NEPA EIS halted: On May 9, 2016, the Army Corps halted the federal permitting process with a determination that the project would violate Lummi Nation treaty rights.

SEPA EIS suspended: EIS preparation ceased on April 1, 2016, at the applicants’ request.

Environmental Review
Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point Proposal

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.

Environmental review

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County determined in 2012 that the proposed export terminal and associated rail expansion require environmental impact statements (EIS), under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

An EIS evaluates how a proposed project would affect the environment. Its purpose is to provide the public and agency decision makers with information on likely adverse effects as well as reasonable alternatives and measures to reduce those effects.

The three agencies – known together as the co-leads – agreed to conduct coordinated environmental reviews of the Pacific International and BNSF applications, and to produce a federal EIS under NEPA and a state-local EIS under SEPA.

EIS timeline

We are here (arrow) Development of the EIS remains suspended until further notice. The Corps has halted the NEPA EIS process. The SEPA EIS is suspended, and Ecology and Whatcom County will review that status in September, 2016.

2016 –The co-leads stopped work on the EISs at the applicants’ request in April. In May, the Corps determined that it could not issue federal permits because the proposed terminal would violate the treaty between the United States and the Lummi Nation.

2015 – The Lummi Nation petitioned the Corps to dismiss PIT’s federal permit applications because the project would violate the tribe’s rights under its treaty with the United States.

2014 – Preparation of draft environmental impact statements (EISs) began: The co-leads expected to issue draft EISs in late 2016 for public review and comment. They expected to issue final EISs in late 2017, including responses to comments on the draft EISs.

2012-2013See earlier stages


Pacific International Terminals submitted development applications to Whatcom County and other agencies in 2012.

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 the project required a new shoreline permit. Under Washington law, the project must undergo a full environmental review before the company can obtain a new shoreline permit or other state and local permits required for the project.

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


  • Gateway Pacific Terminal federal permitting process halted by Army Corps of Engineers
  • EIS preparation suspended until further notice


SEPA Scope of EIS Studies for Gateway Pacific Terminal

Environmental consulting contract for the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal FAQ


May 9, 2016
Army Corps halts Gateway Pacific Terminal permitting process

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