Lummis submit more information to try to block Cherry Point coal port

Lummi Nation is pressing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to act quickly to halt a proposed coal terminal on historic tribal land at Cherry Point.

The Lummis sent a letter to the Corps on Thursday, March 5, providing details about how Gateway Pacific Terminal would disrupt the tribe’s fishing practices. The tribe won a court decision in the 1990s after challenging a salmon farm that sought Corps permits on Lummi fishing grounds.

The March 5 letter was in response to a letter dated Feb. 3 from the Corps, which asked the Lummis for more information before the federal agency could decide whether to block the coal terminal. The Lummis on Jan. 5 had asked the Corps to “take immediate action and deny the (Gateway Pacific Terminal) permit application based ... on the project’s adverse impact on the treaty (fishing) rights of the Lummi Nation.”

In a statement accompanying the latest letter, Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew said the Corps should be in a position to act swiftly to deny the coal terminal.

“As far as we’re concerned, there is no reason for the Corps to delay a decision on the Cherry Point terminal,” Ballew said. “The terminal would permanently impede access to our treaty-protected fishing areas. We look forward to a swift response from the Corps.”

Corps spokeswoman Patricia Graesser confirmed the agency had received the tribe’s March 5 letter, accompanied by details about its fishing practices. She said the Corps would proceed carefully toward a decision and will consult with terminal applicant SSA Marine.

“A determination of potential impacts is an important one that can only be made after a careful consideration of all the information available to us,” Graesser said. “We don’t have a timeline for determination.”

SSA Marine has reached out to the tribe several times over the past year, seeking to negotiate a way to build the coal port in an environmentally sound way. The terminal would ship up to 48 million metric tons of coal a year to overseas markets.

SSA Marine officials have said the port would take only a tiny fraction of the tribe’s fishing area, which extends from the Fraser River to Seattle, and west to the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. The tribe has cited the disruption from added vessel traffic in addition to the port itself.