County, state agencies announce official time for public pre-scoping meeting

Published on Wed, Mar 7, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Whatcom County and state officials have announced the official time for a meeting aimed at explaining the environmental review process to the public.

As Whatcom County planning emails had suggested, the meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at Bellingham High School. From a Washington State Department of Ecology press release:

“Representatives from Whatcom County and the Washington Department of Ecology will outline the environmental review process and answer questions about it. A representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be on hand to answer questions about the Corps permitting process and federal requirements.”

Representatives from these agencies will provide a review of what goes into developing an environmental impact statement (EIS), including gathering input from the public on what should be studied (called scoping), producing a draft EIS, which the public can also comment on, and releasing the final EIS for review by the county, state and federal regulators and members of the public.

As I reported here, representatives from the agencies involved are not planning to specifically address the EIS process for the $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal proposed for the Cherry Point area south of Birch Bay. The meeting will instead stick to the EIS process in general, though the terminal project must go through such a process.

After a re-read of the press release, it looks as though the agencies involved will be discussing the EIS process for the $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal project specifically. I apologize for initially misrepresenting the information.

Interestingly, March 20 is exactly one day after the deadline by which SSA Marine, the proponents of the terminal, must submit two completed permit applications for the project to the Whatcom County planning department. SSA Marine had received a three-month permit deadline extension last December. Under Whatcom County code, planning officials are required to grant three-month permit deadline extensions if the applicant requests it.

The Gateway Pacific Terminal involves two permits from Whatcom County: a major project development permit, which is required for projects of a certain size, and a shoreline substantial development permit, which is required for major projects that come within 200 feet of the shoreline. The extensive environmental review process cannot begin until the permits have been submitted, but county planning officials have already requested and received bids for consultants to complete the EIS (as I reported here).

For more information on the pre-scoping meeting, contact any of these agency representatives:

Tyler Schroeder, Whatcom County Planning Supervisor, 360-676-6907,

Larry Altose, Department of Ecology media relations, 206-920-2600,

Katie Skipper, Department of Ecology media relations, 360-715-5205,

Patricia Graesser 206-764-3760, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers media relations,



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