All of us are entitled to our opinions on issues and we have the privilege to submit letters to the editor for our local newspapers.
I understand that people voicing those opinions will sometimes state things that they may not have a clear understanding of, or that even in some cases, are not correct, because it is, after all, their opinion.
However, I do take issue with those who first state their expertise and experience in an arena that relates to an issue before offering their opinion in order to try and give their opinion more weight, when in fact, that person may not have the knowledge about the specific issue they are commenting on.
When I read this letter to the editor in the Herald by Vadim Kasko I saw that he stated he is a civil engineer from Whatcom with over five years in heavy civil engineering and infrastructure construction experience. He went on to say “I fully understand and am supportive of the proposed terminal at Cherry Point.”
I decided I would call Mr. Kasko to ask him about what his full understanding of the GPT project is, and contacted him at his business he owns. I asked him if he was the Vadim Kasko who had written the recent letter in the Herald and he said yes he was. I then asked if he minded talking with me about it as I had a couple questions, but I didn’t want to bother him. He said that would be fine.
I asked Mr. Kasko, since he said he fully understands the project, if he knew how high and how long the GPT uncovered coal stockpiles would be, how much water GPT would possibly use, the number of daily coal trains that would transport the coal, and how many vessels would call on GPT yearly. He said he was familiar with the general operation, but that the site specific had not been engineered yet and they have ideas and stuff how they’re gonna build and what they’re gonna do, but there isn’t anything out for public review with their exact plans, so he was not familiar enough with the information to answer those questions.
I gave him the figures associated with what I listed above according to the project information document posted on the county planning website. He responded that the coal stockpiles would be covered. I explained that according to the project information document they will not be not covered so he may want to check that document. He then told me that the conveyors would be covered so I explained that the conveyors over the water would be covered but, for instance, the conveyors over the land in the coal stockpile area would not be covered.
He asked me what my concern was then about what I had described as the 5 half-mile rows of 60 ft. high uncovered coal piles. I told him that there will be coal dust making its way into the nearby water and also said I was concerned with what the coal piles might do to the ground under and around them.
Mr. Kasko said there would be no coal dust at those stockpiles and then asked if I had ever been to a mining operation. I told him I had never been to a mining operation but that I have read quite a bit about mining and about coal terminals and it is a known fact that coal dust is problematic.
Then I explained that my intention in calling him was not to argue about coal dust or the merits of the proposed GPT, or to challenge him on his opinion which he is rightly entitled to, but that it was to just find out what his full understanding (as he had stated in his lte) of the project really was, and that I now have an idea about that. I thanked him for being willing to speak with me on my questions.
It was my goal to find out if he had some basic knowledge of some of the main elements in the project information document which is available online to the public, and it seems as though he does not. I just think it’s important that readers keep things like this in mind when reading letters to the editor that just because someone says they have a particular expertise or experience, it doesn’t always mean they have specific knowledge about the specific thing they are writing about such as the GPT project they are supporting. That being said, everyone is entitled to their opinion whether they have specific knowledge about what they are speaking about, or not.