Letters to the Editor

Questions raised by Larsen about US Customs lease

Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and Friday Harbor Administrator Duncan Wilson discuss current events and island economics during Larsen
Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and Friday Harbor Administrator Duncan Wilson discuss current events and island economics during Larsen's mid-September tour of San Juan Island
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

Dear Regional Administrator Northcroft, CBP, and Assistant Commissioner Yeager, GSA:

I am writing regarding the new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lease in Friday Harbor, WA, and the General Services Administration’s (GSA) process to execute the lease. I have heard from constituents who are concerned about the new location. On their behalf, I would like to ask for clarification on some of the questions they have raised.

I respect the work that CBP does to secure our borders and facilitate legal trade and travel. I want to ensure that there is an open dialogue between community members and your agencies, and that all concerns are addressed and mitigated when possible.

A number of San Juan Island residents have raised concerns that the new CBP facility is in the heart of downtown Friday Harbor’s commercial waterfront. The community has worked to create a welcoming culture for residents and visitors, and some community members are concerned that the CBP facility will adversely affect the climate. They have also told me they are concerned that they did not have sufficient opportunity to provide input on the location and its potential impact on tourism.

I appreciate that GSA and CBP representatives held a public hearing in late November in Friday Harbor to hear concerns and answer many of the questions about the new facility. There are still some outstanding questions, and I request that you provide written responses to them:

What was the process and timeline for executing the lease at the new location?

What are the guidelines for public input as part of the search process for a lease of this kind?

What did CBP require in terms of size and facilities for its new location? How flexible were those requirements when looking for a suitable location?

Was this search a competitive process with the consideration of multiple locations? If so, how was the final determination made?

Some community members have suggested alternative waterfront locations including a reconstructed Port of Friday Harbor building (following repairs from a recent fire) and the Cannery Landing building immediately adjacent to the ferry terminal. Were these locations considered? If not, why not?

After hearing concerns from the public in Friday Harbor, what actions will CBP and GSA take in designing the new facility to fit with the town image and minimize the impact on the downtown commercial corridor if the selected site is the final site?

I appreciate your attention to my inquiry and look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely, Rick Larsen

Member of Congress

Washington State, 2nd District


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