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Top stories of 2016: Army Corps rejects Cherry Point coal terminal

U.S. Army Corps denies coal port permit

Lummi Nation chairman Tim Ballew and tribal members listen to a phone call from Col. John Buck of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denying a permit for a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point on Monday, May 9, 2016.
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Lummi Nation chairman Tim Ballew and tribal members listen to a phone call from Col. John Buck of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denying a permit for a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point on Monday, May 9, 2016.

Five years into a renewed push to put the largest coal export terminal in North America at Cherry Point, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected a needed permit in a major victory for Lummi Nation treaty rights.

The Corps issued its decision on May 9, 2016, that building the Gateway Pacific Terminal pier would impact Lummi’s treaty-protected fishing rights, and therefore the project could not be permitted.

That move was soon followed by state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark denying GPT owner SSA Marine’s application for an aquatic land lease from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

In August, Whatcom County Council passed a temporary moratorium on any new applications to ship unrefined fossil fuels through Cherry Point, including some materials such as propane and butane in the definition of “unrefined” fuels. The council has asked its Planning Commission to study a permanent change to county plans that could prevent any future export of unrefined fuels there, including coal.

In September, County Council approved a contract extension with environmental consultant CH2M Hill to archive the work that had been done so far on the draft environmental impact study for the terminal, so the work could be picked up again in the future if needed.

The same month, Lummi Nation asked DNR to incorporate a 45-acre marine “cutout” set aside for the proposed coal terminal into the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, which could prevent development of a fourth pier at Cherry Point. That decision could be made before the end of the year.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil

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