Save Maury Island! A Timeline to Victory

Nov. 10, Mine to Park Press[Edited on August 16, 2019 in celebration of the community victory rally this week, 10 years ago on August 15, 2009. Some text and many links and documents are updated. Thanks for Protecting What You Love! Album from Aug 15, 2009 HERE]

On a beautiful Wednesday, Nov. 10th (2010) King County Executive Dow Constantine hosted a 1pm press conference on the shores of West Seattle with the waves clapping against the bulkhead. Amongst tears and hollers of joy, historic words were spoken.

The deserving stars of the day Dow Constantine, Sharon Nelson, Peter Goldmark and many others stepped up to the podium. Even the conflicted Jan Drago (our former county council representative) had some quaint though somewhat vague remarks that sounded more like a farewell address. CalPortland's Ron Summers, who less than two years before claimed that "nothing would keep the mine from expanding" struck a sportsmanlike tone. Of course - $36 million is not $65 million (the original asking price), but it's not chump change. 

It was fascinating to see everyone come together that day. Sadly, those involved in organizing the protests were not invited. I actually learned that one of the leading players was actively telling folks to keep the event a secret so that Backbone wouldn't show up. Luckily, someone spilled the beans and I found out about it by chance. So, Jared Middle Calf and I fetched the puppet and headed to to West Seattle and respectfully marched in to stand in the background in support and celebration - representing the community action that made all the difference in this campaign. 

Below, through a timeline with photos, press coverage and articles I discuss and speculate about only a tiny part of a thirteen year struggle. This fight had many chapters, fronts, and flanks. Many others were engaged in the fight longer than Backbone and our direct action collaborators. Others tell their version of the story better than I can. From my perspective, though the various flanks in this fight did not always work in perfect harmony, they never worked at cross purposes. Some will disagree with that. The direct action flank upset and frightened some who were convinced that reason would prevail if we just played within the rules of the system - our "regulatory window."  I doubt that very much.*

The fight to save Maury Island is an amazing case study of the inter-relationship between legislative, litigation, acquisition, and direct action flanks. Over the last decade I have utilized this story to convey how each has a vital role in delivering victory.As a reporter confidentially said to me two days before the Martinez decision against Glacier in August of 2009 - "this battle will be decided in the court of public opinion. And we both know where that is going." I wasn't so sure. But in hindsight - I can see that he was right. 

Here, in chronological order (top to bottom) is a description of the grassroots direct action campaign and how it was interwoven with political and legal developments. I've included articles of the last couple years before the victory to set the tone for the entrance of Backbone Campaign, Mosquito Fleet, and the many community members who came together. The samples of earned media received by the direct action campaign vividly demonstrate how the public tone and perceptions shifted quickly as the community engaged in bold, sympathetic, mediagenic actions. The videos begin with the KIRO 7 coverage on December 8, 2008 when we had 50 people on the beach for a "Just Say NO to Quid Pro Quo" to protest the lease granted by outgoing lands commissioner Dough Sutherland whose campaign had received $50k from CalPortland.

The fight to save Maury Island from becoming dominated by an industrial gravel mine is an inspiring and instructive story for communities and change agents everywhere.  outline of how the direct action campaign can turn the tide for community interest over corporate power.

I hope you enjoy the journey - and figuratively or literally see yourself in the pictures.  

FYI - Ten years later, this victory tastes just as sweet. Congratulations all!

In collaboration & gratitude to the Vashon-Maury Island Community, 

Bill Moyer
Co-founder and executive director of Backbone Campaign and proud member of the Mosquito Fleet.

*For those interested in the concept of political calculus as utilized by Backbone Campaign, see the essays here and here. For a deeper dive into Backbone Campaign's use of grand strategy and theory of change explore the resources here. A master's thesis on the Maury Island fight written by Whitney Neugebauer is here.

Almost "chronological" - For fun, let's start with last news footage of the Wednesday, Nov. 10 Press Conference announcing Purchase Agreement
(Kudos to Gary Chittim of King 5 News - he's one of the heroes in this story - IMHO)
King 5 News, Nov. 10, 2010

Now for a look at what was happening approximately 2 years prior to our direct action campaign, and a step by step transformation of momentum from defeat to victory from the perspective of Backbone Campaign & Mosquito Fleet:

Anti-Glacier bills appear doomed
Vashon Beachcomber, March 28, 2008
Glacier gets OK for Maury Island dock, opponents vow to keep fighting
Vashon Beachcomber, July 9, 2008.
(Permit from Army Corps of Engineers)
Administrative law judge says Glacier’s dock plans adequately protect marine life
July 23, 2008
State OKs dock for Maury Island gravel mine
Seattle Times, Dec. 2, 2008
"Maury Island mine expansion OK'd"
Seattle PI, Dec. 2, 2008
Lease clears way for Maury Island mining project
Seattle Times, Dec. 4, 2008
Glacier gets lease, begins work on Maury pier
Vashon Beachcomber, Dec. 6, 2008

So, the campaign begins...

It looked like they had us licked. Legislation to protect Maury Island and failed. Glacier received their Permits from Feds. And then outgoing State Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland approved a lease of State aquatic lands. Ultimately, long-time community ally County Executive Ron Sims felt he had no choice but to capitulate and grant Glacier a permit for construction, as they had obtained all other permissions and failing to do so would only trigger another lawsuit that the County could not afford. 

Glacier had all the momentum in the courts and in the press. Governor Gregoire wouldn't lift a finger and David Dicks (son of Congressman Norm Dicks) head of Puget Sound Partnership thought it was not a priority, ad a "fait accompli."


Dec. 8, 2008:

Backbone Campaign and Preserve Our Islands organized a first in a series of demonstrations. 
Here's our Press Release for that morning.  
Knowing that the off-island press wouldn't send reporters to a small demonstration on the remote beach, we scheduled it during the AM commute, made a giant sign and called the traffic helicopters. KIRO took the bait.

Killer whales leave South Sound before protest begins
Kitsap Sun - Christopher Dunagan
"Glacier Northwest has begun work on the controversial pier that will eventually support its gravel-mining operation on Maury Island...
"Meanwhile, a protest demonstration got underway this morning near the construction site. Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound reported about 50 protesters as well as some 10 dinghies and kayaks at 8:30 a.m. this morning. Yesterday, a contingent of 20 to 30 killer whales — apparently including members from all three Puget Sound pods — visited the South Sound area, not far from the Glacier site. I thought maybe they had come south to join the protest, but during the night they turned north and came up through Puget Sound. If you recall, the orcas were cited among reasons to deny the construction activity in an aquatic reserve frequented by the whales in winter."

KIRO coverage: 

Islanders Protest Glacier at Early Morning Demonstration Beachcomber
We were outraged by the lease of supposedly State protected, public aquatic lands to the mining company by outgoing State Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland in an obvious quid pro quo for the $50k campaign contribution he received from GlacierNW. 

As the snow began to fall in mid-December, we held an introductory non-violent direct action training with John Sellers of Ruckus Society. People began to get excited... [John had recently moved to Vashon.  He brought vast experience and leadership to our community, inspired many activists here.  He and his family relocated to Portland in 2018.]

Governor's silence on Glacier troubles activists
Vashon Beachcomber, Dec 31, 2008
Lame ducks not lacking last quacks
Seattle PI Jan. 1, 2009

Jan. 2, 2009 Road Blockades:

After delaying work for a number of hours, the workers eventually found another way in. When the nine people who were locked down decided that we had achieved our goals of delaying work, getting press attention and inspiring the community, we dissolved the blockade. Everyone immediately went to a meeting where we got to work turning out people and building banners for the rally that was scheduled for two days later.  Photos from the Jan. 2 blockade are here

Gravel-dock protesters block 2 roads on Maury Island - Seattle Times
Protesters barricaded two Maury Island roads at dawn today, hoping to stop construction of a loading dock for a gravel mine.
Protesters attempt to slow work at Glacier's construction siteVashon Beachcomber

Seattle PI Photo Essay by Mike Urban

Jan. 4, 2009:

"The Poster Child for Saving Puget Sound" King5News

Hundreds turn out to oppose glacier
Beachcomber, Jan 4, 2009

In one month's time we went from 50 to 500 people on the beach. Direct actions (blockading roads) inspired and galvanized the community and attracted the press. The creativity and accessibility of the tone and tactics expanded our support in the general public. For fun - here's are the Holiday Carols that were sung on the road and on the beach. Glacier Related Carols

The Governor's office finally started to return Backbone Campaign calls and gave us a meeting with a representative of the Governor. Regional environmental organization leaders also asked for a meeting and got one, with Gov. Gregoire. We were playing an important role as agitators that made others look more reasonable. And to the public - we more or less looked like them.

14 Legislators sign letter asking for Gregoire's help
Seattle Times - Jan. 6, 2009Jan. water action

"Fourteen legislators on Monday sent a letter asking her (Gregoire) to suspend and possibly overturn a state lease issued in early December that cleared the way for a major expansion of the mine. The appeal thrusts Gregoire into an issue that has prompted years of lawsuits and, most recently, a protest by hundreds of mine opponents this past weekend."

A Letter from the Blockaders to the Community
Beachcomber, Jan. 7, 2009

Jan. 2009 On Water Actions: 

The Mosquito Fleet direct action campaign continued to delay work, earn attention See Seattle PI article and photos HERE.

Activists on Vashon had planned to serve a cake in the shape of Maury Island with a Tonka truck outside the Governor's inauguration, but restrained themselves when called by certain leaders, concerned about embarrassing Governor Gregoire. 

Those same people deftly mentioned their request during a meeting with Gregoire saying, "We cannot keep them at bay forever."

Disputed lease for Maury Island gravel mine to be reviewed by new state lands commissioner
Seattle Times, Feb. 10, 2009

Delegation to Governor's office
Backbone Campaign actually led two delegations to Olympia in the time between winter and summer actions. The first was to the Governor's office in which members of the Mosquito Fleet (Aleythea Dolstad, Logan Price and Nick Simmons), Prof. Patrick Christie of UW and POI, and Rick Dahms of Dockton Water joined Bill Moyer to deliver a message that our community expected better leadership from the Governor, that we were better allies than adversaries (showing them the media coverage we had earned), and that we recognized the monumental shift in orientation from extraction to sustainability was hard, but essential.

Backbone Campaign to Vashon-Maury Island Community:  YOU MATTER

After a spring of touring, Backbone Campaign re-contacted Keith Phillips at the Governor's office to express our disappointment that she hadn't responded to any of our requests. We warned that our resolve was unshakable and that we'd be hosting a training with the very same trainers who organized the 1999 WTO shutdown in Seattle. We reiterated that the only real solution was for the land to be purchased. We also shared that we were concerned that the Governor might not be doing everything she could to make that happen. 

We were later informed by a friend at an island agency that the King County Sheriff's office had been asked by the FBI to keep an eye on our upcoming camp.

We then launched a petition to the Governor demanding leadership. We were firmly requested not to pursue or deliver it by those concerned with embarrassing the Governor.   We also started the web survey.

Delegation to DNR
For the second Olympia delegation, Backbone enlisted librarian Rayna Holtz (organizer of Low Tides festival and proposed Beach Stewards program), Steve Graham (community council's Septic Solutions committee) and high school science teacher Tom Devries to visit Bridget Moran, the new head of State Aquatic Lands. They delivered the message that the Vashon-Maury community is an excellent and able partner in ensuring the Aquatic Reserve program is successful. Backbone delivered the message that DNR credibility hinged on not allowing an industrial gravel mine in an Aquatic Reserve. We spoke about Maury Island as the "pivot point" in the shift toward a regulatory system modeled on sustainability rather than extraction.

State questions Glacier's lease, raises 'grave concerns' Vashon Beachcomber, July 7, 2009
"Goldmark, in a two-page letter to Glacier issued late Tuesday, said his staff has carefully reviewed the lease and determined the company has not submitted sufficient information to demonstrate lease compliance."

Showdown at the Shore 
King 5 News
 - July 16 (approx)
Coverage of our July 2009 Training to Confront Glacier's Continued dock construction.

Our LocalizeThis! Action Camp and the on-water rapid response squad was our 800lb. gorilla. The efforts were a collaboration between the Backbone Campaign, Mosquito Fleet, Ruckus Society, and Indigenous People's Power Project. We worked hard to get the press to cover it so that we could broadcast strength, resolve and a principled commitment to our community and the Puget Sound. The coverage demonstrated that we were truly winning in the court of public opinion.

Tough choices in the recovery of Puget Sound
Guest Editorial by Commissioner Goldmark, 
Aug. 7, 2009

"Sometimes we may have to say no to proposed uses if such activities would threaten the recovery of the ecosystem. What we are witnessing is death by a thousand cuts. It has been all too easy to allow new uses with a slight impact on the health of this tremendous body of water and the orca and salmon that call it home. Far too much is at stake to continue on this path. We need to raise the bar immediately."
(read into the court record in POI's court challenge to GlacierNW and the Army Corps of Engineers)

"Mining company to delay dock work restart 4 days" Seattle Times, Aug. 11, 2009 (Link no longer working)

"Maury Island gravel company to defy state lands commissioner" Seattle Times, Aug. 12, 2009

Leading up to the Aug. 15, 2009 demonstration, Mosquito Fleet and Backbone Campaign organized furiously. We tracked barge and tugboat movement and organized the rapid response squad to intercept the arrival of the construction barge to prevent the continued building of Glacier's barge-loading facility. We had two safety boats, high powered flashlights, and 40 volunteers trained and on alert to be on the water within 1 hr. 24/7. 40 kayaks stood ready.

Judge puts Maury Island gravel project on hold
Kitsap Sun Aug. 13, 2009

"Federal judge rules against Glacier, halts pier project" 
Vashon Beachcomber Aug. 14, 2009

"Judge rejects Maury Island gravel-mine permit"
Seattle Times, Aug. 14, 2009
"Which raindrop caused the flood?" Martinez wrote in his ruling. "No single project or human activity has caused depletion of the salmon runs or the near-extinction of the SR [southern resident]orca, or the general degradation of the marine environment of Puget Sound. Yet every project has the potential to incrementally increase the burden upon the species and the Sound." US District Justice Ricardo Martinez

Aug. 15, 2009 - Demonstration turned victory rally: 

Islanders converge on Maury beach to celebrate federal ruling against Glacier Northwest

Human Mural of Orca August 2009

250 people, dressed in black and holding umbrellas form a human mural of an orca whale while a plane circled above with island photographer Ray Pfortner to capture the moment. Great music, speeches, and hot dogs were enjoyed by all.  Mosquito Fleet activists spoke about their commitment and actions, while a banner translated into traditional script sends Glacier's Japanese parent company Taiheiyo a message “With a heart that loves nature, let us respect and cherish our waters.”

Politicians who had not been responsive to invitations to the rally we had planned to coincide with a kayak flotilla blockading a returning construction barge, all of a sudden called the office announcing that they'd be at the victory rally. Go figure ;-)

Album from Aug 15, 2009 HERE

Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound's analysis on this ruling's broad significance to Puget Sound. 

US District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez's ruling against Glacier and Army Corps of Engineers sent the company back into a multi-year Environmental Impact Study process. It was a victory in a battle, but the fight went on. The Army Corps of Engineers did not appeal. Glacier soon abandoned their appeal as well, but re-started the EIS process.

"State budget plan has money to buy controversial Maury Island gravel mine"
Seattle Times, April 13, 2010

The Army Corps began a scoping process for EIS. Amy Carey of POI fought for more community notice and won a delay.

Islanders Speak Up at Army Corps of Engineers' Scoping Hearing (Link no longer available so PDF from WayBack machine)
Beachcomber, July 21, 2010 
Backbone Campaign handed out Mosquito Fleet T-Shirts. Even the representatives from the Army Corps wanted them. Mica Gaxiola famously finished with warning/promise that if Glacier attempted to restart pier construction, "There will be kayaks!"

 Take Action Puget Sound - You Are About to Be Screwed!
Nov. 8 - King County Council was scheduled to vote on an update of the Shoreline Management Plan. Glacier seemed to have the votes to include a "mineral resources" exception to the "natural" (i.e. protected) shoreline designation favored by County Executive Dow Constantine. Glacier had hired a former consultant of interim Council-member Jan Drago to lobby the council. Citizen outrage foiled Glacier's plans and the Council sent the SMP back to the Transportation and Environment committee. This delayed the vote until Drago was replaced by Council-member elect Joe McDermott, who actually represented the Vashon-Maury community. 
Together, we defeated the mining company's last best chance!

 The Straw that Broke the Corporate Camel's Back? (See Backbone Campaign analysis of the final week of the fight and Glacier's loss in the King County Council.)
On Nov. 10, 2010 a Press Conference was called to announce the monumental news that Glacier's parent company CalPortland (a subsidiary of Taiheiyo Cement of Japan) had signed a Purchase & Sale agreement with the Cascade Land Conservancy and King County to sell the land to the public for $36 million. When completed, this will establish the largest protected shoreline in Puget Sound and a 250-acre park.

How Maury Island's mining opponents finally prevailed
After years of protest and negotiation, it's final: A county park will replace the former gravel mine on Maury Island.
Crosscut, December 30, 2010

David beats Goliath... Again!