U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied permit for Coal Shipment Terminal
Big news in Bellingham and Whatcom County today. The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point is most likely dead after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a needed permit to proceed.
The Corps ruled the Terminal would impact the fishing rights of Lummi Nation which are treaty-protected.The proposed trestle and wharf would have a negative impact.
“The Corps may not permit a project that abrogates treaty rights,” said Col. John Buck, commander of the Corps’ Seattle District.
While the Lummi Nation was celebrating, the decision came as a blow to SSA Marine, which owns 51 percent of the estimated $700 million project.
The project has been extremely controversial in Whatcom County for the past few years. Those in favor of the project pushing for living-wage jobs and those against worried about increased train traffic and pollution.
I’m sure SSA Marine will not just walk away without a fight or some compromise proposal. Time will tell what the next step SSA Marine or its subsidiary Pacific International Terminals will take.
“PIT is considering all action alternatives,” the company said in a news release.
“This is an inconceivable decision. Looking at the set of facts in the administrative summary it’s quite obvious this is a political decision and not fact based,” Bob Watters, PIT president, said in the release. “We are very disappointed that the GPT project has become a political target rather than being addressed on the facts. The terminal promises to deliver substantial benefits through economic development, the creation of family wage jobs, and the generation of significant taxes.”
Things haven’t been looking good for the proposed terminal on other fronts as well as Peabody Energy, a huge coal producer, recently filed for bankruptcy.
In January 2015, The Lummi Nation asked for protection of the tribe’s treaty fishing rights. This was just a few weeks after the Department of Ecology issued a vessel traffic study stating 76 percent more disruption to tribal fishing when the proposed terminal was in full operation. GPT says this is a faulty study.
“The Lummi have harvested at this location since time immemorial and plan to continue into the future,” tribal Chairman Tim Ballew said. The Lummi Nation is celebrating not only a local victory but “a victory for treaty rights.”