Army Corps of Engineers needs more information before considering Lummi GPT request

By Steve Guntli

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has responded to the Lummi Nation’s request to deny the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) permit.

In a letter addressed to Lummi chairman Tim Ballew on February 3, USACE Colonel John Buck asked the tribe for more specific information before considering the request.

The Lummi Nation requested the USACE deny the GPT permit in early January, claiming the new facility would impede on their protected tribal fishing grounds.

“While the information you provided supports historic and current fishing practices in the subject waters, we need detailed information for our administrative record on the Nation’s specific use of the project waters and how the facility’s construction and operation would affect access to, and use of, these waters,” Buck wrote.

As an example, Buck requested specific details of harvesting shellfish and sea cucumbers, so the USACE could determine how the GPT would affect the process.

“The information submitted is helpful, but additional information is needed to make a decision,” Buck wrote.

The Lummi have had success in the past blocking projects that impeded on tribal fishing grounds. In 1996, the courts ruled in favor of the tribe in a case against a 1.4-acre salmon farm in Rosario Strait.

On February 3, the Lummi Nation rejected an offer by GPT’s parent company, SSA Marine, to come to a compromise. In a letter to Skip Sahlin, project developer on the GPT project, Ballew stated he could see no way to avoid the impacts of the terminal.

“While we appreciate your desire to engage on these issues, we remain steadfastly opposed to this project and do not see the utility in pursuing any further discussion,” Ballew wrote.

Officials at SSA Marine, in a statement February 5, restated their commitment to making the project happen.

“We are dedicated to working with the community, including the Lummi, on this important project,” said SSA vice president Bob Watters. “We will continue working with the corps of engineers on issues raised in the environmental review.”

The GPT is undergoing an extensive environmental impact study (EIS) to determine the terminal’s effects on the area. The EIS results are expected in late 2015 or early 2016.

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