Washington state denies sublease for coal export terminal

Environmentalists are applauding an announcement from the state's lands commissioner to stop any future industrial development at the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.

SEATTLE - Washington state is refusing to allow its aquatic lands to be used for a major coal-export terminal along the Columbia River, dealing what one opponent described as "the final nail in the coffin" for the project.

The state also protected additional land in north Puget Sound that was previously considered for a coal terminal.

Millennium Bulk Terminals proposed building a terminal in Longview that would export coal from Montana, Wyoming and other states to Asia.

Outgoing Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark announced Tuesday that he has rejected a request from Northwest Alloys to sublease the state's aquatic lands to Millennium Bulk Terminals for the project. Goldmark said Millennium had refused to provide basic information about its finances following the bankruptcy of its previous owner, Arch Coal, last year.

A spokesman for Millennium did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Jay Manning, board chairman of Washington Environmental Council, praised the decision and called it the final nail in the coffin for the project.

Goldmark also announced he will add 45 acres to Puget Sound's Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve north of Bellingham, citing herring and eelgrass habitats in the area.

The land was previously considered for a coal export terminal. However, any further development plans would need to be in line with the reserve's management plan, disallowing any plans that would have a detrimental impact on the aquatic reserve.

Goldmark said his Cherry Point decision will help the environment and the Lummi Nation's ability to fish in Puget Sound.

"Reserving that for habitat purposes and for fishing and precluding further industrial development, I think is consistent with what the people of the state are looking for," said Goldmark.

Lummi Nation Chairman Timothy Ballew II called the decision a "significant step".

"It's an integral piece of who we are today and a reflection of the values that that have sustained us forever," said Ballew II, "Elders have told us consistently for the last five-to-ten years that they want us to protect the site permanently.  This decision is a step towards that."

Copyright 2016 KING


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