Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark announced today he will expand Puget Sound’s Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve north of Bellingham, adding 45 acres previously considered for a large coal export terminal. At the same time, he will reject a proposal from Millennium Bulk Terminals to sublease state-owned aquatic lands on the Columbia River west of Longview.
“These decisions are in the best long-term interest of Puget Sound, the Columbia River and the people of Washington,” said Goldmark. “They are informed by years of study and consideration, and represent the best way to protect and conserve our state’s waterways.”
At Cherry Point, the Lummi Indian Business Council cited its treaty rights last fall when they asked to add the area originally proposed for the terminal to the reserve’s boundaries. DNR then convened a committee of scientists and conducted a public State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review to evaluate the boundary change. The technical review committee unanimously recommended incorporating the additional 45 acres, citing important herring and eelgrass habitat vital to local salmon runs.
Any projects proposed in the future for this site would have to be compatible with DNR’s 2010 Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve management plan, which precludes activities likely to have detrimental impacts on the aquatic reserve.
In rejecting the Millennium proposal, Goldmark noted a chronic pattern of failure by the company to provide essential and accurate information. The state had asked for details about the structure of the agreement between Millennium and the primary leaseholder of the state aquatic property, Northwest Alloys. In the wake of last year’s bankruptcy of Millennium’s parent company Arch Coal, the state had also requested information about the viability and financial integrity of Millennium and the international coal export business. To date, none of this information has been provided.
DNR Aquatic Reserves Program
The DNR Aquatic Reserves Program was established to preserve, restore and enhance state-owned aquatic lands. DNR involves the scientific, business and local communities to develop management plans for reserves. The Aquatic Reserve network allows DNR to better research and monitor potential stressors in our aquatic environments, and contribute to the protection and restoration of Puget Sound.
Stewardship of state aquatic lands
As steward of the 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands, DNR manages the bedlands under Puget Sound and the coast, many of Washington’s beaches, and natural lakes and navigable rivers. DNR manages these lands to facilitate navigation, commerce, and public access, and to ensure protection of aquatic habitat.