Posted: May 19, 2011 6:46:40 AM PDT
Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike invites members of the Bellingham community to help local officials identify the scope of environmental review for SSA Marine’s proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. Pike said his aim is to continue community dialogue and prepare for formal environmental review, which will be conducted by Whatcom County officials once SSA applies for permits.
A meeting hosted by Pike is planned for 6 p.m. June 1 in the large courtroom at Bellingham Municipal Court, to provide area residents a preliminary chance to identify impacts that should be studied during future review of the proposed project. He said comments collected will be provided to the appropriate regulatory agencies to support a triple-bottom-line approach to reviewing the proposal, considering its environmental, social and economic impacts.
“This is an important decision facing our community, as we try to balance the potential for new jobs and investment in our community with the neighborhood, environmental and other impacts this facility would bring,” Pike said. “I want an accurate assessment of both the positive and negative effects on our community. We deserve clear answers about the impacts, how negative impacts might be mitigated, and who would pay for that mitigation,” he said.
During the permitting process, SSA will be required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Pike said SSA and its proponents are advocating for a narrow EIS that examines only impacts in the immediate vicinity of the proposed pier, rather than along the rail corridor leading to it.
“This is unacceptable,” Pike said. “The EIS must consider the significant impacts this project will have on Bellingham, especially the potential impacts -- noise, coal dust, traffic delays, bank destabilization, crossing safety and much more -- of increased rail traffic through our neighborhoods.”
Permit processing to be handled by county, state, federal agencies
Early environmental discussions are now being coordinated through the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Assistance. Once SSA makes application for permits, official environmental review and scoping will begin and formal public input will be solicited. At that time, Whatcom County will manage the uplands and shorelines portion of the environmental review (SEPA), while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will review nearshore marine impacts and national environmental policy (NEPA).
While Pike is doing what he can to encourage wide community dialog, he offers the reminder that city government does not have the authority to stop the project from moving forward, adding that “most of the regulatory clout for such a project will fall to the county, state and federal governments.”
Pike said the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point is a complicated economic development opportunity that is relevant - today and perhaps for decades to come - to the citizens of multiple governmental jurisdictions in Washington, private employers, organized labor and advocacy groups.
“It deserves a robust community dialogue, conducted in good faith, to ascertain what is in the best collective interests of our area.“
He acknowledges there are firmly held positions by thoughtful people on all sides of this proposal.
“My administration remains in an information-gathering mode so we can be fully informed, support community dialog and be positioned to appropriately protect the community's interests,” he said.
Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike, 360-778-8100