Courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The project is opposed by First Nations in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, particularly those who share the Salish Sea.

Lummi Nation Cherry Point Coal Terminal Decision by End of April

Richard Walker
4/19/16

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to decide by the end of April whether a coal shipping terminal proposed on land sacred to the Lummi Nation would negatively impact treaty fishing rights.

If it does, the permit could be denied.

A call to Bob Watters, senior vice president of project proponent SSA Marine, and a call to a project consultant were not returned. But Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew said earlier this month that “it’s possible” SSA Marine would appeal if the permit is denied.

Lummi wants the Corps of Engineers to deny the permit based on impact to treaty rights. SSA Marine wants the decision to be made based on a full environmental impact study.

The project has some high hurdles to jump. Matthew J. Bennett, section chief of the Corps of Engineers’ Regulatory Branch, said on April 12 the permit’s fate rests on one of three paths: one, the results of an environmental impact study of the project; two, impacts on treaty fishing that exceed a “de minimus,” meaning modest or slight, threshold; three, negative impact on endangered and threatened species in the area.

Bennett said April 12 the Corps of Engineers is in the process of reviewing the project’s impacts on treaty rights, per the request of the Lummi Nation, and “Our goal is to make a decision by the end of April.”

Bennett said the Corps of Engineers is considering impacts from pier construction, shipping traffic and “any spillage that could occur.”

The Lummi people know Cherry Point as Xwe'chi'eXen, an ancestral village site. The remains of many ancestors rest in the ground here. Offshore, Lummi people harvest fin-fish and shellfish just as they have for centuries – rights they reserved for themselves and their descendants when they made land available for newcomers in the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855.

Bennett said Cherry Point is considered critical habitat for king salmon, bull trout, rockfish and three pods of killer whales. Other endangered or threatened species found at Cherry Point are Puget Sound steelhead, Stellar sea lions, humpback whales, leatherback sea turtles, marbled murrelets and spotted frogs.

Up to 54 million dry metric tons per year

If built, Gateway Pacific Terminal, proposed by the SSA Marine subsidiary Pacific International Terminals, would handle the export of up to 54 million dry metric tons per year of bulk commodities, mostly coal. BNSF Railway Inc. has proposed adding rail facilities adjacent to the terminal site.

The project is opposed by First Nations in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, particularly those who share the Salish Sea. They say coal exports will result in substantially increased ballast water discharges, which will introduce invasive species to the local marine environment; noise and vessel traffic; and a risk of coal and oil spills. They also contend that coal dust from the railway and terminal will affect the health of marine waters and nearby communities.

The Lummi Nation believes those impacts could not be mitigated, and asked the Corps of Engineers to deny the permit based on impacts to treaty rights. Approval of the permit, Lummi argues, would be a violation of the treaty.

SSA Marine claims its terminal is designed to minimize environmental impacts. A site map shows extensive buffering, enclosed rotary dumpers, on-site stormwater treatment, and covered or enclosed conveyors.

SSA Marine announced in early April it put its environmental impact study process on pause while it awaits the Corps of Engineers’ decision on the project’s impact on treaty rights, or what SSA Marine called in a press release “alleged treaty rights of the Lummi Tribe.”

“There are a number of reasons that have gone into this decision, including the timing of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ consideration of the Lummi’s request and a desire to ensure all processes in the EIS are in sync, so facts and science generated by the different reviewing agencies continue to follow in line with the EIS process,” Watters said in the press release issued by BusinessWire. “It makes the most sense to get this ruling out and in the clear.”

Watters said he believes the facts show a “less than a de minimis impact” on treaty rights and “that the EIS process should be completed.”

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jaytaber's picture
jaytaber
Submitted by jaytaber on
As a warmup exercise in the Salish Sea fossil fuel export war, BNSF Railway and Pacific International Terminals, in 2013, financed anti-Indian, Tea Party-led PACs to drum up resentment against the First Nations. These PACs, along with KGMI Radio, promoted organizing by CERA -- the "Ku Klux Klan of Indian country" -- against Lummi Nation. https://salishseamaritime.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/white-power-on-the-salish-sea/

sandyrobson's picture
sandyrobson
Submitted by sandyrobson on
Here is a comment I had posted on Facebook back on April 3 about SSA Marine's April 1, 2016 Press Release: Gateway Pacific Terminal: In denial The first sentence in SSA Marine's April 1st, 2016 Press Release (linked-to at the bottom of this comment) announcing that it suspended the EIS for the GPT project, reveal the disregard and disrespect that SSA Marine seemingly shows for Lummi treaty rights. The first paragraph in that Press Release reads: "On April 1, 2016, the sponsor for the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project invoked its contractual right to temporarily suspend work on the environmental review (EIS) process while continuing to wait for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to issue its separate decision relating to alleged treaty rights of the Lummi Tribe. On January 5, 2015, the Lummi Nation requested the Corps to deny permits for the GPT project based upon the Lummi’s perceived potential impacts to their treaty-protected usual and accustomed fishing rights." In the first sentence, SSA Marine places the word "alleged" before the words "treaty rights." Is SSA Marine trying to act as if those rights secured to the Lummi in the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855, do not really exist? Rights such as, Article 5 of the Treaty which provides that, “The right of taking fish from usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory. . .” are undeniable, yet SSA Marine wants to deny the existence of this right, and other rights by calling them "alleged" treaty rights. Then, in the second sentence, SSA Marine places the word "perceived" before the words "potential impacts." By using the word "perceived," is SSA Marine trying to deny the results of a scientific study (the Vessel Traffic and Risk Assessment Study) regarding the potential vessel traffic impacts from GPT, in which its company participated? The Vessel Traffic and Risk Assessment Study (VTRAS) was released in November 2014. The VTRAS analyzed the additional vessel traffic (487 vessel calls annually) that would be brought on by the newly proposed GPT was conducted for SSA Marine/PIT, by Glosten and Associates, with oversight by the state Department of Ecology. Gateway Pacific Terminal [SSA Marine/PIT] and the Lummi Nation also participated in the VTRAS. In the VTRAS, it states that the study is expected to be used by CH2M Hill, the third-party consultant, in preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed GPT project. The VTRAS states: “The siting of the wharf and trestle at the proposed GPT and the potential anchorage use by bunkers will interfere with Lummi access to fishing sites. . .The analysis predicts that GPT would increase the Lummi fishing disruption by 76% in the Cherry Point area.” Oh, and lastly, in trying to stick the word "perceived" in its press release, SSA Marine couldn't even get that sentence to be grammatically correct. That sentence reads: "On January 5, 2015, the Lummi Nation requested the Corps to deny permits for the GPT project based upon the Lummi’s perceived potential impacts to their treaty-protected usual and accustomed fishing rights." The impacts to Lummi treaty-protected usual and accustomed fishing rights would be coming from the GPT project, NOT coming from the Lummi. SSA Marine/GPT is so wrong in so many ways. Link to the April 1, 2016 SSA Marine Press Release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160401005877/en/Gateway-Pacific-Terminal-Temporarily-Pauses-EIS-Process
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