GPT executive responds to Lummi Nation requests

By Steve Guntli

Executives at SSA Marine have asked the Lummi Nation to participate in a “good faith consultation” regarding the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project.

Earlier this month, the Lummi Nation requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deny SSA a permit for the project. Tribal representatives have stated the terminal would infringe on the tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing grounds.

Bob Watters, senior executive with SSA Marine, responded in a letter on January 14, saying the company is committed to finding common ground between the company and the Lummi Nation.

“I believe it is better for all if we work past our disagreements and find ways to create solutions together,” Watters said. “In talking about our natural resources and our economy, I find this approach is especially important.”

Watters said the company is committed to protecting historical tribal sites on its property, and has a standing offer out to the Lummi Nation to discuss how to enhance the tribe’s cultural and economic prospects.

Watters said denying the permit before the environmental impact study is completed would be premature.

“The purpose of the process is to gather the facts concerning impacts, mitigation and alternatives, and to hear from all interested parties so the decision in the end is fully informed and the project can be modified as needed,” he said.

SSA Marine has maintained that the GPT would create more than 1,000 permanent jobs in the area, and more than 4,000 temporary jobs as the facility is built. Watters cited polls from Earthfix and Elway Research that showed support for increased coal exports out of the Pacific Northwest. The Elway poll, released in January 2013, showed that slightly more than half the people polled supported the GPT on the condition that the terminal can comply with environmental regulation. The Earthfix poll, released in July 2014, showed 47 percent of those polled supported more coal exports, 34 percent opposed and 19 percent were unsure.

Regarding the tribe’s treaty rights, Watters said he hopes the company and the tribe can reach an agreement, as the terminal would only impact a relatively small body of water.

“Any project along the shorelines of Washington has the potential to affect tribal fishing,” he said. “The construction of our project would exclude fishing within the small area occupied by the trestle, wharf and moored vessels. To give perspective, Lummi Nation’s court-affirmed usual and accustomed fishing area is approximately 1.9 million acres. The GPT proposed lease of state tidelands is an area of 46 acres, or 2/1,000th of 1 percent of that area.”

In 1996, the corps rejected a permit for a 1.4 acre salmon farm in Rosario Straight that was located on Lummi fishing grounds. In their letter, the Lummi also cited increased vessel traffic leading to and from the GPT that would disrupt fishing in the area and cause potential ecological problems.

The Army Corps of Engineers is evaluating the tribe’s 97-page request. According to public affairs officer Patricia Graesser, the corps usually asks tribes and applicants to enter direct negotiations.

  1. It’s premature to apply for a heavy-use project at the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve without consulting the tribes first.
    It’s also premature to clear trees, build roads and drill holes before securing the required permits.
    But Watters comparing the footprint of the coal dump site itself
    with the size of the Lummi traditional fishing grounds is probably the strangest argument I’ve ever heard used to justify environmental impacts.
    After all, how many Cape-Sized Bulkers can you berth, load, and deberth on 46 acres,
    every 18 hours around the clock?

  2. Watters said the company is committed to protecting historical tribal sites on its property, and has a standing offer out to the Lummi Nation to discuss how to enhance the tribe’s cultural and economic prospects

    Uh huh…reading between the lines here: We will pay off the tribe so we can use the waterways for our financial benefit and totally screw the people of Birch Bay who actually LIVE there….k??

    Where does Mr. Watters live I wonder? I’m guessing nowhere near his wonderful coal piles.

    NO TO GPT!!!!!

  3. Watters and SSA should have thought more about ‘good faith’ when they destroyed wetlands and built roads without permits. They were fined only a few thousand dollars by the county which was I suspect what the people responsible had anticipated. But in the end the damage was was proven in legal action to be so extensive that SSA agreed to pay over $1.8 million in settlement for the damage they did, but they damaged more than wetlands and archeological sites, they damaged relationships and the trust of the community, especially the Lummi people. The Lummi have made it abundantly clear that they can not be bought, that the land there is sacred, that their very way of life is being put at risk by this construction project and the operation of the one train and hour and massive ships everyday in the waterways. I hope that Mr Watters wakes up from his delusions and that they try to find a better more sustainable way to make money and to build jobs in what ever community they work in .


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