Terminal project needs new permit

SSA Marine must apply for a new shoreline permit for its proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal rather than revise an older permit, according to a recent Whatcom County decision.

The company has an existing permit, issued in 1997, for a terminal that could handle up to 8.2 million tons of cargo a year, but it doesn’t include coal as one of its cargos.

The current proposal, however, is for a facility capable of handling up to 54 million tons of cargo per year, much of which would consist of coal.

Sam Ryan, Whatcom County planning director, said the project would have been subjected to a thorough environmental review process with either permit, and that the terminal’s cargo capacity would not make a permit more difficult to obtain.

Still, the new permit review will be based on current environmental standards rather than those in place in 1997.

Project spokesman Craig Cole said he doesn’t expect the county’s decision to significantly delay the project.

“There isn’t really much of a dispute between the company and the county on this,” Cole said. “This is really more of a legal technicality than a matter of substance.”

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