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Coal Ship Collisions Study Is Released

Today the ship collision study for the proposed mega coal terminal at Cherry Point was released. The Washington Department of Ecology has posted the study - the “Vessel Traffic and Risk Assessment Study” - as a pdf file. It is on a special website that Ecology set up for this project and linked from their site. It is called: http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov It seems strange this is not on the Ecology site.

There are others better equipped than I to explore this study. Hopefully we will have an article explaining this soon. For now, I want to make sure all know about the study and have access to it.

There is one area of the report I can comment on - and which has been ignored by the coal port proponents. The study investigates where the enormous ships can anchor for one to several days while waiting their turn to be loaded with coal - and Bellingham Bay is listed as one of those possible anchorages. While the study says Bellingham Bay is not one of the preferred sites because of the hard bay bottom, the ships could be anchored by installing huge permanent ship mooring buoys in the bay floor. Padilla Bay and down toward Anacortes are also possibilities, as well as Port Angeles, inside Ediz Hook. How lovely. Wonder if anyone has told the good folks down there.

If the coal port goes in, we will have the pristine views across Bellingham and Padilla bays forever blotted with monstrous mega coal carrier ships. The study notes there should be capacity to anchor up to 13 large ships at a time between all the locations. These capesize coal ships are larger than nuclear aircraft carriers and we may well see up to five huge coal ships anchored in our beautiful Bellingham Bay most days of the year. The coal port facility will receive trainloads of coal every day and night of the year and ships must be available to make the loading continuous without a break, 24/7/365. Years ago I lived downwind of what was at the time the largest coal loading docks in the world and there were up to 10 ships waiting at any given time. So regardless of the theoretical predictions and claims, we citizens need to be aware that mooring buoys are always a possibility.

Another odd note is that the study authors requested ship information from the U.S. Coast Guard - information on what ships have anchored in our bays and coves over the past several decades. The odd thing is that the Coast Guard came up empty on much vital information such as ship sizes, ship types, etc. Well, maybe the routine information is somewhere and the Coast Guard just can't find it. The CG provides minimal numbers.

I hope others more qualified than I am will read the sections of this report and inform us. If my concerns are misplaced, then correct me. But I suspect it is potentially worse.

About John Servais

Writer • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Mike Rostron

Dec 18, 2014

But of course all those nasty little sailboats doing so much damage to our view and environment had to go!

One looks out now on the bay and sees the occasional fishing boat, the Coast Guard and Border Patrol boats, but little else. The waters have been made safe for the “coal porters” it seems.

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Scott Wicklund

Dec 21, 2014

The mooring buoys would have to run the gauntlet with DNR, POB, and Lummi Nation.  Of course being of critical national energy importance, the requirements that plagued the small boat owners “might” be waived.
This issue needs more attention!

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