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.

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.


This morning, the Army Corps of Engineers released a simple press release. In plain language, Colonel Buck denies the Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point.  Col. Buck says he is responding to the concerns of the Lummi Nation and their rights to fishing and seafood along the shoreline of Whatcom County per the 1855 treaty with the United States.  

You can read the actual press release here.  

That is it.  End of story.  There will be gnashing of teeth from proponents, but that is all she wrote - to use ciches to make the point.

All of us in Whatcom County can thank the Lummi Indians for standing firm.  As the excellent photo above shows, the Lummi said no to possible bribes, er, inducements.  They held firm.

We now have, for a third time in 30 years, a chance to plan something meaningful at Cherry Point.  In the early 1980s, we as a community stopped Chicago Bridge and Iron from building oil drilling platforms out there.  They wanted to destroy the beach and put in a landfill out to deeper water for building the rigs.  Republican governor John Spellman vetoed special legislation that would have allowed the project.  Yes, many Democrats supported the legislation, and it took a Republican to stop an environmental disaster.  Shortly after, the market for oil rigs suddenly dried up.  Mixed up in this time of the 1980s was another outfit, Peter Kiewit, another large oil construction outfit, wanted to actually dredge a lagoon into Cherry Point.  

We can wonder what crazy scheme will hit us next.  Hopefully our civic and business leaders will get real about what could work out at Cherry Point.

Update.  Have found an excellent article from 2011 by Bob Simmons in Crosscut, the Seattle online news.  Bob's article is about the history of Cherry Point development efforts. He now lives in Bellingham.  

Update 4pm:  Credit where credit is due. The denial of permit is actually signed by Michelle Walker, the Chief of the Regulatory Branch at the Seattle Army Corps district office.  Col. Buck is the commander.  Also, a reading of the Memorandum of Record shows that Walker determined that the coal terminal would "... have greater than a de minimis impact on the Lummi Tribe’s access to its usual and accustomed fishing grounds for harvesting fish and shellfish."  De minimis is a minimal amount.  Thus she has decided the impact of the offshore docks would have greater than minimal impact - and that is all that is necessary to ban the project.  She did not deny a permit - she simply is not granting a permit.  If, in the future the Lummi withdraw their complaint, then she might grant a permit.  So it says in the memorandum.

She cites three specific areas as her determination.  U&A = Usual and Accustomed 

1. Impairing and eliminating part of their U&A treaty fishing and crabbing area (with or without the herring);

2. Impairing and eliminating the time and manner in which the Tribe can fish in their U&A; and

3. Impairing and eliminating potential future herring fishing at the site. 

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About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • 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

Bob Aegerter

May 09, 2016

Now is the time to do some real planning for the Cherry Point Industrial UGA.  The original zoning was done without adequate review.  If this opportunity is allow to pass we will have another battle to engage.


David MacLeod

May 09, 2016

Great news!!!


Dick Conoboy

May 09, 2016

Ah, all you Whatcom munchkins, the witch is dead!


Tip Johnson

May 09, 2016

The development of three industrial facilities at Cherry Point coincides with the loss of more that two thirds of the herring production of all the Puget Sound and Washington State waters of the Salish Sea.  That is an enormous takings that must be restored to the fishers and processors, and the animals we should be better stewarding.  This unpermitted impact directly undermines the food security that sustained human habitation here for millennia and continues to threaten the culture we all honor - the salmon, seals and orca.

Environmental regulators and government policy makers should prioritize restoring the herring population before permitting further pollution.  In fact, forget about the pollution, it’s already too much.

Good call, USACE.

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