Environmental Review
Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point Proposal


At the applicants’ request, the EIS process is suspended through May 15, 2016.

Photo source: DNR Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve

Pacific International Terminals, a subsidiary of SSA Marine, has proposed building a deep-water marine terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County. The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would handle export 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 and installing a second track along the six-mile Custer Spur.


Pacific International Terminals has submitted development applications to Whatcom County and other agencies.

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 has determined that a new shoreline permit is required for the project. The project must undergo a full environmental review before the company can obtain a new shoreline permit or other permits required for the project.

Environmental review

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County are conducting coordinated environmental reviews of the Pacific International and BNSF applications under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The agencies have determined that the proposed export terminal and associated rail expansion require environmental impact statements (EIS). These lead agencies are coordinating to produce a federal EIS under NEPA and a state-local EIS under SEPA. The agencies are responsible for identifying and evaluating how the proposed project would affect the environment.

Steps in the environmental review process and estimated timeline:

2012-2013See earlier stages

We are here (arrow) 2014-2016 Prepare draft environmental impact statements (EISs): The contractor, under the direction of the co-lead agencies, is preparing the draft NEPA and SEPA EISs according to the results of the scoping process. The purpose of an EIS is to provide the public and agency decision makers with information on likely adverse effects of a proposed project, as well as reasonable alternatives and measures to reduce those effects.

Late 2016 – Issue draft EISs, open public comment period, have public hearings: The draft EISs will be circulated so that the public and other agencies are given an opportunity to comment on their accuracy and content before they are finalized. This process will include public hearings. The co-lead agencies will consider and respond to public comments in the final EISs.

Late 2017 – Issue final environmental impact statements: The final EISs will include responses to the comments made on the draft EISs.

Public involvement opportunities:

  • March 2012 – Pre-scoping informational meeting.
  • Sept. 24 2012 to Jan. 21 2013 – Public meetings and 120-day comment period on SEPA/NEPA scoping.
  • 2016 or later – Public hearings and comment period on draft EIS.

Related documents

Related information

Additional resources

map showing site location as Whatcom County, WA

Facility Site ID: #22237

Cherry Point,
Whatcom County

Region: Northwest Regional Office (NWRO)

Meg Bommarito
Regional Planner
Northwest Regional Office
Department of Ecology

Preparation of SEPA and NEPA draft environmental impact statements is suspended, at the applicants’ request.


EIS website


SEPA Scope of EIS Studies for Gateway Pacific Terminal

Environmental consulting contract for the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal FAQ


Sept. 23, 2013
Agencies revise agreement to include separate environmental reviews for Cherry Point coal terminal proposal

Jul. 31, 2013
Agencies set scope of environmental impact statement for proposed Cherry Point export project

Apr. 1, 2013
Report summarizes thousands of public comments about scope of environmental review for proposed Cherry Point export terminal

Feb. 6, 2013
More than 124,000 comments received on scope of environmental review for proposed Cherry Point export terminal

Dec. 7, 2012
Drawings set for spoken comments at upcoming meetings for proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal EIS

Nov. 8, 2012
Seattle meeting for proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal EIS changed to accommodate high public interest

Sep. 21, 2012
Scoping begins Sept. 24 for proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal EIS

May 30, 2012
Consultant named for environmental review of proposed Cherry Point terminal

Mar. 5, 2012
Meeting set to inform public about environmental review process for proposed Cherry Point terminal

Feb. 14, 2012
Seven firms bid on Cherry Point terminal environmental review

Feb. 2, 2012
Bid deadline extended for proposed Cherry Point terminal environmental review

Jan. 12, 2012
Bids invited for environmental review of proposed Cherry Point terminal

Oct. 25, 2011
Ecology, Whatcom County, Corps of Engineers agree on joint environmental review

Aug. 5, 2011
Gateway Pacific Terminal site work lacked state permit

Jul. 15, 2011
Ecology, Whatcom County to co-lead state environmental review of proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point