Everett will ask questions about coal export terminal EVERETT - The city will weigh in by way of letter on the controversial massive coal export terminal project proposed at Cherry Point near Bellingham.
Everett wants a say in the environmental review. The project would send 18 coal trains a day through Everett. The terminal is anticipated to handle 54 million metric tons of mostly coal per year. It would become one of the largest terminals on the West Coast.
Three regulatory agencies — the state Department of Ecology, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Whatcom County — are leading the environmental review in this state and will decide whether or not the project gets approval.
The public comment period on the environmental impact statement for the terminal opened to everyone Sept. 24. The comment period ends Jan. 21.
Mayor Ray Stephanson last week directed the city to put the letter out to public review after it is written by the planning department.
“It’s not normally something we do, but (the terminal is) not a normal project,” planning director Allan Giffen said.
Stephanson directed the public review after it was suggested at last week’s Council of Neighborhoods meeting. Coal trains opponent Dean Smith pushed Stephanson for an answer as to whether Everett will comment on the project after city officials had been silent for months.
The city isn’t finished deciding the key points it will bring up in the letter, but the list of possible topics are numerous.
The letter may include concerns about the trains’ impacts to at-grade rail crossings, geologically hazardous areas, water and air quality along the rail lines, rail freight movement in Everett, passenger rail impacts, the structural stability of the train tunnel in downtown Everett, wetlands or other sensitive areas if additional tracks are needed and the cumulative impacts of the coal trains, Giffen said.
The city would have one affected at-grade crossing at the Snohomish-Lowell River Road, and Smith is concerned the heavy trains would create landslides along the Port Gardner bluff.
The city also is interested in learning about these same impacts if the coal trains go to a terminal in British Columbia if the Cherry Point location falls through.
The city would want to know how impacts would be mitigated if the trains were to pass through to Canada, Giffen said.
The 1.6-mile-long coal trains would roll through Everett along tracks under the bluffs of Grand Avenue. Empty trains would go back by way of an at-grade crossing at the Snohomish-Lowell River Road.
The $500 million terminal, called the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County, would become the proposed export port for 18 coal trains a day.
Seattle-based SSA Marine is proposing to the trains from Wyoming and Montana through Washington. Those trains would be routed through Everett among other cities along the Snohomish County coastline.
Stephanson has said before he’s leery the city can make the railroad change anything, citing Burlington Northern Santa Fe as a powerful force backed by federal law.
He also said previously that the railroads are out of the city’s domain.
The issue now has Stephanson’s further attention. Last week he said he’s concerned about the impacts of at-grade crossings and if the terminal doesn’t get built in Washington.
“If they build a second, third track (for coal trains) and that goes to Canada, we’ll still get the trains” without the revenue, Stephanson said.
Smith canvassed neighborhoods over the summer to petition Stephanson to have the city take a stand against the coal trains.
Elected officials in Edmonds, Marysville, Seattle and Bellingham all signed resolutions opposing the project, although those cities would be more directly impacted by health issues, rail traffic and waterfront impacts.
Mukilteo signed off on a cautious letter in April expressing concern about the project and a desire to be involved in the environmental review process.
In Marysville, the city has 12 at-grade crossings that would back up traffic for several minutes as the slow-rolling trains pass through. Edmonds is concerned about traffic and the impact on its waterfront. Mukilteo also is concerned about the impact on its waterfront.
Have your say
The scoping period for the environmental impact statement of the Cherry Point terminal is underway through Jan. 21.
For more information on the scoping process for the environmental impact statement, the lead agencies have set up a website at www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov.
It could be as late as 2014 before a final environmental impact statement is completed, according to a timeline produced last year by Ecology.
People can submit comments by:
• Postal mail to GPT/Custer Spur EIS c/o CH2M HILL, 1100 112th Avenue NE Suite 400, Bellevue, WA 98004
• E-mail to email@example.com.