Whatcom County: Application for Gateway Pacific cargo terminal now complete

Whatcom County planners say SSA Marine has now filed a complete application for its proposal to build a terminal at Cherry Point to export coal and other bulk cargos.

County Planning Manager Tyler Schroeder wrote in a Monday, April 2, letter to Skip Sahlin of SSA Marine that applications for three permits are now complete.

The company's proposal to build a coal-exporting terminal has drawn strong opposition from environmental groups and others locally. If completed, the Gateway Pacific Terminal could handle up to nine trains a day and 54 million tons of material a year.

One group, Coal-Free Bellingham, is gathering signatures with the hope of placing an anti-coal-train initiative on the Bellingham ballot this fall.

Last Friday, March 30, another group, called Protect Whatcom, sent a letter to county officials urging them to require an economic impact assessment as part of the environmental review for the project.

County officials have yet to decide what will be studied through the environmental impact statement process, which also will be reviewed by state and federal agencies and by Indian tribes.

In June 2011, the company submitted project information to the county planning department, but county officials said SSA Marine needed to apply for a new shoreline permit. On March 19, the company submitted additional detailed information, making the applications complete under county law, Schroeder wrote.

"Note that according to (county code), a determination of completeness shall not preclude the county from requiring additional information or studies at any time prior to approval of the permits," Schroeder wrote.