DNR's Goldmark: 'rigorous' review awaits coal export plan

DNR's Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands.
— image credit: File photo

The cage of at least one state agency is rattling over a proposal that could lead to as much as 54 million tons of cargo, coal included, being shipped through the San Juan Islands each year.

On Feb. 29, Washington state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark issued a statement saying that the state Department of Natural Resources, which oversees much of the state's aquatic lands, will wait on results of a "rigorous" environmental review before he weighs in on a proposal to build a export terminal at Cherry Point, in Whatcom County.

“I have heard from literally tens of thousands of people on the issue of coal exports and appreciate input from all sides of this issue," said Goldmark, chairman of the state Board of Natural Resources, which sets policy for management of state trust lands. "Any new terminal to export coal will go through a rigorous environmental review process by the appropriate permitting agencies."

Cherry Point, a deepwater industrial port located near Ferndale, is located roughly 15 miles west of Orcas Island. Seattle-based SSA Marine, which maintains a 7-year-old permit for a 180-acre industrial facility at Cherry Point, applied last year for a permit to build a 350-acre export terminal capable of handling 54 million tons of cargo a year. The permit requires state, federal and local approval in Whatcom County for the project to proceed.

DNR manages about 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands, which includes tidelands and shorelines, and manages an "aquatic reserve" at Cherry Point.  Goldmark was elected public lands commissioner in 2008, defeating incumbent Doug Sutherland, and in the third year of a four-year term.

"Any decision I make will be made after DNR is presented with a comprehensive proposal which addresses all aspects of the project, including information developed through environmental review," Goldmark added. "We are proceeding carefully and considering all relevant factors as we continue to work closely with local, state and federal regulatory agencies.”


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