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State considers adding 45 acres to Cherry Point reserve

In this photo taken Oct. 23, 2012, a ship is seen in the distance moored at the BP oil refinery in the Strait of Georgia just beyond the location of a proposed coal exporting terminal in Ferndale, Wash., near Bellingham, Wash.
In this photo taken Oct. 23, 2012, a ship is seen in the distance moored at the BP oil refinery in the Strait of Georgia just beyond the location of a proposed coal exporting terminal in Ferndale, Wash., near Bellingham, Wash. AP

People have until Nov. 18 to comment on a proposal to add 45 acres to the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.

That land had been set aside for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would have been the largest coal terminal in North America had it been built.

In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied GPT a needed permit because it would impact Lummi Nation’s treaty-protected fishing rights. The state Department of Natural Resources followed suit, denying a separate lease application because the federal permit hadn’t been obtained.

In September, Lummi Nation asked DNR to add the 45 acres, referred to as a “cutout,” to the reserve, citing treaty rights as well as Cherry Point’s cultural and spiritual importance to the tribe.

When the Cherry Point management plan was made in 2010, DNR drew lines around existing or proposed agreements to use state-owned aquatic lands in or next to the reserve. One of those was for Gateway Pacific Terminal.

A technical advisory committee of scientists recently evaluated whether the terminal cutout met the criteria to be included within the reserve boundary, according to a DNR news release, and unanimously recommended that DNR incorporate the area into the reserve.

As part of the process, DNR will first issue what’s called a determination of non-significance under the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA.

The threshold determination will be posted on DNR’s SEPA website on Friday.

The public will then have 14 days to review and comment on the proposal and threshold determination.

Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark will decide whether to add the land to the reserve.

Find DNR’s SEPA page online by going to dnr.wa.gov and then typing “Current Aquatic Resources” into the search window.

Send comments to the SEPA Center at sepacenter@dnr.wa.gov or P.O. Box 47015, Olympia, Washington 98504-7015. Include file number 16-110401 on all comments.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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