Documents Reveal Pacific International Terminal’s Disturbance of Native Archaeological Site in Washington

Excerpts from the article:

Three summers ago the company that wants to build the largest coal export terminal in North America failed to obtain the environmental permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres of land, including some wetlands.

Pacific International Terminals also failed to meet a requirement to consult first with local Native American tribes, the Lummi and Nooksack tribes, about the potential archaeological impacts of the work. Sidestepping tribal consultation meant avoiding potential delays and roadblocks for the project’s development.

Despite the ongoing review of the non-permitted disturbance at the site, the larger review of potential archaeological impacts of the Gateway Pacific Terminal under the National Historic Preservation Act got underway in late July.

It also led to the disturbance of a site from which 3,000-year-old human remains had previously been removed — and where archeologists suspect more are buried.

Pacific International Terminals and its parent corporation, SSA Marine, subsequently settled for $1.6 million for violations under the Clean Water Act.

According to company documents that were released during the lawsuit and subsequently shared with EarthFix, Pacific International Terminals drilled 37 boreholes throughout the site, ranging from 15 feet to 130 feet in depth, without following procedures required by the Army Corps of Engineers under the National Historic Preservation Act. . . .

King said Pacific International Terminals’ unpermitted drilling and disturbance at Cherry Point could put approval of the Gateway Pacific Terminal at risk because the company skirted the requirements of the so-called “106 process” under the National Historic Preservation Act.

“I think the Lummi have a very strong case,” he said. “The site, the area, the landscape – they can show that it’s a very important cultural area and permitting the terminal to go in will have a devastating effect on the cultural value of that landscape.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is now working on finalizing what’s called a “memorandum of agreement” between Pacific International Terminals and the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. The Army Corps says the document, which was obtained by EarthFix under the Freedom of Information Act, will serve as a retroactive permit “resolving adverse effects associated with the damage caused to 45WH1 associated with non-permitted geotechnical work at Cherry Point.”

The Lummi Nation refused to sign the memorandum or accept the $94,500 that was offered to the tribe as mitigation for the damage through the memorandum.

The archaeological review will follow a separate but parallel track to the environmental review of the project. The first step in the process is to determine the Area of Potential Effect (APE), and that’s already causing a dispute among state and federal agencies.

The State Historical Preservation Office, along with the Lummi and the Federal Advisory Council For Historic Preservation, have written formal letters disagreeing with the Army Corps’ plans to limit the APE to the area immediately surrounding the terminal itself.