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Bellingham, Washington is the county seat of Whatcom County in the U.S. state of Washington. It is situated on Bellingham Bay, which is protected by Lummi Island, Portage Island, and the Lummi Peninsula, and opens onto the Strait of Georgia. It lies west of Mount Baker and Lake Whatcom (from which it gets its drinking water) and north of the Chuckanut Mountains and Skagit Valley. Whatcom Creek runs through the center of the city. A Census Bureau estimate placed Bellingham's 2003 population at 71,289, and a recent calculation pushes it to 74,770.
The boundaries of the city encompass the former towns of Fairhaven (now home to the southern ocean ferry terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System), New Whatcom, and others. Bellingham is home to Whatcom Community College; Bellingham Technical College; and Western Washington University, which includes, amongst others, Fairhaven College, Huxley College, and the Woodring College of Education.
The Bellingham International Airport serves regularly scheduled commuter flights to and from Seattle, Salt Lake City, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada. As of August, 2004, the airport is home of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's first Air and Marine Operations Center, to assist with border surveillance. Amtrak Cascades provides Bellingham with regularly scheduled passenger rail service to Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Bellingham also serves as the southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway, which provides passenger and car ferry service to many Alaska ports.
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