Whatcom County planning staff want to explain to the public how the scoping process for an environmental impact statement (EIS) works and are planning meetings for late February to do just that.
According to emails posted on the county planning website
, officials are planning what they’re calling a “pre-scoping meeting” for sometime near the end of February, possibly in early March. This meeting will help explain to the public how the scoping process for an EIS works.
These meetings will precede the official EIS scoping hearings for the $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal proposed for the Cherry Point area just south of Birch Bay. The scoping hearings will be the public’s first official chance to tell county, state and federal regulators what terminal impacts should be studied in the EIS, which the terminal’s proponents, SSA Marine, have to conduct before the project can be completed. Firm dates for the scoping hearings have not yet been set.
The emails indicate the pre-scoping meeting will not discuss details of the terminal project but instead stick to how the scoping process works in general. The rationale for this is that details of the terminal will be discussed extensively at the official scoping hearings.
According to the emails, the Whatcom County planning department and the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) will take the lead on planning the pre-scoping meeting. The DOE has become a co-lead agency, along with the county planning department, in preparation and execution of the environmental review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal.
At this point, the most likely venue for the pre-scoping meeting seems to be Bellingham High School, which can seat 250 people and fit a total of 1,000 if everyone is standing. In May of last year
, about 150 people showed up to Bellingham High School to hear a number of Gateway Pacific Terminal opponents speak against the project.
This venue choice suggests county and DOE officials are expecting a large contingent of the public to attend the pre-scoping meeting. Based on the high attendance of every terminal-related meeting I’ve been to so far, I’d say that’s a safe bet.