Lummi ask for quick decision on GPT permit

By Steve Guntli

The Lummi Nation has provided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) with more data, and is requesting quick action to deny the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT).

In a letter to the USACE on March 5, Lummi chairman Tim Ballew II requested a swift denial on the GPT project.

“As far as we’re concerned, there is no reason for the Corps to delay a decision on the Cherry Point terminal,” Ballew wrote. “The information we’ve provided clearly shows that there is no way to mitigate impact to this sacred area. The terminal would permanently impede access to our treaty protected fishing areas. We look forward to a swift response from the Corps on this issue.”

The Lummi Nation requested the USACE reject the GPT permit in early January. In February, the USACE requested the Lummi provide more information to better inform its decision. The Lummi Nation submitted the requested information, including harvesting processes and impacts for shellfish.

SSA Marine, the developer behind the GPT project, has reached out to the Lummi Nation several times to negotiate. So far, the Lummi have been adamant in their opposition to the terminal, which would ship more than 48 million tons of coal from Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota to Asia each year. SSA states the impact on tribal fishing grounds would be minimal, and the economic benefits of the facility would extend to the Lummi Nation.

Patricia Graesser, a spokesperson for the USACE, said USACE will continue to look into the Lummi Nation’s request, but could not provide a timeline of its decision.

While the USACE considers the Lummi Nation’s request, other interested parties near the source of the coal have voiced their support for the GPT. Earlier this month, the Wyoming legislature approved a bill that would allow the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) to issue $1 billion in bonds to help finance construction of a coal port if the permits are approved.

The text of the bill didn’t identify the GPT specifically, but WIA executive director Loyd Drain said the office was considering a large terminal currently undergoing environmental review in Washington. This could refer to the GPT or the Millennium Bulk Terminal site in Longview.

The Crow Tribe of Montana has also been a vocal supporter of the terminal. Earlier this month, Crow chairman Darrin Old Coyote drafted a letter to the USACE encouraging negotiation between SSA Marine and the Lummi. The Crow owns approximately 9 billion tons of coal reserves, according to “Indian Country Today.” The tribe’s economic stability is dependent on coal mining.

“Obtaining the full value from our coal resources depends on having the transportation infrastructure in place for us to access both national and international markets,” Old Coyote wrote. “Obtaining full value for these resources is the key to the Crow Tribe’s future.”

  1. I am including below a quote from Lummi Nation’s January 5, 2015 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to offer a little more insight into their stated concerns regarding GPT. Pacific International Terminals paid for the Vessel Traffic and Risk Assessment Study that was completed by Glosten Associates and was overseen by the DOE. (Here is a link to a page where readers can access that study: ) Lummi Nation took part in the process of that study. And it was this study they reviewed before sending their January 5, 2015 letter to the Corps. “Review of the impacts associated with this project, including, but not limited to, those analyzed in the “Gateway Pacific Terminal Vessel Traffic and Risk Assessment Study” lead to the inescapable conclusion that the proposed project will directly result in the substantial impairment of the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation throughout the Nations’ “usual and accustomed” fishing areas…. The Lummi have harvested at this location since time immemorial and plan to continue into the future. The proposed project will impact this significant treaty harvesting location and will significantly limit the ability of tribal members to exercise their treaty rights.”

    “Additionally, the Lummi Nation has a sacred obligation to protect Xwe’chi’eXen based on the area’s cultural and spiritual significance. The Corps is obligated to comply with the mandates of the National HIstoric Preservation Act, specifically section 106, in evaluating the the project’s potential impacts. This obligation is in addition to the Corps’ obligations that spring from our treaty rights. The Lummi Nation is opposed to this project due to the cultural and spiritual significance of Xwe’chi’eXen, and intends to use all means necessary to protect it.”

  2. Reporter Steve Guntli wrote: “SSA Marine, the developer behind the GPT project, has reached out to the Lummi Nation several times to negotiate.”

    It is my understanding that SSA (Exec. Skip Sahlin) wrote one letter which was dated January 30, 2015, and among other subjects in that letter, said, “Our door is always open and the GPT team looks forward to continuing to communicate with Lummi during the projects permitting and development process.”

    Except for that January 30 letter, SSA Marine did its reaching out to the public, not to the Lummi Nation, via the Bellingham Herald and SSA Marine’s mouthpieces like Northwest Jobs Alliance, trying to put forth the idea that the company was putting out invitations to the Lummi.

    SSA did this when it knows that the Lummi Nation is a sovereign nation, therefore the Nation deals government to government with the USACE, as is customary.

    Also, there may need to be a correction to the article because it says: “Earlier this month, Crow chairman Darrin Old Coyote drafted a letter to the USACE encouraging negotiation between SSA Marine and the Lummi.” If the reporter is referring to the letter from the Crow Nation to the USACE that was reported in the media recently, that letter is dated January 20, 2015, so I do not believe it is correct to say that the letter was drafted earlier this month. Details matter.

    I am going to apologize for the bluntness of my next statement, but I believe it needs to be said, as it is a reality. The level of reporting by the Northern Light on the issues surrounding the Lummi Nation’s January 5 request to the Corps and the events that have followed has been sub-par. The January 22 article written by Guntli relating to the Jan. 5 letter was more like a book report on the press release sent to media from SSA Marine.

    I’m sure that Mr. Guntli has it in him to do a better job of getting more detailed and more correct information on these issues out to the public. We deserve it.


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