW! volunteer went to the podium to inform the community that, despite the recent budgetary scandal, the Unity Village project went off without a hitch and was thriving. A number of people used this time to voice opinions on the recent ordinance involving an enforced 300 meter no-wake zone surrounding the shore of Lake Samish. 

The council meets again Oct. 22 at the Whatcom County Courthouse at 7 p.m..

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