Public commenting opportunity for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project drew a crowd of nearly 2,000 to Squalicum High School

Published on Thu, Nov 1, 2012 by Brandy Kiger

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On Saturday, October 27, close to 2,000 people from across Whatcom County gathered in the pouring rain at Squalicum High School to voice their opinion on the proposed Gateway Terminal Project. 

Included in that number were representatives from the Lummi Nation who oppose the building of the terminal sites because it would impede on their ancestral burial grounds. “Five thousand-plus members of Lummi Nation spoke and said ‘not on our ancestral burial grounds,’” council member Julius Jay said. “There are three registered archaeological sites at Cherry Point, one of which is the first registered site in Whatcom County. It’s eligible for the national register. Personally, I think it’s a shame that the process is even being considered when the state and local government know it’s there.” 

Jay was the first to speak during the public comments portion of the event. “Lummi says no,” he said. Later, in an interview, he reiterated his opposition. “Lummi Nation isn’t here to ask for any favors. We’re here to encourage everyone to do our children and children’s children a favor because they are the one who will suffer the impact.” 

While the majority of the crowd was wearing red in opposition to the coal trains, there were a few who donned green for the event to express their support. 

Dan Backstrom of Bellingham pored over the information plaquards that were set up around the gym at Squalicum High.

He said that he was there not to protest, but to merely hear what people had to say on the matter. “To each their own,” he 
said of the protestors’ enthusiasm. “I don’t think the environmental impact will be that great with all the things they can do to mitigate it. [Coal]’s been rolling through here for many years,” Backstrom said. “We just haven’t had it shipped out of our ports. They [GPT] know the safeguards they need to put in place to make it safe.”

Backstrom, a former private business owner, advocated the terminal as a way to boost the economy.  “We support it for the production of those new jobs,” he said. 

Other speakers at the forum disagreed with that notion, saying that the terminal would not offer new jobs, but that eventually all would be automated. Julius urged that we should be looking for “clean energy, solar and power.” “Coal is a step in the wrong direction, he said. “We want to fight to protect our resources for the next seven generations.”