Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark announced Jan. 3 that he will expand Puget Sound’s Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve north of Bellingham, adding 45 acres previously considered for a large coal export terminal.
At the same time, he will reject a proposal from Millennium Bulk Terminals to sublease state-owned aquatic lands on the Columbia River west of Longview.
“These decisions are in the best long-term interest of Puget Sound, the Columbia River and the people of Washington,” said Goldmark. “They are informed by years of study and consideration, and represent the best way to protect and conserve our state’s waterways.”
At Cherry Point, the Lummi Indian Business Council cited its treaty rights last fall when it asked to add the area originally proposed for the terminal to the reserve’s boundaries. DNR then convened a committee of scientists and conducted a public State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review to evaluate the boundary change. The technical review committee unanimously recommended incorporating the additional 45 acres, citing important herring and eelgrass habitat vital to local salmon runs.
Any projects proposed in the future for this site would have to be compatible with DNR’s 2010 Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve management plan, which precludes activities likely to have detrimental impacts on the aquatic reserve.
In rejecting the Millennium proposal, Goldmark claimed that there has been a chronic pattern of failure by the company to provide essential and accurate information. The state had asked for details about the structure of the agreement between Millennium and the primary leaseholder of the state aquatic property, Northwest Alloys. In the wake of last year’s bankruptcy of Millennium affiliate Arch Coal, the state had also requested information about the viability and financial integrity of Millennium and the international coal export business. To date, none of this information has been provided, the state said.
Arch Coal last year emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a largely intact company with a reduced debt load.