Representatives of the Swinomish Tribe perform a song during a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Representatives of the Swinomish Tribe perform a song during a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Ahead of demolition, tribes lament loss of Mukilteo research center

The spot “has huge importance to us,” one Tulalip tribal official said. Now, its future is largely up to the Port of Everett.

MUKILTEO — Jason Gobin remembers scrubbing fish tanks as a high school intern at the Mukilteo research center on the shore of Possession Sound.

Gobin, the Tulalip fisheries director, sang and drummed alongside other leaders from the Tulalip, Swinomish and Suquamish tribes Monday. It was a send off for the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research site of over 40 years, where gray paint is flaking off, some windows are broken and there are black stains where a fire burned through the center last year.

The buildings will be demolished in the coming weeks. Songs passed down from cultural stewards like Harriette Shelton Dover echoed off the exterior walls.

For years the eyesore was home to studies on the effects of ocean acidification and other pollutants on marine life. Saltwater tanks housed Dungeness crab, lingcod, geoduck, juvenile salmon and other species threatened by humans’ actions.

Long before the research facility stood on the shore, Coast Salish tribes were caretakers of the sound.

Archaeological studies revealed the Sduhubš, or Snohomish, people maintained a village on the shore of what’s now Mukilteo for at least 4,000 years, said Ryan Miller, director of government affairs and treaty rights for the Tulalip Tribes.

The spot “has huge importance to us,” Miller said, “from a cultural standpoint, from a subsistence standpoint. This was a summer camp that families came to fish, to gather shellfish and to meet with other tribes.”

Teri Gobin, Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes, speaks with attendees before a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Teri Gobin, Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes, speaks with attendees before a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Teri Gobin, chair of the Tulalip Tribes, gripped a tan drum as she spoke to NOAA officials and tribal leaders Monday. An image of her father Stan Jones Sr. was etched on the front. Jones was one of many Coast Salish leaders who have fought for years to preserve the environment and tribes’ traditional ways.

“It’s a fight that’s been going on since the first people came here,” Teri Gobin said.

Now state and federal agencies, like NOAA, co-manage fisheries with tribes.

Lately, the Tulalip Tribes’ fisheries office has been slammed, Jason Gobin said. A big piece of salmon recovery is navigating the bureaucracy and getting cities, counties, state and federal agencies on the same page. Meanwhile, Puget Sound steelhead and Chinook salmon are in crisis.

“We’re counting on you guys to help honor our treaty,” Leonard Forsman, chair of the Suquamish Tribe, told NOAA officials Monday.

In 1855, ancestors of tribal leaders signed the Treaty of Point Elliott on the same shoreline. It afforded tribes “the right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations,” as well as hunting rights and other guarantees.

Mukilteo, known in Lushootseed as bəqɬtiyuʔ, was historically seen as a central meeting place for tribes who used the waterways as highways on canoe.

The closing of the Mukilteo research center is a big loss for nearby tribes, Miller said.

“Our research boat can fly from the Tulalip Marina to here,” Miller said. “A quick 30 minutes, and Seattle is a lot further away. So it’s really a big loss from the research side of it.”

Andrew Gobin of the Tulalip Tribes greets members of NOAA before the playing of a welcoming song during a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Andrew Gobin of the Tulalip Tribes greets members of NOAA before the playing of a welcoming song during a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Kevin Werner, research director at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, said the same research continues in the agency’s Montlake Laboratory in Seattle and the Manchester Research Station in Port Orchard.

The Mukilteo research hub was initially slated to be rebuilt at the 1.1-acre property on Front Street, but those plans were scrapped amid rising construction costs.

Renderings produced by Rolluda Architects showed a modern oblong building parallel to the water. The design featured floor-to-ceiling windows and a boat ramp. The research center would have included public access and was initially targeted to open in 2022, as part of the Mukilteo waterfront master plan.

Congress appropriated $4.5 million for the design and initial site work in 2017, and an additional $35.5 million for the completion of the project in 2019.

Bids reportedly came in over $40 million. Officials did not share how many bids there were or for how much. A spokesperson for NOAA said this week the agency had no “further details to share.”

Originally the building was built as a temporary Air Force barracks during World War II. NOAA began using it for research in the 1970s and took it over in the 2000s.

Now, it’s in the hands of the Port of Everett.

In the coming weeks, the site will be cleared and ready to hand over to the port, said Port CEO Lisa Lefeber. But “the transfer timeline is unknown,” she said.

Lefeber has said the port would like to see the space used in a way “that honors the marine sea life, which is in line with the previous land use.”

NOAA’s Deirdre Reynolds Jones thanks the representatives of local tribes for hosting a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

NOAA’s Deirdre Reynolds Jones thanks the representatives of local tribes for hosting a blessing ceremony Monday, at the decommissioned NOAA building on the waterfront in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Providence nurse’s tearful plea shines light on short-staffed ER

The nurse described an overwhelmed emergency department, as staff have pleaded with the Everett City Council for hazard pay.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Snohomish Health District hiring full-time monkeypox task force

The county is gearing up for more cases. The outbreak will be evaluated weekly to decide if a four-person team is merited.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Body found in impounded car in Lake Stevens

In June, Bothell police impounded the vehicle. Last week, a Lake Stevens business found a body inside.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
California woman dies after motorcycle crash west of Lake Stevens

Kimberly Moore was the passenger on a motorcycle Friday morning. She died the next night. She was 53.

A view of the proposed alternative station location to Everett Station located east of the current BNSF rail tracks in downtown. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could light rail station under Pacific Avenue and over railroad work?

A group representing people around Everett Station wants Sound Transit to study the idea.

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)
In GOP battle of Sutherland vs. Low, Democrats may tip the scale

The state lawmaker and Snohomish County council member are vying for a House seat. Democrats make up roughly 40% of the vote.

Food forum
Chocolate peanut butter Incredibles

These chocolate peanut butter bars are, as the name suggests, incredible.

SnoTown Brewing’s Frank Sandoval in 2019. (Aaron Swaney)
SnoTown Brewery owner charged with child molestation

Frank Sandoval conceded his conduct with a girl at his brewery was inappropriate, but he denied touching her sexually, charges say.

Everett
Head-on crash in Everett leaves man with life-threatening injuries

A two-vehicle collision in the 11600 block of Evergreen Way shut down southbound traffic Monday morning.

Most Read