Lummi Nation Escalates in the Fight Against Coal Exports

Lummi members symbolically burn a check to demonstrate that the land at Cherry Point cannot be sold or developed.

Lummi members symbolically burn a check to demonstrate that the land at Cherry Point cannot be sold or developed.

The Lummi Nation has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny a permit to build a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, citing significant impacts to treaty rights and irreparable damage to important crab and salmon fisheries as well as an ancestral village site.

“We have a sacred obligation to protect this location for its cultural and spiritual significance,” Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew II said.

In a letter sent on January 5 to Colonel John Buck of the Seattle district of the Corps, Ballew said the impact of the proposed bulk coal terminal at Cherry Point, known by Lummi as Xwe’chi’eXen, cannot be mitigated. Several court decisions and laws—among them United States v. Washington and the National Historic Preservation Act—require the Corps to ensure that the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights are not abrogated or impinged upon, he said.

If built, Gateway Pacific Terminal, the deep-water facility at Cherry Point proposed by the SSA Marine subsidiary Pacific International Terminals would handle the export of up to 54 million dry metric tons per year of bulk commodities, mostly coal. In a related project, BNSF Railway Inc. has proposed adding rail facilities adjacent to the terminal site. Pacific International Terminals’ development applications are undergoing environmental impact review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the State Environmental Policy Act.

In 1997, Whatcom County issued a shoreline substantial development permit and a major development permit for construction and operation of the terminal. Because of changes to the size and scope of the proposal, the county determined that a new shoreline permit is required. The project must undergo a full environmental review before the company can obtain required permits. Ballew has written to the Army Corps about this project before.


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