Cross-County Coal Train is Coming

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Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 4:00 am  //  John Servais

Lambert's Point, Norfolk Virginia, ships about 50 million tons of coal a year. Cherry Point will start at 24 million and could exceed 50 with the cross county rail line. The rail yards are needed to store a buffer supply of coal so ships can be continuously loaded around the clock.

Lynden, good morning. You may be starting to hear rumors of coal trains coming near you. There is no nice way to tell you - and it is not even possible to be sure. Those who know are not saying, and the rest of us have to find bits and pieces of information here and there. Hopefully, you will not blame the messengers, myself and others. We are letting the cat out of the bag with the thinking that the sooner you know, the sooner you can decide if it is a concern to you.

What we're finding out is that you will probably have double railroad tracks going right past your lovely rural town in the near future. Your days of quiet will be over when a dozen or more coal trains a day rumble past on their way to Cherry Point, and then rumble back on their way to Wyoming for another load of coal. Twenty-four to thirty trains a day. Twenty-four hours a day - for the next 20 to 50 years. At least one every half hour. One guess is the tracks will be just north of town - across that wonderful farm land. But where it goes is not up to you. They might be just south of town.  SSA Marine and Burlington Northern/Santa Fe know. And they are not talking.

Don't blame anyone in Bellingham. The SSA Marine Coal Port folks - with help from local uber-environmentalist hero, Craig Cole - are trying to set this up so Bellingham can be blamed for moving the coal train route to the north county. A normal political method of doing things: get the peasants fighting each other while the nobility escapes blame. With very quiet - almost secret - help from our two U.S. Senators and our governor. And they all probably know about the north county rail line plans.

In the 1990s, a local government did a $130,000 study of an east-west county rail route. I tried to get a look at it. They hid it. But it was the basis for running coal trains across Canada, through Sumas, past Lynden, and on to Custer and Cherry Point. Rumors of them coming up the South Fork Valley are bogus, as you will see below.

SSA Marine has never intended to run coal trains through Bellingham. They can't do it because there will be too many trains each day. When running so many trains - each over a mile long - double tracks are needed the entire way, and they need to be open continuously. These huge coal trains do not like to stop. The route through Bellingham, or up the South Fork Valley, have three choke points that cause problems.

1. It is not feasible to build a second track along Chuckanut. This impacts only the Bellingham route.

2. The Cascade Tunnel is also a one-track choke point. This impacts both the Bellingham and South Fork Valley routes.

3. And finally, the frequent land slides that close the coastal rail line between Seattle and Everett. This impacts both routes.

Canada has an excess of rail capacity, and double tracks in spades. The route from Wyoming or Montana up across Canada is the best route to Cherry Point. Then, dropping down at Sumas for the run across the county is definitely the way to efficiently move coal. Going into Vancouver and then south is way too congested.

But - if the SSA Marine folks and Craig Coal mention this cross-county route, the county folks might oppose the coal port. Really oppose it. So the plan is probably to keep it quiet until it is too late.  I asked Craig directly about this at one of his dog and pony shows - and he did not answer my question. After the meeting, I went to ask him again. At that point he got angry, red in the face, and started poking his finger at me, telling me I was a troublemaker. Sigh. Perhaps I am. Seeking the truth can cause trouble for secret projects.

For a few years, I lived a couple miles from the largest coal loading port in the world, Lambert's Point in Norfolk, Virginia. The trains ran non-stop, day and night. Then there was all the noise and dust from dumping the coal. Now we're looking at a coal facility here that will develop to be as large or larger. Bellingham will be protected, upwind, with no coal trains running through it. Lynden, Sumas and Ferndale will have to deal with the rumble that goes on day and night - without stop. 

Anybody else have any bits of information to help us piece together what is actually going to be built?  The Environmental Impact Statement is useless for what they're planning.  Anyone care to challenge SSA Marine, Craig Cole, BNSF, Pete Kremen, Sen. Cantwell, Sen. Murray, Gov. Gregoire or Mayor Pike to actually tell us the truth of where the coal trains will travel?  Again, they all probably know.

Related Links:

-> NWCitizen in 1999 - scroll down to August 17 - on the planned cross county rail lines
-> Floyd McKay in Crosscut - Jan 7 - how the Governor is involved
-> Floyd McKay in Crosscut - Feb 23 - excellent reporting on the selling of the proposal
-> Daniel Jack Chasan in Crosscut - Feb 17 - Longview coal proposal hid plans

Tip Johnson  //  Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 9:12 am

Ask instead how many boats per day.  Then the trains can be figured.


Rick Anderson  //  Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 9:36 am

“Craig Coal”?  I think you’ve given Craig a new (and appropriate) label.  No wonder he calls you a trouble maker!


David Camp  //  Sat, Mar 26, 2011, 12:18 pm

If you want to see a smaller version of what SSA Marine is proposing for Cherry Point, drive out to the Ferry terminal at Tsawassen (in Surrey, BC south of Vancouver) and look North. The Coal terminal there is about 35% smaller than that proposed for Cherry POint, and it stretches out about 3.5 miles onto Roberts Bank.

Or check it out on Google Earth - the thing is massive.

And for what? SO we can sell our birthright to China so they can power their economy and totally replace our manufacturing with their own.

This proposal is traitorous. A complete sellout to our economic enemies by people whose only allegiance is to their own pocketbooks. Sure there will be local jobs but there were local jobs in the concentration camps also.


Bill Black  //  Sat, Mar 26, 2011, 11:14 pm

How about that Canadian rail capacity? Down the Fraser? “Excess of rail capacity, and double tracks in spades”. Could you expound upon this?


Todd Granger  //  Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 7:54 am

Traitorious David?

+ Link

“who” built a railroad?


John Servais  //  Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 10:27 am

Excess Canadian rail capacity.  We have only bits and pieces, like other information.  The corporations that want to place this huge system and structure do know - but our laws provide them protection from having to tell us much of anything.  One person in a place to know is Dan Pike as he was a bureaucrat for Washington transportation agencies for years before becoming a politician. 

Perhaps some reader can help with this question.  I read this within the past month and cannot put my finger on it just now.  Was it Dan Pike? 

Before someone pounds in a comment that I am posting junk, let me point out that such thinking is exactly what prevents us, as a community, from discussing and learning as a group what is happening in our community.  If we leave it to the Herald, then we read the morning after it has happened - and not before when we can discuss.  If we leave it to the government, then we will never learn.  Our news media no longer have investigative reporters.  They have ones who write up what politicians tell them. 

Can others help on this?  Again, SSA and BNSF know - and so do the transportation bureaucracies of Washington State. But they will not tell us citizens.  We citizens simply are denied the facts and asked to blindly approve huge projects that may rob us of our quality of life.  And the value of our homes, farms and businesses.  I hope others can, like Bob Ferris, gather the personal courage to demand answers from those who know.


Bill Black  //  Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 4:01 pm

John, we’re all in this together and as noted recently by others and myself right now, you’re providing a valuable community forum that is a place where good, positive ideas and recognitions can formulate.  Thank You.
  A simple Google search on “Canadian railroads” and the like is not yielding much info. I know a Canadian whose husband drives coal trains to Roberts Bank down the Fraser Canyon and I’ve marveled at how the Canadians were able to build a railroad down that canyon….it was not easy.
  There is what appeared to be an interesting front page article in this Sunday’s Seattle Times on this same subject, i.e. coal through Washington State.


Todd Granger  //  Mon, Mar 28, 2011, 8:43 am

The cheapest coal in the world, Powder River.
When your dollar’s all wet, and your printing press is running full speed ahead, pretty soon you have a train wreck.

And the cheezehead party, at a 1.03 US?
The buy local Canadian Shopping Mall, or the Yuan and the Chinese Shopping Mall.

+ Link

+ Link

And a buyer, with a very, very large trade surplus, using the old 1945 Great Northern Railway model, shown best in China using Mr. Peabody’s old coal train, “that hauled it away.”
+ Link

“Economy does not consist in saving the coal, but in using the time while it burns.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who will not economize will have to agonize.”
CONFUCIUS


David Camp  //  Mon, Mar 28, 2011, 1:56 pm

Todd,

Thanks for the link to the photo of U.S. Grant and the Chinese Viceroy. I suppose that the legions of Chinese coolies who slaved (and died) building the transcontinental railway, forbidden to send home for wives and subject to a punitive head tax, would be honored by this coal dump dedicated to their home country.

Shouldn’t Americans who serve Chinese interests ahead of their own country’s interests be considered traitors? Perhaps they are humanitarians, serving the poor benighted Chinese with our surplus wealth? Either way, our local interests should be paramount, no?

The Powder River basin has about 200 years worth of extractable coal reserves at current mining rates. If we provide another outlet, the reserves will be used up that much sooner. I would argue that these coal reserves are strategic resources, and should never be sold to rival economies.

What are the motives of those who would sell out our birthright? Mammon! Thet might not sell their own mothers, but they would certainly sell yours and mine. They are sociopaths hewing to a sociopathic ethos of greed unrestrained. And they control the federal government.

It;s all very distressing, but the whole corrupt machine will fall when enough people turn their backs on it.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Thu, Mar 31, 2011, 4:58 pm

Surely every crossing will have to be evaluated for it’s safety and volume of traffic prior to any agreements pertaining to the possibility of a continuous round the clock stream of coal trains careening through Whatcom County and Skagit Counties. At a minimum we are looking at 18 trains, each a mile and a half long involved in the China contract.  It has been suggested to me by BNSF contacts that a 40 year contract with India is currently being negotiated.  My guess is that rail traffic in the lifetime of the proposed terminal, will go where it can, likely in eastern as well as coastal Whatcom County.  When one considers the number of crossings in the inland route, especially as it goes along highway 20 through Burlington and Sedro Woolley and then all of the rural crossings through Skagit County, the South Fork Valley, Hwy 9 from one end of Whatcom County to the other and the Mt. Baker Hwy as well, then we begin to see the need not only for lights and gates but for overpasses.  Who pays for overpasses on state highways, WSDOT, BNSF, SSA?  Legislators have to know the answer to this before the allow SSA to confine the details of an EIS to its dock and terminal rather than the breadth of the project.  Consider the scheduling impacts upon the Nooksack, Lynden and Mt. Baker School districts, not to mention every individual and business that depends upon efficient transportation.
    It does not surprise me that Congressman Larsen has already endorsed this project.  A vision of a century of commerce and trade in the Indian Ocean and South China sea is one which supposedly supports peace, improves our balance of payment position and allows the United States to maintain geopolitical leverage in Asia, but what is the use if it involves selling your environment and your people down the river?  For every shipload of coal the we sell, Walmart is importing a container ship load of widgets from China.  Where is the net gain behind this?  The CEO of Walmart has just proclaimed that Americans must be prepared for inflation, due to the increase in cost of Asian labor and raw materials and transportation.  The 21st century must be an era wherein American labor reclaims its manufacturing and value added base.  It must transform its carbon resources at home.  That is where the jobs are!  And that is how we restore leverage.
    Ultimately this issue is about global climate change.  For each of us however there is some unit of concern local or global that deserves your energy and follow through.  Best you have at it before it devours you.  The Scoping Process for the EIS will begin in mid-May.  Get your information lined up.  Mobilize!
   
Jeff Margolis


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Sat, Apr 16, 2011, 4:59 pm

?SafeGuard The South Fork? an association of Whatcom County residents is sponsoring an Environmental Forum at the Acme Elementary School, on Turkington Road in Acme on April 28 at 7:00 PM.  The Forum will focus on ?Coal Trains? and the possibility of round the clock, mile and a half long, open load coal trains on their way to the proposed Gateway Coal Terminal at Cherry Point. Coal trains have a history of degrading human health, water and ag and forestry land, making communities along the possible route through Burlington, Sedro Woolley, Acme, Van Zandt, Deming, and points north and west out to the coast extremely vulnerable.

    Speakers include Bob Ferris, the Executive Director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities in Bellingham. Ferris, a 20-year veteran in the environmental and sustainability communities has contributed seminal work in areas ranging from agricultural policy to renewable energy and economic revitalization. He is an accomplished writer with a book on natural building, numerous scientific and policy documents as well as dozens of opinion pieces in national and regional publications. Ferris holds degrees in environmental studies and biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and zoology from San Jose State University.
    Jeff Margolis, proprietor of Everybody?s Store in Van Zandt, a long term civic participant and lecturer with multiple degrees in philosophy and political science will present on, ?Safeguarding public rail crossings?.
    Nicole Brown Tate, Associate Professor of Humanities at Western Washington University, specialist in civic discourse and social change, will moderate the forum.
    Additional information may be found at info@SafeGuardTheSouthFork.org.


Background Material:http://www.northernplains.org/montanans-ask-washington-governor-to-scrutinize-coal-export-facility/


Ellen McDermott  //  Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 7:26 pm

I read (or thought I read) this article back in late March.
I just reread it (today, June 2nd, 2011) to clarify something I was reading in another article.

Did the text of the first one or two paragraphs change between its publication and today? The rest of the article seemed to be as I remembered it. But the those first paragraphs have me scratching my head.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Tue, Jun 28, 2011, 9:25 am

Safe Guard the South Fork (SGSF) is a fresh civic organization administered by residents of eastern Whatcom County (WC) who are dedicated to limiting the ability SSA Marine to ship coal from Cherry Point.  SGSF’s interest in the protection of local waterways, farm land, marine life and natural living in the current instance, narrows down to a specific focus on the coal trains traveling thru the South Fork Valley and eastern Whatcom County to the coast.  Did you realize that permitting and then construction of a coal port at the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) might actually affect the way of life of people in Acme, Deming and other towns along the railroad routes to this Cherry Point destination?  Track carrying capacity, balancing freight and passenger traffic on the coast, business growth in Bellingham and of course BNSF profits are amongst the factors that bear upon the whether the ?Farm Land? route through the South Fork Valley and points north and west; Sumas and Lynden, get used.
      Some folks scoff, “What?s to be afraid of it?s just a train, we’ll get used to it?”  If permitting the project is not nipped in the bud, and construction proceeds without debate about the environmental impact on this rural alternative to the coastal route through Bellingham,  then the distinct possibility remains that we and our descendants will see and hear these mile and a half long trains chugging along with coal destined for Asia, hourly, for generations to come.
      You may ask, “what?s the big deal; what?s the damage, doesn?t free enterprise govern?”  Besides the cumulative effects of strewing kernels of coal broadside and into waterways, those who care, worry about the cost and transformative impact of corridor redevelopment.  It is likely that several overpasses will have to be built for the secure flow of trucks and cars.  No one is going to have fire engines, patrol cars and emergency vehicles waiting for a slow moving coal train.  How many overpasses can you picture on this Farm Land Route?  Is there anything left of Acme, Van Zandt or Nooksack?
      You know better than we do how this will affect your life.  Write to SGSF.  Will the round the clock hourly horn blowing, 24/7 in our midst suit your sleep or the attention span of our children in school?  These trains have locomotives front, middle and rear spewing diesel particles on crops.  At build out, we could have 30-40 trains a day times, each with 8 or more locomotives. Now there’s some carcinogens for you!j
Jeff Margolis
Co-chair SGSF
      Believe it or not, there is no guarantee today that the authorities are considering the ramifications of an alternative Farm Land Route coming into play. Make sure!  You can have your say as to what the Environmental Impact Statement must consider by making your demands known during the ?Scoping Process? .Whatcom County and the Army Corps of Engineers intended to start the ?Scoping Process? in July or August.  But given the County’s recent declaration that SSA’s 1997 Permit Application did not mention coal shipments, they were ordered to reapply.  The Scoping Process is set back.  For up to date information about important dates for the GPT permitting process visit: Safeguardthesouthfork.org.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Wed, Jun 29, 2011, 2:16 pm

In a previous post I suggested that our concern was with climate change.  That is the case for the soft hearted but just pith to those who have the power to call the shots.  As usual the economics of the case will govern.
        You all must know that the County is requiring SSA to reapply.  This sets back the Scoping Process for the EIS somewhat.  Below you will find a more detailed discussion of grade crossing and their significance much of which was submitted to the county. 
        One may go on line to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission where you will find a list of Public Rail Crossings.This list identifies 91 Public Rail Crossings in Whatcom County.  You will find the Whatcom crossings by scrolling to the following lines: 647 thru 699, 725 thru 738, 1444 thru 1453 and 2116 thru 2133.  This list indicates whether or not the crossing is in a “Quiet Zone”  where a train horn is not to be blown, or if there is a Wayside Horn, where there is a uni-directional horn at a crossing and most significantly whether there is “Active Protection” at the crossing.  If the crossing lists NO under active protection it means that a “Crossback” stands alone.  If the crossing is listed as YES for “Active Protection” it means that there are either Lights or Gates.  It does not necessarily mean that there are both lights and gates.
        If there is to be a coal train coming through Whatcom County and by coal train I mean a process of a continuous round the clock flow of trains, each a mile and a half long, then it is our duty to ensure that rail crossings meet minimum safety standards for pedestrians, bicyclists and of course motorists. 
        Of the 91 existing crossings nine (9) crossings, ie., those with only a “Crossback” sign, will not satisfy a common sense standard for safety vis a vis a coal train.  Those endangered crossings are: Hoff Road, Hopewell Road, Cole Road, 3 crossings in Sumas, Rothenbuhler Road, Homesteader Road, Strand Road and Nelson Road.
        All other crossings in Whatcom County are listed as having “Active Protection”.  Whatcom County Public Works or the Sheriff’s Office might provide an inventory or account of the scope of protection currently available at all other crossings.
        To wit, it is possible that in some instances it might be necessary to identify those crossings in the county that might not be sufficiently protected by both lights and gates and could require an overpass.  This might be more likely on SR9 and SR542.  I trust that either the County Executive or the Sheriff would share their perspective with WSDOT if in their wisdom they believe that State crossings require additional protection.
        In my recent phone conversation with Mr. David Pratt , Railroad Safety Specialist with the Utilities and Transportation Commission, I have learned that there are no exclusive safety standards for coal trains or one type of train versus another. As such there does not seem to be a Federal standard that would compel the railroad to accept any additional responsibility vis a vis crossings even for a coal train.  According to Pratt, oftentimes the state or county that requests safety up grades at crossings bears the responsibility for the cost of an upgrade because it is governmental entity that is demanding the upgrade.  Were it the railroads volition to upgrade a crossing then it would accept the cost of the improvement.
        In my recent conversation with Ms. Christine Adams, Grade Crossing Manager for the Federal Railroad Administration, she informs that there are no federal regulations pertaining to railroad crossings.  Although the federal government allocates funds to local jurisdictions for crossings she was quite candid in stating that , ? there is never enough money to go around.?
                I am bringing this to your attention as it behooves Whatcom County to ensure prior to agreements for a coal terminal that standards and responsibility for a safe or “sanitary” rail corridor are understood.
        This issue was part of our Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee ( BPAC )agenda on 4/20 5/18/11.
                At our meeting of the 18th our Public Works members Rodney Vandersypen expressed the concern that an hypothetical; once an hour crossings might not be sufficient justification for overpasses.  Whatcom County Sheriff Elfo,  also past Chief of Police in Blaine described his frustration with train backups.  Warner Webb the County Fire Marshall and second in command of PDS stated that there is no book that one takes off the shelf which identifies criteria for overpasses. Officer Mark Dennis of WSP was present at our meeting.  One can hope that he logged this encounter.  Whether he has chosen to move the subject up the WSP chain of command is beyond my ken and my guess is that it is probably something that WSP will keep to itself.
        The consensus of opinion both from our committee and the public that I come in contact with is that a South Fork Valley, Everson, Sumas , Lynden route, what can be identified as the “Farm Land” route is a viable alternative and as such must be included in the EIS.  The statement made by the BNSF spokeswoman that the train would go through Bellingham is not a guarantee that it will be the case in either the short or the long run.  The list of crossings, attached,  in the eastern part of the county is lengthy and deserves your consideration.
  To wit, the permitting and consequent construction of a coal port at the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) could quite possibly affect the way of life of people in Acme and others living along the railroad routes to this Cherry Point destination.  Track carrying capacity, balancing freight and passenger traffic on the coast, business growth in Bellingham and of course BNSF profits are amongst the factors that bear upon the whether our ?Farm Land? route through the South Fork and points northwest will get used.
    If construction proceeds without debate about the environmental impact on the Farm Land route then the distinct possibility remains that Whatcom County will see and hear these mile and a half long trains come through the Valley on an hourly basis for a half century if not more.  Attached you find The Tongue River Railroad White Paper for the Montana Environmental Quality Council which attests to the propensity of railroads to alter routes over time and effectively escaping environmental review.  Inasmuch as the potential for the alternative utilization of the Farm Route prevails, then it must be included in the environmental impact statement (EIS)
        It is likely that several overpasses will have to be built for the secure flow of trucks and cars.  No one is going to have fire engines, patrol cars and emergency vehicles waiting for a slow moving coal train.  How many overpasses can you picture on this Farm Land route?  Is there anything left of Acme, Van Zandt or Nooksack?  Making for a secure rail corridor and the concomitant changes upon towns and highways will transform the region.  Round the clock horn blowing will alter and disturb sleep patterns and attention span of children in school.  It will lend to social dysfunction.  The trains have locomotives front, middle and rear spewing diesel particles on farm crops.  The same is a carcinogenic pollutant.
     
        The coal train strews kernels of coal on to lands adjacent to the track and beneath trestles, thus polluting waterways. Information posted on the internet by the American Association of Railroads suggests that coal cars will be bathed in water to suppress coal dust.  What will be the impact on aquifers in the Cherry Point region?  What of the residue?
  I trust that Whatcom County has an interest in following through on these matters.

Yours very truly,
Jeff Margolis
5465 Potter Road
Van Zandt, Deming WA


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Sat, Aug 13, 2011, 3:14 pm

It?s amusing how two writers can go to the same City Club luncheon lecture and come away with different reports. The headline in the Bellingham Herald,  ?Cherry Point Cargo Terminal Could help Fund Rail Upgrades?, should read,  ?Taxpayers to Pay Through Nose for BNSF/China Coal Train.?  Journalist, John Stark exults that transportation experts: Jim Miller of the Whatcom Council of Governments and Bruce Agnew, Executive Director of the Cascadia Project in Everett, were encouraged by the prospect of a Cargo (sic) Coal Terminal at Cherry Point. It could provide political and financial impetus to help pay for needed rail improvements through Whatcom County and could help focus state and federal attention on transportation needs here. How sweet.
 
  Stark?s article, throughout, deemphasizes the darker aspects of the situation and both men?s comments; that despite the fact that there is a shorter, albeit more costly route through Montana, the coal trains will travel through Bellingham and state and local officials can?t do anything about it.  Agnew stated, ? the coal train need not be disruptive to traffic, passenger rail or other freight shippers if massive investments are made in upgrading the system.?  Boosters at heart, neither Miller, Agnew or Stark chose to fully investigate how disruptive the increase in rail traffic or how massive our investment would need to be.  Agnew, awakening to reality noted that federal, provincial and municipal governments are joining with BNSF and Canadian railroads to pour more than $300 million into the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program to build new overpasses, “You’ve got to deal with that upfront and invest in the infrastructure.”

  Stark paints a problem free picture even though it is like pulling teeth to get the experts to focus on a reality which fades, victim to their allegiance to corporate conformity.  COG & Cascadia Project, publicly funded agencies, have an obligation to honestly identify the true cost to be paid by the public for a new commerce corridor through Whatcom County and the entire coal train route.  Here?s Congress trying to cut trillions from the US budget and what we get are official heads in the sand.

  Continuing in his blind to the world report, Stark focused on a questioner in the audience who challenged the $32 million state subsidy for Amtrak while completely ignoring a pertinent follow up by Mark Nelson, City Club?s preeminent inquisitor, who queried whether a farm land route through the South Fork Valley and eastern Whatcom County would be a viable alternative for BNSF.  To which both experts actually responded in the affirmative.

  This might be amusing repartee for the bleakly realistic who hope the train will bypass Bellingham, but the most ominous and wouldn?t you know, understated message from Agnew was ?that some increase in exports from Canadian terminals is in the works, but those increases won’t add up to even half the nearly 50 million tons per year that could be shipped via Pacific ports. Moreover Canadian coal producers want the added capacity at Canadian ports for themselves.?

  Given Governor Gregoire?s position that coal is going to be shipped to Asia one way or another, it looks like the a Coal Train is coming to a Pacific Northwest port near you.  Concerned?  Your Whatcom County Council will be the judge. The council splits 3 environmentally sensitive versus 4 environmentally insensitive.  The balance might change depending upon who wins the District One seat in November, either incumbent Council person Tony Larson or Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen.  Larson, has sold his South Fork constituents down the river by approving gravel mining in the headwaters of the Samish and Nooksack River watershed, last week.  Kremen, as Executive has the opportunity to show his colors, veto the council vote and demonstrate that he truly cares for nature and a majority of the farmers and constituents over the usual corporate suspects. Let Kremen not come to the rescue and he is sure to find a lot of his past supporters doing unto him as he might do unto them.


Jeffrey Margolis  //  Sun, Aug 14, 2011, 9:26 am

Is there a Ref in the House?  I don’t know where to turn.  The side bar has gone center stage.

To:
Concerned Citizens of the Saxon Pit:

I, like you, was very disappointed in the County Council’s action to approve the Saxon gravel pit proposal.  Sam Crawford’s comments that he didn’t see a connection between stripping a forest adjacent to prime fisheries habitat and the impact to fish shows how out of touch he is with reality.

The County Council’s action last Tuesday is not the final decision, however.  Under the Growth Management Act, you can amend the Comprehensive Plan no more than once per year—with some limited exceptions.  The action on Tuesday will be forwarded to what is called “concurrent review”, which by County Code (WCC 2.160.100.C) should occur on or about February 1, 2012.  (In 2011, the final concurrent review didn’t take place until May.)

Executive Kremen, therefore, will not have any opportunity to veto this ordinance.  As a potential County Council member, however, he may be a deciding vote next year on this application.  This gets me to where your energy might best be spent fighting this project:  elections of County Executive and County Council.

The County Council has three members being considered in the coming year.  I have tracked Sam Crawford’s environmental voting record, and 75% of his votes have been against environmental protection.  From Lake Whatcom to wetlands protection to shorelines, Sam Crawford repeatedly votes against protecting our environment.  Whatcom County has a unique opportunity to unseat Mr. Crawford and his destructive agenda by electing Christina Maginnis, a water quality expert.

You also have the opportunity to unseat Tony Larson by voting for Pete Kremen.  Alan Black from Blaine is an excellent County Council candidate that will also ensure we protect the environment.

Of course, there will be a new County Executive next year that, if presented with an ordinance to approve, would have the ability to veto that ordinance.  This ordinance can, and should have been denied.  There was no consideration to protection of the environment in making this initial decision.  I just won a Growth Management case against Whatcom County because they didn’t consider the environment.  (+ Link) The Saxon proposal clearly did not meet the County’s own criteria for mineral resource lands amendment. Whatcom County has the basis to deny this proposal, and it can withstand any challenge from the gravel interests.

I would encourage that you put your heart and soul into these County elections.  Tell your friends, your neighbors, and your family about what is at stake here.  Write letters to the editor, like your candidates on Facebook, and send whatever financial donation you can to make these campaigns successful.  Your proposal is just one of hundreds of similar actions going on across Whatcom County.  Let’s take back Whatcom County from those wishing to destroy it!


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A Veterans Day Note

Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 1:34 pm  //  John Servais

On this Veterans Day, a note about how vets need our government to step up - as has never been done. And a personal note on the power…

3 comments; last on Nov 13, 2014

Lincoln Street Apartment Development May Be Abandoned

Thu, Nov 06, 2014, 5:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Campus Crest apartment complex may be the "victim" of a corporate restructuring plan.

3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2014

Doug Ericksen’s Tax Lien

Tue, Nov 04, 2014, 11:28 am  //  John Servais

While smearing Seth Fleetwood over a common tax arrangement, we discover Doug Ericksen also has a benign tax lien - one he denied.

6 comments; last on Nov 11, 2014

Fergusonham

Sat, Nov 01, 2014, 11:29 am  //  Tip Johnson

Or why to vote for Nyima, the dog, for County Prosecutor

4 comments; last on Nov 03, 2014

Election Recommendations

Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 1:18 am  //  John Servais

A link to Riley's Political Junkie for excellent recommendations - and a few thoughts of my own.

1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2014

Something Gristly to Chew On: The rest of the story -

Thu, Oct 23, 2014, 10:01 am  //  Tip Johnson

It's just how things roll in Whatcom County

5 comments; last on Oct 26, 2014

Point Roberts vs. the FCC:  Modern David and Goliath

Wed, Oct 22, 2014, 1:44 pm  //  John Lesow

Update Oct 22: John Lesow has posted a comment with considerable more information on this issue.

1 comments; last on Oct 22, 2014

Tune in TONIGHT for Political Comedy

Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 5:36 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley does a local political comedy show

1 comments; last on Oct 15, 2014

Bham Planning Director - Rick Sepler Chosen

Wed, Oct 08, 2014, 5:24 pm  //  John Servais

Three final candidates for Bellingham Planning Director spoke today at a cozy 'meet and greet' of government employees and developers.

6 comments; last on Oct 11, 2014

The Business of Government

Sat, Oct 04, 2014, 11:23 am  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we see that sometimes government can do what business can't.

9 comments; last on Oct 07, 2014

Rental Conditions -  A Real Estate Inspector’s View

Fri, Oct 03, 2014, 9:26 am  //  Dick Conoboy

An experienced real estate inspector provides a window to the dangeroous conditions found in rentals in Bellingham

3 comments; last on Oct 05, 2014

Few Surprises at the Tea Party Debate

Thu, Oct 02, 2014, 1:33 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley files a full report of the Tea Party debate for State Leg candidates

1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2014

Satpal Sidhu, Candidate for State Representative, 42nd District

Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 7:00 am  //  Guest writer

Wherein a Fulbright scholar, professional engineer and successful business owner files for public office

4 comments; last on Oct 02, 2014

Hickory, Dickory, Docketing…Yet Another Spot Rezone

Mon, Sep 22, 2014, 4:07 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Last Thursday, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the docketing of the spot rezone of 801 Samish from Residential Single to Commerical Planned (non-retail)

6 comments; last on Oct 03, 2014

Samish Way Experience - Drug Dealing Dangers?

Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 9:26 am  //  John Servais

We post a disturbing report of a personal encounter along Samish Way, with the permission of John Stark, who experienced it.

2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2014

Who Will Be Appointed to Lehman’s City Council Seat?

Tue, Sep 09, 2014, 7:21 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley and John share the short list of who might replace Cathy Lehman on the Bellingham city council on January 5.

8 comments; last on Sep 10, 2014

An Imminent Threat:  The State Plans for CBR Disaster While Counties Punt

Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 10:48 am  //  Terry Wechsler

While the state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars defining risks of crude by rail, Skagit County finds no significant adverse impacts of a crude-by-rail proposal.

1 comments; last on Aug 28, 2014

You can’t fight city hall: city hall doesn’t fight fair

Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 1:06 pm  //  Guest writer

Patrick McKee of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest-writes about the August 11 City Council slap-dash zoning changes.

2 comments; last on Aug 23, 2014

Good Friends and Neighbors:  What $54 Million Doesn’t Buy, Part 2

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 3:54 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

Not content with causing massive inconvenience, BNSF is now literally dumping on county residents.

10 comments; last on Aug 26, 2014

Devil In the Details

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 2:48 pm  //  Guest writer

Judith Green of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest writes this brief summary of what went wrong with the planning last week.

1 comments; last on Aug 22, 2014

Good Friends and Neighbors:  What $54 Million Doesn’t Buy

Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 6:12 am  //  Terry Wechsler

A massive upgrade of the Cascade [rail] Corridor has left residents stranded and the sheriff asking Washington, DC, to intervene.

7 comments; last on Sep 02, 2014

Reliable Prosperity

Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 2:13 pm  //  Guest writer

Sandy Robson guest writes of the need for real prosperity at Cherry Point, not a destructive short term coal port that destroys the fishing grounds.

5 comments; last on Oct 02, 2014

Fleetwood versus Ericksen: What Happened in Round One?

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 9:52 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Some Context for the Primary Results

0 comments

The Rule of Law - Bellingham Style

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 10:31 pm  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council abruptly changes zoning codes to force Planning Department plan on Sunnyland residents.

7 comments; last on Aug 14, 2014

Final Updated Election Results

Fri, Aug 08, 2014, 9:10 am  //  John Servais

Updated Wed evening. The Tuesday evening 8:20 pm Auditor report on the election is in.

5 comments; last on Aug 08, 2014

Councilmember Murphy’s Proposed Rental Ordinance Is Deeply Flawed

Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 7:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Councilmember Murphy's proposal is based on a complaint-based rental ordinance from Tacoma, demonstrated to do little for the health and safety of tenants.

14 comments; last on Oct 01, 2014

Trial by Fire:  A Rising Tide of Civil Disobedience

Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 3:47 am  //  Terry Wechsler

Carefully planned actions are rolling across the state to make the point that it's not OK to expose us to risks associated with CBR.

7 comments; last on Aug 04, 2014

Northwest Citizen Releases Polling of Whatcom Voters

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 10:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Northwest Citizen has conducted a phone poll of likely voters, with some surprising results!

9 comments; last on Jul 29, 2014

Plan Commission & Samish Neighbors Bypassed on Rezone Docketing

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 6:52 am  //  Dick Conoboy

In contravention of the Bellingham Municipal Code, the City Council will consider on 4 August a last minute docketing request that ignores the Planning Commission and Samish Neighborhood.

1 comments; last on Jul 30, 2014

Sunnyland Planning Process Explained - Partially

Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 9:47 pm  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Mike Rostron explains how Bellingham city planners played loose and illegal with planning processes.

0 comments

City Council Approves Resident’s Sunnyland Plan

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 6:22 pm  //  John Servais

Sunnlyland residents win one - after a seven year effort. Planning Department failed them and all of us.

2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2014

What Landlords Need to Know about Rental Registration

Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 4:30 am  //  Guest writer

Landlords are so caught up opposing a licensing and inspection ordinance, they cannot see the upside for them in ridding the city of bad rentals.

19 comments; last on Aug 01, 2014

Sunnyland Deja Vu

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 12:24 pm  //  Guest writer

Judith Green explains how the Bellingham Planning Department is trying to cram their plan onto a neighborhood.

5 comments; last on Jul 21, 2014

Trial by Fire:  Call to Action to Comment on the BP Pier Expansion

Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 1:26 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

Years after BP completed its north dock, the Army Corps of Engineers released a draft EIS and it's really really stupid.

0 comments

Intrado Not to Intrude in Bellingham

Tue, Jul 08, 2014, 7:20 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The city council "persuades" the city administration to withdraw a request for an intrusive police threat warning system

2 comments; last on Jul 08, 2014

Power to the Permit! (or Closely Hold This!)

Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 5:54 am  //  Terry Wechsler

It is time we stop allowing corporations to externalize the costs associated with their risky business practices, and demand more from our regulators who hold the keys to…

3 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014

Manifest Clandestine-y

Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 4:04 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Sandy Robson breaks the story of officials from Washington treated to a coal-promoting junket to Wyoming.

2 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014

A Question of Freedom

Fri, Jul 04, 2014, 4:00 am  //  Guest writer

Ferndale's most famous landmark is frequently commented on and is often in the news. Here is their side of the story.

4 comments; last on Jul 07, 2014

Trial by Fire: Lessons Not Learned One Year after Lac-Megantic

Wed, Jul 02, 2014, 4:14 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

On the anniversary of the Lac-Megantic disaster, communities throughout North America rally in solidarity to remember and protest wholly inadequate government response to crude-by-rail's risks.

4 comments; last on Jul 12, 2014

Sins of Omission

Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 8:01 pm  //  Guest writer

In the Weekly, Tim Johnson left out three words in quoting Craig Cole - and his story misleads readers. Guest article by Sandy Robson.

11 comments; last on Jul 01, 2014

DOJ Grant Brings Confusion and Anger to City Council Meeting

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 9:24 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Bellingham Police Department wants to purchase "threat assessment" software with federal monies. Citizen comments were vehement and negative. City Council confused.

5 comments; last on Jul 03, 2014

Widespread Slaughter Won’t Work

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 9:18 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the failings of a bad policy framework are revealed

1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014

Fireworks Ban in Bellingham in Effect as of 18 June

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 6:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The possession and use of consumer fireworks are no longer permitted within the city limits.

1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014

Herald and Weekly Withhold the News

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 10:39 am  //  John Servais

Wyoming Senators and coal honchos were in Whatcom County June 10 - to hold a news conference with select reporters.

7 comments; last on Jun 20, 2014

Dawn Sturwold Retiring End of Month

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 10:20 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Hearing Examiner, Dawn Sturwold, retires in three weeks. Successor selection is hidden from all of us.

3 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014

Stay the Frack Out of Our Forearc Redux

Fri, Jun 06, 2014, 1:07 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

Part 2: Following Ken Oplinger to California, and Home Again

4 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014

The Road to Perdition

Sat, May 31, 2014, 11:39 pm  //  Guest writer

A Venn diagram where coal, the Endangered Species Act, Republicans, and Wyoming’s Board of Education collide.

2 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014

Feint, Calumny, Solidarity

Wed, May 28, 2014, 2:15 pm  //  Guest writer

A perspective by guest writer Ellen Murphy reflects on the Whatcom Watch and the threatened law suit by Craig Cole.

22 comments; last on Jun 01, 2014

Extracting Profit and Destroying Experience: The Waterfront Plan

Tue, May 27, 2014, 12:23 am  //  Wendy Harris

Why was so little consideration given to the concept of developing the waterfront for eco-tourism?

5 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014

How Park Improvements Generate Heat

Mon, May 26, 2014, 6:51 pm  //  Wendy Harris

City park improvements have implications on the local and global scale.

2 comments; last on May 29, 2014

Montana & Wyoming to WA: Permit Coal Export Terminals… Or Else

Wed, May 21, 2014, 11:10 pm  //  Guest writer

Wyoming is ready to try and legally force us to limit our environmental scoping for the Cherry Point coal terminal

4 comments; last on Jun 17, 2014

The Trojan Slaughterhouse and the Scrivener’s Errors

Sun, May 18, 2014, 10:57 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Reckless rezones and far-fetched explanations result in more slaughterhouses and meat packing plants

3 comments; last on May 20, 2014

Who Filed for Charter Review Commission?

Sat, May 17, 2014, 1:34 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley takes a closer look at the Charter Review Commission candidates

2 comments; last on May 21, 2014

Bellingham’s 2013 Water Quality Report: The Facts But Not the Truth

Tue, May 13, 2014, 4:04 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Bellingham's annual water quality report indicates that city hall's propoganda machine is going strong

1 comments; last on May 14, 2014

Stay the Frack Out of Our Forearc

Sun, May 11, 2014, 1:20 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

Part 1: Introduction to the Bellingham Basin’s Potential for Fracking, Earthquakes, and Earthquakes Due to Fracking

3 comments; last on May 14, 2014

Riley scoops Herald - again

Fri, May 09, 2014, 9:02 am  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie for Whatcom County - that would be Riley Sweeney - has Overstreet not running for reelection in the 42nd.

1 comments; last on May 13, 2014

 

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