The country’s largest proposed coal export terminal has met it’s end after a long, drawn out fight. The result brought a major victory for Surfrider and all those who made up the coalition opposing it. Surfrider was an active opponent from the start as the information slowly came together on the breadth and threat this proposal posed to the health of local waters and the world class recreation the Bellingham area provides.
In October of 2010, the Northwest Straits Chapter was approached by the North Sound Baykeeper- “Did you know that there’s a proposal to put in a fourth pier at Cherry Point and it may become the largest coal export terminal in North America?” At this time, very few were paying attention though the chapter immediately recognized the gravity of the situation. The following year started slowly and then quickly became filled with meetings, organizing events, conference calls, coalition building, and that was just the beginning of the fight.
As time went on, momentum grew leading up to the eventual Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) scoping comment period. The Northwest Straits chapter remained involved throughout the process organizing a variety of functions directed at the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) proposal. These events included but were not limited to a bike ride to Cherry Point to learn about the natural resources we were fighting to save along a highly unique shoreline, numerous scoping comment workshops, and a public paddle-out protest. The EIS scoping period received record breaking public comments during the public comment period, indicating that the efforts of Surfrider and other coalition groups was a success in educating and activating public opposition to the proposal.. That scoping period lasted from September 24, 2012 through January 21, 2013.
And then the draft of the EIS began. In the fall of 2010, SSA Marine estimated building the GPT would cost about $400 million and construction would start as early as the end of 2012 and could be completed by 2017. After more than three years since the EIS scoping, five and a half years since it became clear SSA Marine wanted to primarily export coal, and over two decades since the original export proposal was submitted, the project is finally dead.
It truly was a grassroots effort, but in the end, we all are thankful that the Lummi Nation had the gumption to be the voice of reason and point out what should have been acknowledged right from the start. Xwe’chi’eXen, also known as Cherry Point has been a sacred part of the Lummi Nation’s culture for centuries. May 9, 2016 was a landmark decision for treaty wins and more when the US Army Corps of Engineers issued the decision to deny federal permits for SSA Marine’s GPT at Cherry Point. We are all grateful to the Lummi Nation for their leadership in protecting Northwest communities from the environmental and cultural damage GPT was sure to bring.
The Surfrider Foundation has been involved nationally fighting dangerous fossil fuel proposals and has seen successes from the east coast to right here in the Pacific Northwest. Washington state chapters have submitted comments, hosted events, and worked to protect key ecological and recreation coastal areas such as Grays Harbor, the Columbia River, and others in opposition to proposals similar to the GPT, often times with success. The coalition of parters Surfrider is involved with in Washington continues to fight on but can always use some fresh perspective and new voices. If you would like to get involved and actively work to protect your ocean, waves and beaches stop by your next local chapter meeting and ask other attendees how you can take an active role in this fight. For any questions or to reach out to a Surfrider WA staff, please contact WA Field Manager Brice Boland.
By: Eleanor Hines, Northwest Straits Chapter Chair and Brice Boland, Surfrider Washington Field Manager