Editor's note: In two reports originally broadcast on KBCS, Martha Baskin captured audio shapshots of the public views presented in Bellingham and Friday Harbor on proposals for a coal port at Cherry Point, near Bellingham. A Seattle hearing will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Washington State Convention Center's Ballroom 6F. First, here's her first report from Bellingham and the script for it. Her second report lower down the page. includes interviews with those who’ve been challenging Corp decisions for the last decade and a response from the Army Corp of Engineers.
A proposal to build North America’s largest coal terminal in Bellingham to ship coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin through Washington to Asia, drew thousands at the first formal public meeting. The meeting and subsequent ones around the state are the first phase in an environmental review process where key agencies will decide what factors to consider as they determine whether to approve or deny permits for the terminal.
Click on the player above or here to listen to the audio version of this story.
Proposals to ship more than 150 million tons of coal through Washington and Oregon have been underway for the last year. Seattle-based SSA Marine proposes to build North America’s largest coal export terminal in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve near Bellingham. Recently, at a meeting in Bellingham, the public was given the first formal opportunity to weigh in on the proposal. The Army Corp of Engineers, Department of Ecology and Whatcom County are conducting hearings to determine what impacts to include in an Environmental Impact Statement.
First, the voices at a rally held outside the hearing to stop coal exports. Drumming from the Lummi Tribe’s Justin Finkbonner welcomed the crowd. “The message we’re taking today is very important.” Walter Young is a commercial fisherman, father and grandfather. “I don’t have anything prepared, all I have is what’s in my heart and what’s in my heart is I care about our Mother Earth. I care that corporations want to come in and rape and plunder and go away and leave us holding the bag.” In his testimony before the Army Corp of Engineers and Department of Ecology, Young recalled when an aluminum smelter facility, Intalco, was built and ships from all over the world began docking in Bellingham. They discharged hundreds of gallons of bilge a day. “And all these foreign organisms that do not belong in our environment got into our water. First victim was the herring run. This was the largest herring run in the world.” The herring has never recovered, says Young, nor the salmon which rely on herring as their main source of food. “We dropped the ball and did not make them conform to EPA regulations and we’re paying the price for it.”
Jay Julius, a full-time fisherman with the Lummi Tribe also came to testify against the proposed coal terminal. He began fishing as a child with his grandfather. “Our ability to fish has been narrowed to a small portion of what used to be large for us — all the way to the Pacific Ocean. And this would take away a great portion of our fishing not only halibut and salmon but also our ability to bring back documented reef netting sites.” Julius is concerned about the size of the coal tankers which can be as long as thousand feet or triple the size of a ferry. “These will be monstrous tankers, 465 a year, more than one a day. So if I’m out there outside Cherry Point where I fish, and I’m currently fishing today, as we speak, and it’s foggy, I can’t get out of the way nor can they stop and the impacts could be devastating to our people; not only our people but the state fisherman. If this goes through it is rape of the Point Eliot Treaty of 1855. We have experienced molestation of the treaty in the past, for the last 157 years. This would be dagger in us. It would be ripping our heart out.”
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