Department of Ecology News Release - October 25, 2011
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), Whatcom County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have signed a formal agreement to jointly oversee the preparation of an environmental impact statement for private proposals to develop a bulk cargo marine terminal at Cherry Point in north Puget Sound and construct related railroad connections.
The three agencies will coordinate their work under Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), enables the Corps, the county and Ecology to avoid duplicated efforts where SEPA and NEPA overlap.
Pacific International Terminals, a subsidiary of SSA Marine Inc. (SSA), proposes to build and operate the Gateway Pacific Terminal between Ferndale and Blaine. The terminal would provide storage and handling of exported and imported dry bulk commodities, including coal, grain, iron ore, salts and alumina. BNSF Railway Inc. proposes to add rail facilities and install a second track along the six-mile Custer Spur.
Under the SEPA/NEPA process, the three agencies will hire a consultant to prepare the environmental impact statement at the companies’ cost.
The county and Ecology will issue a finding – called a determination of significance – that the proposed project requires an environmental impact statement under SEPA. All three agencies then will seek public comment on the scope of the environmental analysis for the combined project – meaning what topics to address beyond a standard list required under state and federal regulations.
The agencies expect the comment period on scoping to begin in early 2012. Work on a draft environmental impact statement will begin after scoping is complete.
When the draft environmental impact statement is complete, the three agencies will seek further public review and comment.
Ecology agreed to a Whatcom County request to join the county as co-lead under SEPA, earlier this year.
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