In a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire, Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike says the state, not the county, should be the lead agency in the State Environmental Policy Act review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal and bulk cargo pier proposed for Cherry Point by SSA Marine of Seattle.
Pike posted the letter on the city website moments ago. An excerpt:
“I request that you direct your department heads and encourage the Department of Natural Resources to assert lead agency status, to ensure this proposal gets full and transparent review of all significant impacts.”
Among other things, Pike’s letter to the governor expresses concern that Whatcom County planners will accept SSA Marine’s contention that it needs a mere modification of its 1997 shoreline permit for the project, which potentially means that the environmental scrutiny of shoreline issues would be conducted under less stringent rules in effect in 1992, when SSA originally applied for the 1997 permit.
“My team is concerned that the SEPA review will not include the best available science required by the County’s more modern Shoreline Management Master Program, adopted by the Department of Ecology in 2008,” Pike’s letter says.
In a brief telephone interview, Pike said he doesn’t know how the county will react, but he suggested they might welcome the handoff of lead agency status to state agencies.
“It lets the county off the hook from having to be in the crosshairs on this,” Pike said.
As of now, I’m still waiting to hear from the Whatcom County Planning Department on this.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to the relevant state law on revisions of shoreline permits.