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Native Sun News: Lummi Nation seeks halt to coal export project

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Tim Ballew II. Still image from YouTube

Lummi Nation attempts to stop nation’s largest coal export terminal
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

BELLINGHAM, Wash. –– The Lummi Nation on Jan. 5 asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny a building permit for what otherwise would become North America’s largest coal export terminal, designed to ship abroad the product extracted in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

Arguing that the project slated for Cherry Point (Xwe’chi’eXen) would negatively affect treaty rights, causing irreparable damage to important crab and salmon fisheries, Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew II sent a letter to Col. John Buck of the Seattle District of the Corps.

“The Lummi people have harvested fish at this location for thousands of years,” Ballew said. “We have a sacred obligation to protect this location for its cultural and spiritual significance.”

He said the impact of the proposed bulk coal terminal at this historic location cannot be mitigated.

The proposal to build the Gateway Pacific Terminal Bulk Dry Goods Shipping Facility in Whatcom County on the shores of the Salish Sea has spiked criticism from other tribes in the U. S. Pacific Northwest and Canada, as well. The site is a rich fishing ground that supports hundreds of family fishing businesses. In addition to providing more than a thousand jobs, fishing is also a vital part of the cultural heritage of the area tribes.

Like the Lummi, they are working to preserve their language, resurrect fishing traditions and educate youth about tribal heritage.

“As one of our tribal fishermen said, ‘it’s like putting a freeway inside the reservation,’" Ballew noted in a written statement to the media. “The vessel traffic would contaminate our fish and shellfish and severely limit the ability of our tribal members to exercise their treaty rights.”

He noted, “Our waters are a way of life and survival for our people. The bottom line is, you can’t mitigate or buy your way out of the damage that this proposed shipping facility would cause.”

Accompanying the letter, copied to state government officials, was a Lummi Indian Business Council resolution opposing the project.

The letter claims that “the proposed project location is within an especially rich and fertile marine environment that serves as important habitat for a number of forage fish, finfish, and shellfish (including several threatened and endangered species) … inextricably linked to the Lummi Schelangen, or “way of life.”

Anticipated impacts to this significant aquatic environment include substantially increased ballast water discharges and associated risk of introducing invasive species, toxic spills, noise, and vessel traffic, the letter claims.

“The impacts to these critical marine waters from coal alone may include: smothering, toxicity, substrate change, accumulation, and water quality degradation,” it adds.

The U.S. EPA recommended in January 2013 that the environmental impact statement for the project address not only the effects on Cherry Point but also on the full route of transportation from the coal fields and the “potential for effects in the United States from the combustion of the exported coal.”

Gateway Pacific’s promoter SSA Marine, one of the largest terminal operators in the world, says the lack of a U.S. deep-water dry bulk shipping terminal is forcing Asia-bound goods to be shipped longer distances to ports in Canada and Mexico.

“The Gateway Pacific Terminal will create local jobs, will help strengthen our economy and will use best practices to protect the environment,” says the company literature.

SSA Marine is owned by Carrix Inc., which in turn is owned by FRS Capital Corp.

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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