Longview coal: Ecology to make water decision by September

Marcela Gara News

By Marissa Luck, Reporter at The Daily News.

The state Department of Ecology says it will decide by September whether to issue a water quality certification for the proposed Longview coal dock.

At Ecology’s request, Millennium Bulk Terminals withdrew and resubmitted its application for the certification Monday to reflect changes to its project. Ecology also wanted to review a new wetlands plan for the coal dock and collect additional information from Millennium.

Dave Bennett, Ecology spokesman, said withdrawal and re-submission is not uncommon as the department gathers more information about a project. The new application is similar to the initial application with some changes, he added.

The resubmitted application begins a new 30-day public comment period that ends July 27. The updated 800-page application can be viewed at Ecology’s website at www.ecy.wa.gov. Comments can be submitted online at ws.ecology.commentinput.com/?id=4EcBA.

Millennium has modified its initial proposal to shorten its proposed export dock by 142 feet. That reduces the amount of sand it needs to dredge from the Columbia River to 350,000 yards, down from 500,000 cubic yards. It also reduces the number of pilings needed by 15 percent.

There will be a new yet-to-be-determined site to dispose of dredge materials, and Millennium will have to prepare a plan to monitor water quality from runoff at its site.

“As we move closer to construction, it is normal for engineering details to become more precise. Our goal has always been to minimize our environmental footprint and we are successfully doing that as we get into the design details,” said Bill Chapman, Millennium president and CEO. Chapman called the resubmittal an administrative action that won’t cause significant delays.

This week’s permit update “is another reminder of just how long this process has stretched out,” Mariana Parks, spokeswoman for the pro-Millennium group, Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, said in a press release. “Millennium has worked diligently to ensure this project meets the high standards for environmental protection in Cowlitz County and in Washington.”

Permitting for the Longview coal dock has stretched on for five years. The project would be one of the biggest coal export facilities in North America, boosting U.S. exports of coal by 40 percent. It would create more than 1,000 construction jobs, 130 permanent jobs and $5.4 million in annual state and local taxes.

According to a state environmental impact statement, the project would generate 2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.

Locomotive emissions from trains serving the terminal would increase the cancer risk rate for Longview’s Highlands-area residents by 10 percent over background county levels, state and county officials said. (Millennium and BNSF say those claims are exaggerated.) The project still has several hoops to jump through, including challenging a decision from the Department of Natural Resources to deny an aquatic lands sublease and awaiting a final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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