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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Tue, Apr 01, 2014, 12:27 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Please help us protect county wildlife by ensuring that the scope of the EIS review is adequate. A sample scoping letter is included.

0 comments

Public May Comment On EIS Scoping For County Comp. Plan Until April 7th

Mon, Mar 31, 2014, 1:23 am  //  Wendy Harris

The public has a week to comment on the scope of issues reviewed under the EIS.

0 comments

My State of the Lake Report for 2014

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 12:32 am  //  Wendy Harris

On March 26, 2014 the city and county provided their update and assessment on the status of Lake Whatcom. This is mine.

2 comments; last on Apr 01, 2014

County Considers Purchasing Toxic Property

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 9:32 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into the county's plan to buy the county morgue

3 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Propaganda Replaces Public Information:  An Analysis of the Lake Whatcom TDML Process

Sun, Mar 16, 2014, 11:52 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The public is not provided with a proposed plan or adequate information prior to the annual "state of the lake" meeting

4 comments; last on Mar 18, 2014

Mobile Slaughter

Sat, Mar 15, 2014, 12:11 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein there's a crackdown on growing plants, and plans to let slaughter run free

2 comments; last on Mar 16, 2014

Fukushima Radiation Found In Canada

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 9:47 am  //  John Servais

Fukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014

Is ALEC Jr. Coming to Whatcom County or Bellingham Soon?

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 7:28 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The infamous American Legislative Exchange Council plans to send its spawn to cities and counties throughout the U.S.

1 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Rep. Vincent Buys Appears to Break State Fundraising Laws

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 10:24 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session

0 comments

County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept

1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014

Whatcom Watch Editor Resigns

Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm  //  John Servais

The editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.

8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Action Alert for Tonight: Waterfront Wildlife and Habitat Not Being Protected as Promised

Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 3:33 pm  //  Wendy Harris

We were led to believe the city would review waterfront wildlife and habitat connectivity. It turns out that the city intends to focus only on nearshore fish.

0 comments

Wendy Harris on Citizen Journalism

Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:16 am  //  Wendy Harris

Accepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.

0 comments

Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Do Changing Liquor and Marijuana Laws Affect DUIs

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 7:26 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization

0 comments

Bellingham Seeks “Flexibility” To Sell Wholesale Rural Sewer Services

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:35 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The mayor wants to amend a city law to increase flexibility for a GMA provision that should be used rarely, if ever at all.

3 comments; last on Feb 11, 2014

The Hidden Costs of Costco

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 2:36 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Costco imposes indirect costs on our community that are as real and tangible as road construction expenses.

1 comments; last on Feb 13, 2014

Reid Boiler Works Burns Down

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:13 am  //  John Servais

The old empty Reid Boiler Works industrial building in Fairhaven burned to the ground Saturday night.

0 comments

Panem et Circenses - Why I Did Not Watch “The Super Bowl”

Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 5:30 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Professional and even college sports have morphed into a circus of corporate greed and the fleecing of the public.

3 comments; last on Mar 01, 2014

Have You Exceeded Your Right To Information?

Sat, Feb 01, 2014, 12:35 am  //  Wendy Harris

Filing a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.

2 comments; last on Feb 03, 2014

Wendy Harris Receives deArmond Award for Citizen Journalism

Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:18 am  //  Guest writer

Tim Johnson writes about the first recipient of the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award, Whatcom County writer Wendy Harris.

3 comments; last on Feb 08, 2014

Anatomy of a Development Part XI - The Doldrums at University Ridge

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 5:14 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The developers of University Ridge have been silent since shortly after the hearing examiner's decision on 23 October last year. Will they walk?

0 comments

The Marijuana Bowl

Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 8:39 pm  //  John Servais

Super Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2014

Port’s Alternative Marina Analysis a Scam

Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 2:19 pm  //  Guest writer

Do we actually need to say that we, as citizens, want accurate information from government officials?

1 comments; last on Jan 14, 2014

City too Poor for Power Pennies or Discrimination?

Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 4:00 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Barbara Perry writes about Bellingham Parks refusal to allow motorized wheel chairs to recharge at public electrical outlets.

6 comments; last on Jan 03, 2014

Port Memo Addresses Marina Fraud Allegations

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 3:56 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A Port of Bellingham internal memo tries, but fails, to justify changes in cost estimates for alternative marina sites.

5 comments; last on Dec 22, 2013

Lummi Influence Over the Waterfront Planning Process Continues to Grow

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 12:21 am  //  Wendy Harris

Army Corps advised DOE that it will not issue a waterfront permit without Lummi approval

2 comments; last on Jan 13, 2014

Gary Jensen Not Running for State Senate

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 12:30 pm  //  John Servais

Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen has decided not to file for the 42nd state Senate seat currently held by Doug Ericksen.

5 comments; last on Dec 24, 2013

Larrabee School; Its Future

Mon, Dec 09, 2013, 12:24 pm  //  Guest writer

Barbara Perry writes about the closed nature of the Bellingham School Board on the future of the Larrabee School.

1 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

Steal this Waterfront: Costs without Benefit

Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 8:23 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the direct, indirect, hidden and lost opportunity costs make this a waterfront boondoggle of billions

3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2013

On Monday, City Council Votes “third and final” Approval of Waterfront Plan

Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 12:33 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Local activist calls on Bellingham City Council to table the unpopular waterfront plans and engage in meaningful public process

2 comments; last on Dec 08, 2013

Lecture on County Water Issues Draws Crowd

Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013

Video Exposes City Council Dysfunction on Waterfront Plan

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 11:58 am  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie has posted a 3 minute video showing Bellingham City Council members explaining their idiocy for all of us to watch.

2 comments; last on Dec 06, 2013

The Bellingham “Riot” - Let’s Expand the Conversation

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The post "riot" conversation is terribly lacking in several areas. We must expand the discussion or risk learning little from the experience.

3 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

Cascadia Weekly Blasts Waterfront Plan

Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 10:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham finalize the waterfront plan. In his weekly Gristle, Tim Johnson blasts the corrupt public process.

4 comments; last on Dec 05, 2013

Waterfront Development Bonus Yet Another Bad Idea

Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 8:11 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The waterfront plan allows a development bonus for payments made to the Lake Whatcom land acquisition fund

1 comments; last on Dec 01, 2013

City and Port Ready To Act on Waterfront Plan

Fri, Nov 29, 2013, 9:43 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A number of important issues need to be resolved before waterfront planning is complete, but the city council and port commission are ready to act.

2 comments; last on Nov 30, 2013

Port Unable To Protect Public Safety

Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 9:01 pm  //  Wendy Harris

If the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work?

0 comments

Walmart and McDonald’s - Partners in Institutionalized Cluelessness

Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 5:03 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The advice coming from Walmart and McDonald's to its low paid employees becomes more and more bizarre and inane.

0 comments

Anatomy of a Development - Part X Appeals of the Hearing Examiner’s Decision

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 5:35 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling's motion to the hearing examiner for reconsideration was definitively rejected. The developer has not met the deadline for an appeal to the Superior Court

0 comments

Smoking Gun: Fraud and Deception

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 2:18 pm  //  Guest writer

In which we find the hidden core of the waterfront plan is rotten through and through

7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013

County Releases EIS, Prepares to Purchase Jail Site

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am  //  Riley Sweeney

The county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point

0 comments

Noballmacare and Setting the False Standard

Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 1:39 am  //  Tip Johnson

Dear Mr. President, There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.

7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013

City Council Misled On Waterfront Planning

Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 3:16 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The city adminstration has been providing misleading/ incorrect information to the city council to avoid waterfront plan revisions.

1 comments; last on Nov 18, 2013

Election Analysis: What Happened with the Port Races?

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:21 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley crunches the numbers on Renata and McAuley's races to find answers

2 comments; last on Nov 13, 2013

Puget Neighborhood Likely New Home for 1,300 Students

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 5:16 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Puget Neighborhood will likely have in the immediate future 1,300 new rental units that will be marketed primarily to the student population.

0 comments

Gloomy Fate For Waterfront Wildlife

Sat, Nov 09, 2013, 9:47 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The COB administration continues in its refusal to analyze waterfront wildlife issues, even though this is a prerequisite step in protecting wildlife from the impacts of development

3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2013

Election Results - November 2013

Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm  //  John Servais

With lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.

11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013

Health Insurance Scams - Washington Not Spared

Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 9:55 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The call of the dollar speaks more loudly to health insurance companies than does the voice and well-being of the consumer, even here in Washington.

8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

Anatomy of a Development - Part IX BMC Rule of Three Thwarts Plans

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 10:19 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Four bedroom dorm rooms have been nixed by the hearing examiner. University Ridge may be in trouble as a cash cow for Ambling Development of Georgia

3 comments; last on Nov 04, 2013

The Slaughterhouse Referendum - Citizens Opposing Widespread Slaughter (COWS)

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 10:19 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we discover why we exert our rights - and grab some more petitions before it's too late

3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

Dick’s Picks for City Council - Burr and Petree

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 12:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Independent voters are for independent thinkers on the city council. Vote for Burr and Petree.

0 comments

Boulevard Park Reopens

Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 7:36 pm  //  John Servais

Beach reconstruction is done at Boulevard Park on the Bellingham waterfront. Paths along shore are again open - and it looks good.

6 comments; last on Nov 01, 2013

Ken Bell and Renata for Port

Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:07 pm  //  John Servais

Ken Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.

8 comments; last on Oct 30, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part VIII The 12 October Riot and University Ridge

Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 3:16 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

The development of University Ridge will replicate the student ghetto that fueled the riot on 12 October.

6 comments; last on Oct 25, 2013

 

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