The Washington Department of Ecology, Whatcom County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have revised their working agreement for the proposed bulk cargo marine terminal and related railroad connections at Cherry Point. The three agencies have agreed to produce two separate environmental impact statements (EISs) for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in north Puget Sound.
The proposed Cherry Point terminal would be the final destination of coal trains before their cargo is shipped overseas, largely to China.
The agencies originally agreed in 2011 to produce a single, joint EIS. The three co-lead agencies will continue to coordinate efforts under a revised Memorandum of Understanding.
Whatcom County and Ecology must follow the State Environmental Policy Act, and the Corps must follow the National Environmental Policy Act. The MOU enables the co-lead agencies to avoid duplication between the NEPA and SEPA efforts while preparing each EIS.
The Corps informed Ecology and Whatcom County in August that it would issue a separate NEPA EIS after the agencies had already jointly announced their preliminary scope for the environmental review on July 30, 2013. Each agency’s scope remains unchanged, but will be addressed in separate SEPA and NEPA documents.
“Ecology’s goal remains the same – we want to be transparent, and make public review and participation as seamless as possible,” said Ecology’s Northwest Regional Director Josh Baldi. “We’re committed to a thorough, rigorous and objective review.”
The three agencies will continue to draw assistance from the consulting firm CH2M Hill, hired jointly under the original MOU in 2012.
Ecology and Whatcom County estimate a draft SEPA EIS will be ready for public review and comment in about two years.
Pacific International Terminals, a subsidiary of SSA Marine Inc., proposes to build and operate the Gateway Pacific Terminal between Ferndale and Blaine. The terminal would provide storage and handling of exported and imported dry bulk commodities, including coal, grain, iron ore, salts and alumina. BNSF Railway Inc. proposes to add rail facilities and install a second track along the six-mile Custer Spur.