Lummi Tribe takes on coal plan

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on October 8, 2012 at 6:07 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 8 at 6:34 PM

Tribal and non-tribal fishermen on Monday lined up their boats on their unified opposition to plans for a coal export facility at Cherry Point.
  
A plan to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to the site near Ferndale for export overseas is currently being studied.
  
Both groups are concerned the plan would increase train traffic that would disrupt the daily lives of citizens. They also worry the increased shipping traffic on the water could increase chances of a major accident and spill in the productive crab and fishing area. 
  
The Lummis also say the area is holy ground where ancestors netted fish and are buried in several grave sites.
  
SSA Marine which hopes to construct the facility issued a statement this afternoon hoping to ease those concerns.
  
The plan is one of several coal export proposals being considered in the Northwest. All of them face organized opposition.

SSA Marine, which hopes to construct the facility issued the following statement:

“As we have stated before, SSA Marine takes its relationship with Lummi very seriously.  Over the last year we have  worked with Lummi representatives to better understand their treaty rights and make sure the project both respects and meets those concerns and needs. These are serious issues that should be approached in a serious way and there is a rational regulatory process to do so.

“It is important to keep in mind that the Gateway Pacific Terminal will meet all of Washington’s stringent environmental standards and will be an excellent source of family-wage jobs for all of Whatcom County, including Lummi members. I want to underscore that as the Gateway project moves forward in the permitting process, SSA Marine and the Gateway project will work with Lummi to address all issues and concerns.

“On September 24, 2012, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Ecology and Whatcom County began a comprehensive environmental review in accordance with the National Environmental Protection Act and the Washington State Environmental Protection Act.  Fisheries impacts will be identified as these studies are developed.  Lummi representatives and Lummi fishers have made it very clear to us how central fishing is to the Tribe, both economically and culturally.  We are committed to addressing Lummi concerns in detail.  Our approach will be first to avoid impacts, then to minimize unavoidable impacts, and finally, to mitigate and positively address what remaining impacts there may be in a mutually satisfactory way.  In fact, we are conducting a study, designed with input from Lummi representatives, of the effects of added vessel traffic calling at GPT.  As recently two weeks ago, the project’s technical team doing the study met with Lummi representatives and Lummi fishers to fully understand concerns over potential impacts. 

With regard to vessels calling at the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), all traffic will be governed by the Puget Sound Harbor Safety Plan and controlled by the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards. These vessels — about 1 per day to GPT — must travel in designated traffic lanes and are monitored by the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), a highly-efficient communications center that has been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for more than 40 years. The VTS system provides vessels with information about the location and speed of all marine traffic in Puget Sound and redirects traffic when necessary for safe passage.

“A vessel traffic risk analysis will be included in GPT’s Environmental Impact Statement to ensure that safe operating conditions exist for vessels calling at the terminal.  In addition, a marine safety committee will be created to recommend state-of-the-art vessel operating protocols and mitigation measures to be coordinated with other Cherry Point industries.

“While in Puget Sound waters, each vessel is under the control of a Puget Sound Pilot, who have an unparalleled safety record of more than 200,000 sailings over the last 25 years without a major incident.”

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