The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has halted the development of what would be the largest coal shipment port in the world near Bellingham, Washington, upholding an appeal by the Lummi Tribe that the $700 million project would hurt treaty fishing rights.
The Gateway Pacific project, a joint venture of SSA Marine and Cloud Peak Energy, was designed to handle as many as 50 million metric tons of coal for export, mostly bound for China.
The proposal would have brought up to 487 vessels each year to the deep-water port north of Bellingham. It would receive coal brought by rail -- through Spokane, Pasco, Tacoma, Seattle and other Washington cities -- from mines in Montana and Wyoming.
In 2015, the Lummi Nation asked the Corps of Engineers to deny permits to the project, arguing that it would interfere with fishing rights to "usual and accustomed areas" guaranteed by an 1855 treaty. "I have thoroughly reviewed thousands of pages of submittals from the Lummi Nation and Pacific International Holding. I have also reviewed my staff's determination that the Gateway Pacific Terminal would have a greater than de minimus impact on the Lummi Nation's (treaty) rights, and I have determined the project is not permittable as currently proposed," said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District Commander Col. John Buck.
"Today's victory is monumental," said Tim Ballew, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council. "Because of this decision, the water we rely on to feed our families, for our ceremonies and for commercial purposes remains protected. But this is more than a victory for our people. It's a victory for treaty rights."