Politics Blog

Gateway Pacific Terminal submits alternative site plan

Gateway Pacific's alternative site plan.
Gateway Pacific's alternative site plan. COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Gateway Pacific Terminal announced this afternoon that it submitted a new layout for the proposed terminal at Cherry Point.

The new site plan incorporates an adjacent 350-acre parcel SSA Marine acquired in the past year or two. With more land to work with, GPT was able to offer an alternative layout that reduces the footprint of the terminal infrastructure by 14 percent and reduces wetland impacts by 49 percent, according to SSA Marine Senior Vice President Bob Watters.

"By putting forth this new site layout, PI Terminals is not in any material way changing the purpose and need, overall configuration, or function of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. We are simply offering an alternate layout for SEPA review," wrote Ari Steinberg, of Pacific International Terminals, in the April 18 cover letter for SSA Marine's alternative site plan submission. (Pacific International Terminals is an arm of SSA Marine.) 

The contract that would have allowed the drafting of the environmental impact statement to begin was signed around late February, but the EIS has not yet been started, Whatcom County project manager Tyler Schroeder said.

The county and the state Department of Ecology were waiting for SSA Marine to submit the alternative site plan before starting the EIS -- a key document that will (as the name implies) outline the environmental impacts of the terminal. Last summer, Ecology and the county opted for a far-reaching EIS that would include greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning in Asia and traffic impacts from coal trains.

The EIS is expected to take 13 months to complete. The clock has not quite yet begun ticking, Schroeder said.

"The county just issued this letter indicating we accepted the alternative design. We're still working with Ecology and (EIS consultant) CH2M HILL to make sure we have all the needed information," Schroeder said in an interview on Tuesday, July 15.

We're working on a more detailed story for The Bellingham Herald that is for now scheduled to appear in Thursday's paper. I'm awaiting comment from RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.

The county posted its correspondence with GPT on the alternative site plan on its GPT webpage.

Here's a direct link to GPT's initial submission on the alternative, dated April 18 (same link as in third paragraph above).

Here's a follow-up letter from Pacific International Terminals from June 12.