The Bellingham Herald recently published a guest commentary in which an opponent of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point made a number of statements that are provably untrue. The spread of misinformation about Gateway Pacific Terminal is a constant challenge, so we are again called upon to correct the record.
The commentator claimed that Gateway Pacific Terminal has disturbed sacred Lummi burial sites. Fortunately, this is not true. Gateway Pacific Terminal has not nor will it disturb any identifiable tribal burial sites. Located on privately owned property that is not part of the reservation, Gateway Pacific Terminal's facilities are nevertheless designed to avoid known archeological resources. This will be verified with studies by federal, state and local government authorities.
The commentator mistakenly suggests that the Gateway Pacific Terminal project has somehow moved forward with little review or environmental regulation. Of course, this couldn't be farther from the truth. There have been countless hearings and reviews, with more ahead. We support a rigorous evaluation of the project's environmental and economic impacts. Gateway Pacific Terminal is being subjected to the most comprehensive rnvironmental impact statement review in state history. Environmental protection measures have already been designed into Gateway Pacific Terminal and additional measures will be developed with the regulatory agencies if needed to meet Washington's high environmental standards.
The commentator also mischaracterized an inadvertent discovery of a portion of a shell midden and a 1.15-acre wetlands disturbance during geo-technical boring tests that happened at the site three years ago, claiming that a Gateway Pacific Terminal contractor "bulldozed" what it "knew to be an archeological site." When this disturbance happened, which was caused by human error, the Gateway Pacific Terminal team was very forthcoming, promptly self-reported the incident to Lummi Nation and various agencies, and worked to remedy the wetlands impacts promptly. In fact, according to findings by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the damage to wetlands was "minimal," the period of violation was "very minor," the impact on water quality was "slight," the expected duration of impacts was "short," the risk to public health or safety was "slight," and the violation was "likely not intentional."
Gateway Pacific Terminal is listening to Lummi Nation, Nooksack Indian Tribe and other tribal nations that have expressed concerns about the potential impacts of shoreline development around the Salish Sea on their treaty-protected fishing rights, the need to safeguard archeological resources and a desire to preserve and carry on their traditional way of life. We sincerely respect their cultural values and the importance of fishing, and look forward to furthering our consultations with their elected leaders.
Gateway Pacific Terminal also continues to search for the very best ways to harmonize industrial job creation with the environment. Gateway Pacific Terminal engineers recently identified an alternative site layout that results in a 49 percent reduction in wetlands impacts. The new approach also means 14 percent fewer acres will be developed overall, with approximately 80 percent of the 1,500-acre site remaining undeveloped.
Some very strident voices believe it isn't possible to protect the environment while creating family-wage jobs, but I must respectfully disagree. Decades of carefully developed county and state land use and shoreline policies have encouraged high-wage job creation at Cherry Point under appropriate environmental protections, an approach that the public has long supported.
Even as to the recent controversy about new port developments in the region, a poll of 1,200 Pacific Northwest residents conducted by public radio's EarthFix and reported by KUOW (Seattle) this summer showed that 47 percent of people supported Gateway Pacific Terminal and two other proposed export terminals and only 34 percent opposed them. This is the third time that the media group's polls have shown more support than opposition.
Thousands support Gateway Pacific Terminal, a planned multi-commodity cargo handling facility, because it will increase U.S. exports and generate over 4,400 jobs in the region's economy over two years of construction, 1,250 permanent jobs at full operations, pay tens of millions of dollars in state and local taxes, and generate nearly $140 million of economic activity annually in Northwest Washington.
These are complicated issues and there is a diversity of opinion within our communities, as there should be. Our environment, our heritage and our living-wage economy are things that matter to us all. The public is best served by a fact-based dialogue that seeks to identify "win-win" solutions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Craig Cole is a Whatcom County businessman, former county council member, and the author of Whatcom County's Natural Heritage Plan that led to adoption of the Conservation Futures Levy in the 1990s. He has been active in state and local matters involving education, human rights, economic development and the environment. He is a senior consultant to the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. For more information, contact GPT at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-738-7229.