September 1, 2016 Sandy Robson
Whatcom County Administration continues to breathe life into the Gateway Pacific Terminal project even after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the Section 404/10 permit needed on May 9th, and after the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) denied the lease needed on June 6th.
From what I can ascertain, the mechanism that the County Administration is using to administer life support to the GPT project which was already declared dead by the Corps and DNR is the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the contract for the preparation of the EIS between CH2M Hill and Whatcom County.
I and a few others have been asking Deputy Executive Tyler Schroeder and Executive Jack Louws for the status of the contract between the County and CH2M Hill for the preparation of the EIS and the County, after the previously granted extension of the suspension which had a deadline expiration of August 31st. An answer to that question was finally provided by Mr. Schroeder today to a Whatcom County resident who had sent him an email yesterday asking about the status of the contract for the EIS preparation. I had sent emails on August 27th and August 30th to Mr. Schroeder asking him the same questions, but he has not yet responded to me.
The statement made by Tyler Schroeder quoted below, was in response to that individual’s email who forwarded me their original email to Mr. Schroeder along with his response to that email.
“All parties of the contract, including Whatcom County, have mutually agreed for the contract to be extended by 180 days from date of contract signature, orMarch [sic] 13, 2017, whichever occurs first, to accomplish ramp-down contract activities to ensure that the work and the contract are closed out in an orderly fashion. This contract will be presented to the County Council for approval at their September 13thmeeting [sic]. The website will be updated by the end of this week or the beginning of next week, with the memorandum and contract for services that will be provided in next week’s council packet.”
In the original email the individual sent to Mr. Schroeder they had asked these questions:
“It is my understanding that Whatcom County’s two contracts pertaining to the GPT project proposal were set to expire on August 30th. However I am unable to learn the status of these contracts because Whatcom County’s website does not have updated information on the County’s contract for EIS preparation with CH2M Hill and the website does not have updated information on the County’s contract with PIT and BNSF for reimbursement for fees and costs for the GPT and Custer Spur EIS preparation.
“As a concerned Whatcom County citizen, I would like to know the exact status of these two contracts. To fully and fairly communicate with our elected representatives,citizens such as myself rely upon public employees – such as yourselves – to provide the public with information in a timely manner. You have made a decision on these contracts; when will you inform the public of what you decided? Specifically, I would like to know if Whatcom County has extended the suspension of these two contracts. Also I would like to know when this information will be posted on Whatcom County’s website so that all interested citizens may view it.”
I think many people are unaware of what has been happening with the GPT project locally here in Whatcom, since May of this year, primarily due to two factors:
1) Most people think the GPT project is dead because of the Corps’ denial of the Section 404/10 permit needed, and WA State DNR’s denial of the lease needed in order to build GPT, and;
2) Our County Administration had kept all of the information about the continued multiple extensions of the suspension of the EIS granted by the County from the public until August 5th, which was only after citizens demanded that the County make that information public by posting it on the County’s GPT webpage. So, the public had no idea these multiple extensions of the EIS suspension have been happening.
While some information is now currently posted on the County’s GPT webpage, it is still insufficient.
By keeping the information from the public about these continued suspensions of the EIS, that has helped to hold an uninformed public at bay, thereby allowing the County Administration and GPT applicant PIT/PIH to make these decisions behind closed doors. That has kept pressure from the public off of the County Administration as it continues to work with PIT/PIH to keep the path as wide open as possible, and for as long as possible, for its giant coal terminal project.
Now, because this contract extension would involve additional monies, the County Council (at the Sept. 13th Council meeting) will have a vote on this newest contract extension that is supposedly intended to enable PIT/PIH to “ramp down” and finalize the work on the EIS.
According to my August 18, 2016 phone conversation with Tyler Schroeder, “ramp down” means the consultant CH2M Hill would go into the work they were doing and finalize any work product/information in a format that can be picked up in the future if the company decided to move forward.
Tell the Council to vote “NO” on this and any further extensions of the EIS contract.
“NO” to any “ramp down” of the EIS.
It’s time to terminate the EIS contract.
Since April 1, 2016, when PIT/PIH first invoked its 45-day suspension, going up through September 13th, the new deadline for the most recent additional contract extension, our County Administration will have already granted the GPT applicant another 121 days above and beyond the initial 45 days it was allowed per its contract with the County for reimbursement of fees and costs associated with the EIS.
By September 13, 2016 that will be a total of 166 days that the EIS will have been suspended since April 1, 2016, the day PIT/PIH invoked its 45 day suspension of the EIS.
Also, by September 13, 2016 that will be a total of 127 days that the EIS will have been suspended since the May 9, 2016 Army Corps’ denial of the Section 404/10 permit needed for the GPT project.
If the County Council were to approve the 180-day “ramp-down” contract extension through March 13, 2017 that PIT/PIH and the County Administration are asking for, that would be a total of 347 days since the April 1, 2016 suspension of the EIS.
If the County Council were to approve the 180-day “ramp-down” contract extension through March 13, 2017 that PIT/PIH and the County Administration are asking for, that would be a total of 302 days above and beyond the initial 45 days it was allowed per its contract (contract for reimbursement of fees and costs associated with the EIS) clause.
If the County Council were to approve the 180-day “ramp-down” contract extension through March 13, 2017 that PIT/PIH and the County Administration are asking for, that would be a total of 308 days since the Army Corps’ denial of the federal permit needed for the GPT project.
How many more days will our County refuse to honor and uphold the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation that were upheld by the Army Corps with its May 9, 2016 decision to deny the Section 404/10 permit needed for GPT?