Cross-County Coal Train is Coming

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Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 5:00 am  //  John Servais

Lambert's Point, Norfolk Virginia, ships about 50 million tons of coal a year. Cherry Point will start at 24 million and could exceed 50 with the cross county rail line. The rail yards are needed to store a buffer supply of coal so ships can be continuously loaded around the clock.

Lynden, good morning. You may be starting to hear rumors of coal trains coming near you. There is no nice way to tell you - and it is not even possible to be sure. Those who know are not saying, and the rest of us have to find bits and pieces of information here and there. Hopefully, you will not blame the messengers, myself and others. We are letting the cat out of the bag with the thinking that the sooner you know, the sooner you can decide if it is a concern to you.

What we're finding out is that you will probably have double railroad tracks going right past your lovely rural town in the near future. Your days of quiet will be over when a dozen or more coal trains a day rumble past on their way to Cherry Point, and then rumble back on their way to Wyoming for another load of coal. Twenty-four to thirty trains a day. Twenty-four hours a day - for the next 20 to 50 years. At least one every half hour. One guess is the tracks will be just north of town - across that wonderful farm land. But where it goes is not up to you. They might be just south of town.  SSA Marine and Burlington Northern/Santa Fe know. And they are not talking.

Don't blame anyone in Bellingham. The SSA Marine Coal Port folks - with help from local uber-environmentalist hero, Craig Cole - are trying to set this up so Bellingham can be blamed for moving the coal train route to the north county. A normal political method of doing things: get the peasants fighting each other while the nobility escapes blame. With very quiet - almost secret - help from our two U.S. Senators and our governor. And they all probably know about the north county rail line plans.

In the 1990s, a local government did a $130,000 study of an east-west county rail route. I tried to get a look at it. They hid it. But it was the basis for running coal trains across Canada, through Sumas, past Lynden, and on to Custer and Cherry Point. Rumors of them coming up the South Fork Valley are bogus, as you will see below.

SSA Marine has never intended to run coal trains through Bellingham. They can't do it because there will be too many trains each day. When running so many trains - each over a mile long - double tracks are needed the entire way, and they need to be open continuously. These huge coal trains do not like to stop. The route through Bellingham, or up the South Fork Valley, have three choke points that cause problems.

1. It is not feasible to build a second track along Chuckanut. This impacts only the Bellingham route.

2. The Cascade Tunnel is also a one-track choke point. This impacts both the Bellingham and South Fork Valley routes.

3. And finally, the frequent land slides that close the coastal rail line between Seattle and Everett. This impacts both routes.

Canada has an excess of rail capacity, and double tracks in spades. The route from Wyoming or Montana up across Canada is the best route to Cherry Point. Then, dropping down at Sumas for the run across the county is definitely the way to efficiently move coal. Going into Vancouver and then south is way too congested.

But - if the SSA Marine folks and Craig Coal mention this cross-county route, the county folks might oppose the coal port. Really oppose it. So the plan is probably to keep it quiet until it is too late.  I asked Craig directly about this at one of his dog and pony shows - and he did not answer my question. After the meeting, I went to ask him again. At that point he got angry, red in the face, and started poking his finger at me, telling me I was a troublemaker. Sigh. Perhaps I am. Seeking the truth can cause trouble for secret projects.

For a few years, I lived a couple miles from the largest coal loading port in the world, Lambert's Point in Norfolk, Virginia. The trains ran non-stop, day and night. Then there was all the noise and dust from dumping the coal. Now we're looking at a coal facility here that will develop to be as large or larger. Bellingham will be protected, upwind, with no coal trains running through it. Lynden, Sumas and Ferndale will have to deal with the rumble that goes on day and night - without stop. 

Anybody else have any bits of information to help us piece together what is actually going to be built?  The Environmental Impact Statement is useless for what they're planning.  Anyone care to challenge SSA Marine, Craig Cole, BNSF, Pete Kremen, Sen. Cantwell, Sen. Murray, Gov. Gregoire or Mayor Pike to actually tell us the truth of where the coal trains will travel?  Again, they all probably know.

Related Links:

-> NWCitizen in 1999 - scroll down to August 17 - on the planned cross county rail lines
-> Floyd McKay in Crosscut - Jan 7 - how the Governor is involved
-> Floyd McKay in Crosscut - Feb 23 - excellent reporting on the selling of the proposal
-> Daniel Jack Chasan in Crosscut - Feb 17 - Longview coal proposal hid plans

Tip Johnson  //  Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 10:12 am

Ask instead how many boats per day.  Then the trains can be figured.


Rick Anderson  //  Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 10:36 am

“Craig Coal”?  I think you’ve given Craig a new (and appropriate) label.  No wonder he calls you a trouble maker!


David Camp  //  Sat, Mar 26, 2011, 1:18 pm

If you want to see a smaller version of what SSA Marine is proposing for Cherry Point, drive out to the Ferry terminal at Tsawassen (in Surrey, BC south of Vancouver) and look North. The Coal terminal there is about 35% smaller than that proposed for Cherry POint, and it stretches out about 3.5 miles onto Roberts Bank.

Or check it out on Google Earth - the thing is massive.

And for what? SO we can sell our birthright to China so they can power their economy and totally replace our manufacturing with their own.

This proposal is traitorous. A complete sellout to our economic enemies by people whose only allegiance is to their own pocketbooks. Sure there will be local jobs but there were local jobs in the concentration camps also.


Bill Black  //  Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 12:14 am

How about that Canadian rail capacity? Down the Fraser? “Excess of rail capacity, and double tracks in spades”. Could you expound upon this?


Todd Granger  //  Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 8:54 am

Traitorious David?

+ Link

“who” built a railroad?


John Servais  //  Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 11:27 am

Excess Canadian rail capacity.  We have only bits and pieces, like other information.  The corporations that want to place this huge system and structure do know - but our laws provide them protection from having to tell us much of anything.  One person in a place to know is Dan Pike as he was a bureaucrat for Washington transportation agencies for years before becoming a politician. 

Perhaps some reader can help with this question.  I read this within the past month and cannot put my finger on it just now.  Was it Dan Pike? 

Before someone pounds in a comment that I am posting junk, let me point out that such thinking is exactly what prevents us, as a community, from discussing and learning as a group what is happening in our community.  If we leave it to the Herald, then we read the morning after it has happened - and not before when we can discuss.  If we leave it to the government, then we will never learn.  Our news media no longer have investigative reporters.  They have ones who write up what politicians tell them. 

Can others help on this?  Again, SSA and BNSF know - and so do the transportation bureaucracies of Washington State. But they will not tell us citizens.  We citizens simply are denied the facts and asked to blindly approve huge projects that may rob us of our quality of life.  And the value of our homes, farms and businesses.  I hope others can, like Bob Ferris, gather the personal courage to demand answers from those who know.


Bill Black  //  Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 5:01 pm

John, we’re all in this together and as noted recently by others and myself right now, you’re providing a valuable community forum that is a place where good, positive ideas and recognitions can formulate.  Thank You.
  A simple Google search on “Canadian railroads” and the like is not yielding much info. I know a Canadian whose husband drives coal trains to Roberts Bank down the Fraser Canyon and I’ve marveled at how the Canadians were able to build a railroad down that canyon….it was not easy.
  There is what appeared to be an interesting front page article in this Sunday’s Seattle Times on this same subject, i.e. coal through Washington State.


Todd Granger  //  Mon, Mar 28, 2011, 9:43 am

The cheapest coal in the world, Powder River.
When your dollar’s all wet, and your printing press is running full speed ahead, pretty soon you have a train wreck.

And the cheezehead party, at a 1.03 US?
The buy local Canadian Shopping Mall, or the Yuan and the Chinese Shopping Mall.

+ Link

+ Link

And a buyer, with a very, very large trade surplus, using the old 1945 Great Northern Railway model, shown best in China using Mr. Peabody’s old coal train, “that hauled it away.”
+ Link

“Economy does not consist in saving the coal, but in using the time while it burns.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who will not economize will have to agonize.”
CONFUCIUS


David Camp  //  Mon, Mar 28, 2011, 2:56 pm

Todd,

Thanks for the link to the photo of U.S. Grant and the Chinese Viceroy. I suppose that the legions of Chinese coolies who slaved (and died) building the transcontinental railway, forbidden to send home for wives and subject to a punitive head tax, would be honored by this coal dump dedicated to their home country.

Shouldn’t Americans who serve Chinese interests ahead of their own country’s interests be considered traitors? Perhaps they are humanitarians, serving the poor benighted Chinese with our surplus wealth? Either way, our local interests should be paramount, no?

The Powder River basin has about 200 years worth of extractable coal reserves at current mining rates. If we provide another outlet, the reserves will be used up that much sooner. I would argue that these coal reserves are strategic resources, and should never be sold to rival economies.

What are the motives of those who would sell out our birthright? Mammon! Thet might not sell their own mothers, but they would certainly sell yours and mine. They are sociopaths hewing to a sociopathic ethos of greed unrestrained. And they control the federal government.

It;s all very distressing, but the whole corrupt machine will fall when enough people turn their backs on it.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Thu, Mar 31, 2011, 5:58 pm

Surely every crossing will have to be evaluated for it’s safety and volume of traffic prior to any agreements pertaining to the possibility of a continuous round the clock stream of coal trains careening through Whatcom County and Skagit Counties. At a minimum we are looking at 18 trains, each a mile and a half long involved in the China contract.  It has been suggested to me by BNSF contacts that a 40 year contract with India is currently being negotiated.  My guess is that rail traffic in the lifetime of the proposed terminal, will go where it can, likely in eastern as well as coastal Whatcom County.  When one considers the number of crossings in the inland route, especially as it goes along highway 20 through Burlington and Sedro Woolley and then all of the rural crossings through Skagit County, the South Fork Valley, Hwy 9 from one end of Whatcom County to the other and the Mt. Baker Hwy as well, then we begin to see the need not only for lights and gates but for overpasses.  Who pays for overpasses on state highways, WSDOT, BNSF, SSA?  Legislators have to know the answer to this before the allow SSA to confine the details of an EIS to its dock and terminal rather than the breadth of the project.  Consider the scheduling impacts upon the Nooksack, Lynden and Mt. Baker School districts, not to mention every individual and business that depends upon efficient transportation.
    It does not surprise me that Congressman Larsen has already endorsed this project.  A vision of a century of commerce and trade in the Indian Ocean and South China sea is one which supposedly supports peace, improves our balance of payment position and allows the United States to maintain geopolitical leverage in Asia, but what is the use if it involves selling your environment and your people down the river?  For every shipload of coal the we sell, Walmart is importing a container ship load of widgets from China.  Where is the net gain behind this?  The CEO of Walmart has just proclaimed that Americans must be prepared for inflation, due to the increase in cost of Asian labor and raw materials and transportation.  The 21st century must be an era wherein American labor reclaims its manufacturing and value added base.  It must transform its carbon resources at home.  That is where the jobs are!  And that is how we restore leverage.
    Ultimately this issue is about global climate change.  For each of us however there is some unit of concern local or global that deserves your energy and follow through.  Best you have at it before it devours you.  The Scoping Process for the EIS will begin in mid-May.  Get your information lined up.  Mobilize!
   
Jeff Margolis


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Sat, Apr 16, 2011, 5:59 pm

?SafeGuard The South Fork? an association of Whatcom County residents is sponsoring an Environmental Forum at the Acme Elementary School, on Turkington Road in Acme on April 28 at 7:00 PM.  The Forum will focus on ?Coal Trains? and the possibility of round the clock, mile and a half long, open load coal trains on their way to the proposed Gateway Coal Terminal at Cherry Point. Coal trains have a history of degrading human health, water and ag and forestry land, making communities along the possible route through Burlington, Sedro Woolley, Acme, Van Zandt, Deming, and points north and west out to the coast extremely vulnerable.

    Speakers include Bob Ferris, the Executive Director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities in Bellingham. Ferris, a 20-year veteran in the environmental and sustainability communities has contributed seminal work in areas ranging from agricultural policy to renewable energy and economic revitalization. He is an accomplished writer with a book on natural building, numerous scientific and policy documents as well as dozens of opinion pieces in national and regional publications. Ferris holds degrees in environmental studies and biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and zoology from San Jose State University.
    Jeff Margolis, proprietor of Everybody?s Store in Van Zandt, a long term civic participant and lecturer with multiple degrees in philosophy and political science will present on, ?Safeguarding public rail crossings?.
    Nicole Brown Tate, Associate Professor of Humanities at Western Washington University, specialist in civic discourse and social change, will moderate the forum.
    Additional information may be found at info@SafeGuardTheSouthFork.org.


Background Material:http://www.northernplains.org/montanans-ask-washington-governor-to-scrutinize-coal-export-facility/


Ellen McDermott  //  Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 8:26 pm

I read (or thought I read) this article back in late March.
I just reread it (today, June 2nd, 2011) to clarify something I was reading in another article.

Did the text of the first one or two paragraphs change between its publication and today? The rest of the article seemed to be as I remembered it. But the those first paragraphs have me scratching my head.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Tue, Jun 28, 2011, 10:25 am

Safe Guard the South Fork (SGSF) is a fresh civic organization administered by residents of eastern Whatcom County (WC) who are dedicated to limiting the ability SSA Marine to ship coal from Cherry Point.  SGSF’s interest in the protection of local waterways, farm land, marine life and natural living in the current instance, narrows down to a specific focus on the coal trains traveling thru the South Fork Valley and eastern Whatcom County to the coast.  Did you realize that permitting and then construction of a coal port at the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) might actually affect the way of life of people in Acme, Deming and other towns along the railroad routes to this Cherry Point destination?  Track carrying capacity, balancing freight and passenger traffic on the coast, business growth in Bellingham and of course BNSF profits are amongst the factors that bear upon the whether the ?Farm Land? route through the South Fork Valley and points north and west; Sumas and Lynden, get used.
      Some folks scoff, “What?s to be afraid of it?s just a train, we’ll get used to it?”  If permitting the project is not nipped in the bud, and construction proceeds without debate about the environmental impact on this rural alternative to the coastal route through Bellingham,  then the distinct possibility remains that we and our descendants will see and hear these mile and a half long trains chugging along with coal destined for Asia, hourly, for generations to come.
      You may ask, “what?s the big deal; what?s the damage, doesn?t free enterprise govern?”  Besides the cumulative effects of strewing kernels of coal broadside and into waterways, those who care, worry about the cost and transformative impact of corridor redevelopment.  It is likely that several overpasses will have to be built for the secure flow of trucks and cars.  No one is going to have fire engines, patrol cars and emergency vehicles waiting for a slow moving coal train.  How many overpasses can you picture on this Farm Land Route?  Is there anything left of Acme, Van Zandt or Nooksack?
      You know better than we do how this will affect your life.  Write to SGSF.  Will the round the clock hourly horn blowing, 24/7 in our midst suit your sleep or the attention span of our children in school?  These trains have locomotives front, middle and rear spewing diesel particles on crops.  At build out, we could have 30-40 trains a day times, each with 8 or more locomotives. Now there’s some carcinogens for you!j
Jeff Margolis
Co-chair SGSF
      Believe it or not, there is no guarantee today that the authorities are considering the ramifications of an alternative Farm Land Route coming into play. Make sure!  You can have your say as to what the Environmental Impact Statement must consider by making your demands known during the ?Scoping Process? .Whatcom County and the Army Corps of Engineers intended to start the ?Scoping Process? in July or August.  But given the County’s recent declaration that SSA’s 1997 Permit Application did not mention coal shipments, they were ordered to reapply.  The Scoping Process is set back.  For up to date information about important dates for the GPT permitting process visit: Safeguardthesouthfork.org.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Wed, Jun 29, 2011, 3:16 pm

In a previous post I suggested that our concern was with climate change.  That is the case for the soft hearted but just pith to those who have the power to call the shots.  As usual the economics of the case will govern.
        You all must know that the County is requiring SSA to reapply.  This sets back the Scoping Process for the EIS somewhat.  Below you will find a more detailed discussion of grade crossing and their significance much of which was submitted to the county. 
        One may go on line to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission where you will find a list of Public Rail Crossings.This list identifies 91 Public Rail Crossings in Whatcom County.  You will find the Whatcom crossings by scrolling to the following lines: 647 thru 699, 725 thru 738, 1444 thru 1453 and 2116 thru 2133.  This list indicates whether or not the crossing is in a “Quiet Zone”  where a train horn is not to be blown, or if there is a Wayside Horn, where there is a uni-directional horn at a crossing and most significantly whether there is “Active Protection” at the crossing.  If the crossing lists NO under active protection it means that a “Crossback” stands alone.  If the crossing is listed as YES for “Active Protection” it means that there are either Lights or Gates.  It does not necessarily mean that there are both lights and gates.
        If there is to be a coal train coming through Whatcom County and by coal train I mean a process of a continuous round the clock flow of trains, each a mile and a half long, then it is our duty to ensure that rail crossings meet minimum safety standards for pedestrians, bicyclists and of course motorists. 
        Of the 91 existing crossings nine (9) crossings, ie., those with only a “Crossback” sign, will not satisfy a common sense standard for safety vis a vis a coal train.  Those endangered crossings are: Hoff Road, Hopewell Road, Cole Road, 3 crossings in Sumas, Rothenbuhler Road, Homesteader Road, Strand Road and Nelson Road.
        All other crossings in Whatcom County are listed as having “Active Protection”.  Whatcom County Public Works or the Sheriff’s Office might provide an inventory or account of the scope of protection currently available at all other crossings.
        To wit, it is possible that in some instances it might be necessary to identify those crossings in the county that might not be sufficiently protected by both lights and gates and could require an overpass.  This might be more likely on SR9 and SR542.  I trust that either the County Executive or the Sheriff would share their perspective with WSDOT if in their wisdom they believe that State crossings require additional protection.
        In my recent phone conversation with Mr. David Pratt , Railroad Safety Specialist with the Utilities and Transportation Commission, I have learned that there are no exclusive safety standards for coal trains or one type of train versus another. As such there does not seem to be a Federal standard that would compel the railroad to accept any additional responsibility vis a vis crossings even for a coal train.  According to Pratt, oftentimes the state or county that requests safety up grades at crossings bears the responsibility for the cost of an upgrade because it is governmental entity that is demanding the upgrade.  Were it the railroads volition to upgrade a crossing then it would accept the cost of the improvement.
        In my recent conversation with Ms. Christine Adams, Grade Crossing Manager for the Federal Railroad Administration, she informs that there are no federal regulations pertaining to railroad crossings.  Although the federal government allocates funds to local jurisdictions for crossings she was quite candid in stating that , ? there is never enough money to go around.?
                I am bringing this to your attention as it behooves Whatcom County to ensure prior to agreements for a coal terminal that standards and responsibility for a safe or “sanitary” rail corridor are understood.
        This issue was part of our Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee ( BPAC )agenda on 4/20 5/18/11.
                At our meeting of the 18th our Public Works members Rodney Vandersypen expressed the concern that an hypothetical; once an hour crossings might not be sufficient justification for overpasses.  Whatcom County Sheriff Elfo,  also past Chief of Police in Blaine described his frustration with train backups.  Warner Webb the County Fire Marshall and second in command of PDS stated that there is no book that one takes off the shelf which identifies criteria for overpasses. Officer Mark Dennis of WSP was present at our meeting.  One can hope that he logged this encounter.  Whether he has chosen to move the subject up the WSP chain of command is beyond my ken and my guess is that it is probably something that WSP will keep to itself.
        The consensus of opinion both from our committee and the public that I come in contact with is that a South Fork Valley, Everson, Sumas , Lynden route, what can be identified as the “Farm Land” route is a viable alternative and as such must be included in the EIS.  The statement made by the BNSF spokeswoman that the train would go through Bellingham is not a guarantee that it will be the case in either the short or the long run.  The list of crossings, attached,  in the eastern part of the county is lengthy and deserves your consideration.
  To wit, the permitting and consequent construction of a coal port at the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) could quite possibly affect the way of life of people in Acme and others living along the railroad routes to this Cherry Point destination.  Track carrying capacity, balancing freight and passenger traffic on the coast, business growth in Bellingham and of course BNSF profits are amongst the factors that bear upon the whether our ?Farm Land? route through the South Fork and points northwest will get used.
    If construction proceeds without debate about the environmental impact on the Farm Land route then the distinct possibility remains that Whatcom County will see and hear these mile and a half long trains come through the Valley on an hourly basis for a half century if not more.  Attached you find The Tongue River Railroad White Paper for the Montana Environmental Quality Council which attests to the propensity of railroads to alter routes over time and effectively escaping environmental review.  Inasmuch as the potential for the alternative utilization of the Farm Route prevails, then it must be included in the environmental impact statement (EIS)
        It is likely that several overpasses will have to be built for the secure flow of trucks and cars.  No one is going to have fire engines, patrol cars and emergency vehicles waiting for a slow moving coal train.  How many overpasses can you picture on this Farm Land route?  Is there anything left of Acme, Van Zandt or Nooksack?  Making for a secure rail corridor and the concomitant changes upon towns and highways will transform the region.  Round the clock horn blowing will alter and disturb sleep patterns and attention span of children in school.  It will lend to social dysfunction.  The trains have locomotives front, middle and rear spewing diesel particles on farm crops.  The same is a carcinogenic pollutant.
     
        The coal train strews kernels of coal on to lands adjacent to the track and beneath trestles, thus polluting waterways. Information posted on the internet by the American Association of Railroads suggests that coal cars will be bathed in water to suppress coal dust.  What will be the impact on aquifers in the Cherry Point region?  What of the residue?
  I trust that Whatcom County has an interest in following through on these matters.

Yours very truly,
Jeff Margolis
5465 Potter Road
Van Zandt, Deming WA


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Sat, Aug 13, 2011, 4:14 pm

It?s amusing how two writers can go to the same City Club luncheon lecture and come away with different reports. The headline in the Bellingham Herald,  ?Cherry Point Cargo Terminal Could help Fund Rail Upgrades?, should read,  ?Taxpayers to Pay Through Nose for BNSF/China Coal Train.?  Journalist, John Stark exults that transportation experts: Jim Miller of the Whatcom Council of Governments and Bruce Agnew, Executive Director of the Cascadia Project in Everett, were encouraged by the prospect of a Cargo (sic) Coal Terminal at Cherry Point. It could provide political and financial impetus to help pay for needed rail improvements through Whatcom County and could help focus state and federal attention on transportation needs here. How sweet.
 
  Stark?s article, throughout, deemphasizes the darker aspects of the situation and both men?s comments; that despite the fact that there is a shorter, albeit more costly route through Montana, the coal trains will travel through Bellingham and state and local officials can?t do anything about it.  Agnew stated, ? the coal train need not be disruptive to traffic, passenger rail or other freight shippers if massive investments are made in upgrading the system.?  Boosters at heart, neither Miller, Agnew or Stark chose to fully investigate how disruptive the increase in rail traffic or how massive our investment would need to be.  Agnew, awakening to reality noted that federal, provincial and municipal governments are joining with BNSF and Canadian railroads to pour more than $300 million into the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program to build new overpasses, “You’ve got to deal with that upfront and invest in the infrastructure.”

  Stark paints a problem free picture even though it is like pulling teeth to get the experts to focus on a reality which fades, victim to their allegiance to corporate conformity.  COG & Cascadia Project, publicly funded agencies, have an obligation to honestly identify the true cost to be paid by the public for a new commerce corridor through Whatcom County and the entire coal train route.  Here?s Congress trying to cut trillions from the US budget and what we get are official heads in the sand.

  Continuing in his blind to the world report, Stark focused on a questioner in the audience who challenged the $32 million state subsidy for Amtrak while completely ignoring a pertinent follow up by Mark Nelson, City Club?s preeminent inquisitor, who queried whether a farm land route through the South Fork Valley and eastern Whatcom County would be a viable alternative for BNSF.  To which both experts actually responded in the affirmative.

  This might be amusing repartee for the bleakly realistic who hope the train will bypass Bellingham, but the most ominous and wouldn?t you know, understated message from Agnew was ?that some increase in exports from Canadian terminals is in the works, but those increases won’t add up to even half the nearly 50 million tons per year that could be shipped via Pacific ports. Moreover Canadian coal producers want the added capacity at Canadian ports for themselves.?

  Given Governor Gregoire?s position that coal is going to be shipped to Asia one way or another, it looks like the a Coal Train is coming to a Pacific Northwest port near you.  Concerned?  Your Whatcom County Council will be the judge. The council splits 3 environmentally sensitive versus 4 environmentally insensitive.  The balance might change depending upon who wins the District One seat in November, either incumbent Council person Tony Larson or Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen.  Larson, has sold his South Fork constituents down the river by approving gravel mining in the headwaters of the Samish and Nooksack River watershed, last week.  Kremen, as Executive has the opportunity to show his colors, veto the council vote and demonstrate that he truly cares for nature and a majority of the farmers and constituents over the usual corporate suspects. Let Kremen not come to the rescue and he is sure to find a lot of his past supporters doing unto him as he might do unto them.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Sun, Aug 14, 2011, 10:26 am

Is there a Ref in the House?  I don’t know where to turn.  The side bar has gone center stage.

To:
Concerned Citizens of the Saxon Pit:

I, like you, was very disappointed in the County Council’s action to approve the Saxon gravel pit proposal.  Sam Crawford’s comments that he didn’t see a connection between stripping a forest adjacent to prime fisheries habitat and the impact to fish shows how out of touch he is with reality.

The County Council’s action last Tuesday is not the final decision, however.  Under the Growth Management Act, you can amend the Comprehensive Plan no more than once per year—with some limited exceptions.  The action on Tuesday will be forwarded to what is called “concurrent review”, which by County Code (WCC 2.160.100.C) should occur on or about February 1, 2012.  (In 2011, the final concurrent review didn’t take place until May.)

Executive Kremen, therefore, will not have any opportunity to veto this ordinance.  As a potential County Council member, however, he may be a deciding vote next year on this application.  This gets me to where your energy might best be spent fighting this project:  elections of County Executive and County Council.

The County Council has three members being considered in the coming year.  I have tracked Sam Crawford’s environmental voting record, and 75% of his votes have been against environmental protection.  From Lake Whatcom to wetlands protection to shorelines, Sam Crawford repeatedly votes against protecting our environment.  Whatcom County has a unique opportunity to unseat Mr. Crawford and his destructive agenda by electing Christina Maginnis, a water quality expert.

You also have the opportunity to unseat Tony Larson by voting for Pete Kremen.  Alan Black from Blaine is an excellent County Council candidate that will also ensure we protect the environment.

Of course, there will be a new County Executive next year that, if presented with an ordinance to approve, would have the ability to veto that ordinance.  This ordinance can, and should have been denied.  There was no consideration to protection of the environment in making this initial decision.  I just won a Growth Management case against Whatcom County because they didn’t consider the environment.  (+ Link) The Saxon proposal clearly did not meet the County’s own criteria for mineral resource lands amendment. Whatcom County has the basis to deny this proposal, and it can withstand any challenge from the gravel interests.

I would encourage that you put your heart and soul into these County elections.  Tell your friends, your neighbors, and your family about what is at stake here.  Write letters to the editor, like your candidates on Facebook, and send whatever financial donation you can to make these campaigns successful.  Your proposal is just one of hundreds of similar actions going on across Whatcom County.  Let’s take back Whatcom County from those wishing to destroy it!


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Uber: Supporting the Troops?

Uber, the cheap ride taxi company, is targeting the troops to become drivers in ads disguised as articles in publications such as the Army Times.

Dick Conoboy
Mon, May 16, 2016, 5:20 am
0 comments

Herons or Oil: Which are long term?

The March Point protestors this weekend will hopefully show serious concern and not disturb the heron colony near the refineries.

John Servais
Sat, May 14, 2016, 9:34 am
2 comments; last on May 15, 2016

No Coal Terminal at Cherry Point - Final

The Seattle office of the Army Corps of Engineers has formally denied a permit for building a coal terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County. Updated at 4pm.

John Servais
Mon, May 09, 2016, 12:10 pm
4 comments; last on May 09, 2016

Boring, predictable Trump plays to conservative Lynden crowd

Supporters say he will beat Hillary Clinton.

Ralph Schwartz
Sat, May 07, 2016, 10:47 pm
3 comments; last on May 24, 2016

Citizens: BPD dismissive of people of color

Group cites failure to investigate assaults on anti-police-racism marchers

Ralph Schwartz
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 7:04 pm
4 comments; last on May 03, 2016

An Open Letter to U.S. Representative Rick Larsen

Also to all U.S. Representative candidates in the 1st and 2nd U.S. Congressional districts for the election in 2016

David Camp
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 3:46 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 27, 2016

Five districts pass; GOP incites conservatives to fight map in court

Republicans rolled over and approved the Democrats' map to set the stage for a legal challenge

Ralph Schwartz
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 8:40 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 24, 2016

Unanimous Yes vote for 5 county council districts

GOP vote for Democratic plan to prevent locked committee and then county council becoming decision makers of districting boundaries

John Servais
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 8:01 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 21, 2016

Report on City Council Retreat

The Bellingham City Council conducted a retreat on 16 April to discuss a number of issues, including a set of proposed strategies to ensure "sustainable services."

Dick Conoboy
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 5:14 am
0 comments

OregonLNG quits: Cherry Point may be new target

Liquid natural gas terminal is rumored to be in planning stages for Cherry Point as the Oregon proposed LNG plan is abandoned.

John Servais
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 11:55 am
6 comments; last on Apr 19, 2016

Deck stacked against Republicans at Districting Committee hearing

Fate of new county five-district map remains uncertain.

Ralph Schwartz
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 10:43 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016

Don’t speak at tonight’s Districting Committee hearing

If you do, you better make sure you have something to say that's going to change someone's mind.

Ralph Schwartz
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 9:09 am
3 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016

Bellingham Planning tries to sneak one through

The Sunnyland residents have just learned they have only today to comment on a huge impacting building project in their neighborhood.

John Servais
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 1:06 am
11 comments; last on Apr 23, 2016

No sign of agreement as districting committee enters final phase

After a public hearing next week, the committee will be asked to vote on a five-district map for Whatcom County in two weeks.

Ralph Schwartz
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 9:18 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 09, 2016

Proposed redistricting map for your review

The Districting Master (the official title) has submitted his map for review by the Districting Committee this evening. Here it is for your review.

John Servais
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 1:14 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 07, 2016

BNSF: A casual approach to railroad safety

At Clayton Beach, we have tracked increasing erosion under railroad tracks and written to the railroads and federal inspectors. To no avail.

John Servais
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 8:17 pm
2 comments; last on Apr 05, 2016

$15 Minimum Wage - Assured Debt Peonage

Accelerating efforts across the U.S. to install a $15 minimum wage are playing into the hands of big business and codifying enormously insufficient wages for years to come.

Dick Conoboy
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 5:25 am
2 comments; last on May 24, 2016

Cherry Point coal port development put on ice

Work on EIS put on hold as coal companies wait for Army Corps of Engineers decision. Well, it was not in March. This is not an April 1…

John Servais
Fri, Apr 01, 2016, 3:49 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 02, 2016

Fuller calls on Coast Guard to ‘stand on the right side of history’

Activist contests $10,000 fine for climbing on a Shell oil vessel. Rob Lewis guest writes this report.

Guest writer
Wed, Mar 23, 2016, 2:37 pm
0 comments

Voting guide for Whatcom Conservation District

Updated Wed, Mar 16. Tuesday, March 15, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., any registered voter of Whatcom County can vote in person at the conservation district office.

John Servais
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 8:26 pm
0 comments

Will Cherry Point coal port be denied this week?

Updated 4:30pm. Helena, Montana newspaper says GPT may be denied this week by Army Corps of Engineers. US Rep Zinke panics and accuses Army of politics.

John Servais
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 12:19 am
4 comments; last on Mar 24, 2016

Dems, GOP primed for legal fight over districts

Not even a letter from a coal terminal spokesman can save them now.

Ralph Schwartz
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 12:04 am
2 comments; last on Mar 17, 2016

Districting maps E and F for reference

We post the next two maps to be discussed at the Districting Committee today, March 14. For the few who might study them and later contribute perspectives.

John Servais
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 1:53 am
0 comments

Democrats threaten legal action on districting

Legally threatening letter sent by Seattle law firm retained by prominent leading Democratic Party leaders.

John Servais
Sun, Mar 13, 2016, 1:06 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 14, 2016

The state of citizen journalism is strong: Two receive deArmond awards

The third annual deArmond dinner celebrated the work of Sandy Robson and Neah Monteiro.

Ralph Schwartz
Fri, Mar 11, 2016, 11:28 pm
2 comments; last on Mar 13, 2016

Potential Oil Exports From Cherry Point—Something else to put on your radar

What almost happened on the coast of Maine could happen here at Cherry Point. Portland, Maine, stopped oil exports - and Whatcom County can also. If we act.

David Camp
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 11:20 pm
0 comments

Durham, NH, - Surprise! - Rental Inspections Worked

Durham is an example of the efficacy of rental inspections, putting to bed the unsupported objections of landlords by presenting facts about conditions.

Dick Conoboy
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 2:20 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016

Dogged Pursuit of a Failed Vision?

Wherein, we correct some misassumptions but still ask the questions

Tip Johnson
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 2:47 pm
0 comments

Districting Committee: GOP accuses Democrats of gerrymandering

The Republicans made concessions on their district map but took a final stand at Nooksack, Everson and Sumas.

Ralph Schwartz
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 1:15 am
6 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016

Idea for Our Times: Puget Sound Repair Project

Could this address the real problem with Puget Sound?

Tip Johnson
Mon, Mar 07, 2016, 10:40 am
6 comments; last on Mar 08, 2016

Districting Committee: Republicans lack legal compass

Republicans and Democrats remain far apart. Democrats have the legal high ground, but Republicans would go to court to challenge that if necessary.

Ralph Schwartz
Sun, Mar 06, 2016, 11:39 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 07, 2016

Punishing the Wrong Guys

Wherein someone's gotta do the right thing

Tip Johnson
Tue, Mar 01, 2016, 3:40 pm
0 comments

D’Angelo undaunted by fine: ‘I had to make the moral choice’

Chiara D'Angelo comes across as emotionally intelligent and uncompromising in her high-stakes Coast Guard hearing.

Ralph Schwartz
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 11:55 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016

Elfo: Enforcement, Litigation or Risks?

Wherein inquiring minds want to know!

Tip Johnson
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 1:24 pm
0 comments

‘Goodwill’ wanted but lacking on Districting Committee

Republicans focused their efforts on torpedoing the Democrats' five-district proposal at the second committee meeting.

Ralph Schwartz
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 5:01 am
4 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016

Anchor-chain activists face hefty fines

The Coast Guard has levied $30,000 in fines on two Bellingham climate activists. They will fight to have the fines dropped.

Ralph Schwartz
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 5:01 am
16 comments; last on Feb 22, 2016

Jail Reform: Music to My Ears

Wherein sanity may finally be approaching a nagging jail issue

Tip Johnson
Sun, Feb 14, 2016, 8:54 pm
2 comments; last on Feb 19, 2016

Redistricting: Democrats may have upper hand

Republicans and Democrats traded barbs on the first day of the Districting Committee, but Dems may have won the first battle.

Ralph Schwartz
Tue, Feb 09, 2016, 5:02 am
5 comments; last on Feb 10, 2016

Stop the Rental Fires Now!

Inspections of rentals cannot begin too soon. Seven fires in rental units since 2011 and almost half with ONE landlord. No but the clock may be running out.

Dick Conoboy
Mon, Feb 08, 2016, 6:26 am
0 comments

Super Bowl 50 - Wretched Excess

From all the monumentally boring hoopla to the shameful rousting of the homeless Super Bowl 50 exceeds all expectations for greed and excess.

Dick Conoboy
Fri, Feb 05, 2016, 12:45 pm
4 comments; last on Feb 12, 2016

Harriet Spanel has passed on

Harriet Spanel was many years our representative in the state legislature and served Whatcom County and Bellingham very well.

John Servais
Wed, Feb 03, 2016, 5:49 pm
4 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016

Mayor Picks Lisa Anderson for City Planning Commission

Lisa Anderson will fill the remaining term of real estate broker, Cerise Noah. who left the Bellingham Planning Commission several months ago.

Dick Conoboy
Wed, Feb 03, 2016, 2:53 pm
0 comments

In White Skin

Talib Kweli played the Wild Buffalo a couple evenings ago and Ralph Schwartz was there. He writes a very personal take on the evening.

Ralph Schwartz
Mon, Feb 01, 2016, 4:00 am
2 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016

Say Nein to Uber

Uber has started a new type of public taxi service in many cities, including Bellingham. It is controversial.

Dick Conoboy
Sun, Jan 31, 2016, 12:04 pm
3 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016

WA State Minimum Wage Initiative - A Race To The Bottom

Raising the minimum wage to $13.50/hr by 2020 cements workers into permanent slave wages that cannot pay the bills.

Dick Conoboy
Mon, Jan 18, 2016, 6:35 am
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2016

Eagles on the Nooksack

They are less famous than the eagles on the Skagit but closer to Bellingham, fewer people and still lots of eagles. A great January afternoon outing.

John Servais
Tue, Jan 12, 2016, 12:18 am
1 comments; last on Jan 13, 2016

Earthquake lightly shakes Bellingham

Earthquake near San Juan Island felt in Bellingham late Tuesday night

John Servais
Wed, Dec 30, 2015, 1:15 am
0 comments

Kremen & Weimer tell us of Clinton & Sanders

What the campaign styles of local politicians Pete Kremen and Carl Weimer tell us about presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Whatcom Citizen
Tue, Dec 29, 2015, 12:06 pm
4 comments; last on Dec 31, 2015

Bye Bye

Shell Polar Pioneer floating oil drill rig left the Pacific Northwest for Norway today. Nice holiday gift for all of us.

John Servais
Fri, Dec 25, 2015, 11:31 am
2 comments; last on Dec 25, 2015

Unregulated vacation rentals on Lake Whatcom

Tani Sutley writes on the continuing issue of houses in residential zones that are used essentially as hotels and disrupt quiet neighborhoods.

Guest writer
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 3:14 am
0 comments

Whatcom Farmers and Eric Hirst Dialog

Statement by Whatcom Family Farmers on “Eric Hirst and his water ideas” and Hirst's Reply

Guest writer
Sat, Dec 19, 2015, 12:11 pm
1 comments; last on Dec 20, 2015

Request for Citizen Evidence

Wherein inquiring minds just want to know!

Tip Johnson
Mon, Dec 14, 2015, 4:58 pm
0 comments

PDC - The Missing Documents

Wherof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent?

Tip Johnson
Wed, Dec 02, 2015, 9:31 pm
3 comments; last on Dec 06, 2015

Planning Commission Opening Calls for Neighborhood Rep

The Planning Commission has a vacancy. Now is the time for the appointment of a member who represents the interests of the neighborhoods.

Dick Conoboy
Mon, Nov 30, 2015, 6:29 am
0 comments

Update on Lincoln Street Student Housing Project

The student housing project for 648 individuals called NXNW (North by Northwest) on Lincoln Street is moving forward briskly. This is an update.

Dick Conoboy
Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 6:41 am
7 comments; last on Dec 27, 2015

Tax incentives proposed for Fairhaven apartments - Updated

Council to allow three weeks for written comments on tax exemption proposal for high density buildings in quiet Fairhaven neighborhood

John Servais
Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 11:41 pm
9 comments; last on Nov 19, 2015

 

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