Coal Export Developer Challenges Tribal Claims To Fishing Sites On The Columbia

May 2, 2014 — OPB —  An Oregon coal export developer is challenging claims that its proposed dock on the Columbia River would interfere with tribal fishing sites.

The Confederated Tribes of The Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have submitted letters and affidavits to the Oregon Department of State Lands indicating they have tribal fishing sites in the area where Morrow Pacific has proposed to build a dock in Boardman, Oregon for coal barges.

The Morrow Pacific project, backed by Ambre Energy of Australia, would transport around 9 million tons of coal per year from Wyoming and Montana to Asia. The coal would be delivered by train to the dock site in Boardman, where it would be transferred to barges on the Columbia River. The barges would carry the coal to another dock site downstream near Clatskanie, Oregon where the coal would be transferred onto ocean-going ships.

The project needs a permit from the DSL to build a dock at the Port of Morrow in Boardman. DSL rules say the state can issue the permit as long as the action would not “unreasonably interfere” with preservation of water for navigation, fishing and public recreation.

The company submitted a letter to the state Thursday arguing that its dock will not “unreasonably interfere” with fishing. It also argues that considering fishing impacts from the dock is outside the DSL’s authority for this permit.

Brian Gard, a spokesman for Morrow Pacific, says the company disagrees that tribes have proven their members fish at the dock site. He says the affidavits submitted to the state either misidentify the site geographically or they fail to show that tribal fishing has taken place in the dock location.

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