Agencies involved in the environmental review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project have announced a March 20 public meeting to explain that process and answer questions.
Joining staffers from Whatcom County will be representatives from the Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In announcing the meeting, the agencies also provided a lengthy written outline of the process to come. Here it is, in its entirety:
Begin press release:
BELLINGHAM – People interested in the upcoming process to review potential environmental impacts from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal and a related railroad project are invited to an informational meeting.
Project: Proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, north Puget Sound
What: Information meeting on environmental review process
When: 6 – 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Where: Bellingham High School theater, 2020 Cornwall Ave.
Representatives from Whatcom County and the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will outline the environmental review process and answer questions about it. A representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) will be on hand to answer questions about the Corps permitting process and federal requirements.
Whatcom County, Ecology and the Corps have agreed to coordinate the environmental impact statement (EIS) process under state and federal environmental laws.
The purpose of the meeting is to familiarize people with the upcoming environmental review process. Speakers will explain several opportunities people will have to provide formal input at different stages. The first of these will occur in late spring or summer this year.
An EIS reports on the potential impacts a proposed project would have on the natural and social environment. Once the impacts are identified, it outlines “mitigation,” measures intended to offset impacts. The EIS also evaluates alternatives, and their potential impacts, to the project or portions of it. Agencies that issue permits can use this information to determine whether to approve the project, and if approved, to set conditions to prevent or mitigate impacts.
The meeting program will outline the upcoming EIS process, including these key points, with approximate dates:
* Scoping: This summer the agencies will seek public comment, including community meetings, through “scoping,” a process the agencies use to determine which potential environmental impacts the EIS should assess. The co-lead agencies will issue notices for times and locations of scoping meetings.
* Draft EIS: The agencies, aided by their consultant, will research potential impacts, alternatives, and mitigation measures, and present the results of these studies in a draft EIS, expected in 2013.
* Public comment on draft EIS: The agencies will invite the public to review the draft EIS and to make comments. This can include workshops, meetings and hearings to explain the EIS and to receive public comments. This period will most likely occur in late 2013 or in 2014.
* Final EIS: The agencies make changes to the draft EIS based on comments received and issue a final version.
* Permitting: Several local, state and federal agencies will use information from the EIS to help make permit decisions. Each permit has its own process for public review and input before becoming final. If a permit is issued, the issuing agency may use mitigation identified in the EIS to help set special conditions or requirements.
Pacific International Terminals, a subsidiary of SSA Marine Inc. (SSA), proposes to build and operate the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in north Puget Sound, between Ferndale and Blaine. The terminal would provide storage and handling of exported and imported dry bulk commodities, including coal, grain, iron ore, salts and alumina. BNSF Railway Inc. proposes to add rail facilities and install a second track along the six-mile Custer Spur.
End press release