Oregon Delays Decision On Morrow Pacific Coal Export Dock

May 30, 2014 — Earthfix.opb.org Cassandra Profita

There’s yet another delay in the permitting process for the Morrow Pacific coal export project. But this time it’s not at the request of project developer Ambre Energy of Australia.

In an e-mail Friday morning, Oregon Department of State Lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis reported that this time her agency asked the company for a deadline extension on its permitting decision to Aug. 18. The state and company agreed to the delay yesterday –- just two days before a May 31 deadline issued by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“The main reason for this is because the Department needs further information regarding fisheries affected by the proposed terminal, as well as other information to complete our analysis of the project,” the e-mail says.

The Morrow Pacific project would transport coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia via the Columbia River. The coal would be delivered by train to the dock site in Boardman, Oregon, where it would be transferred to barges on the Columbia River. The project needs a permit from the DSL to build that dock, but that permitting decision has been delayed numerous times.

The latest delay follows a protest last week where members of the Yakama Nation went fishing at the proposed dock site. The protest struck at the heart of Ambre Energy’s argument that its dock wouldn’t interfere with fishing on the Columbia River.

DSL rules say the state can issue a permit for the dock as long as the action would not “unreasonably interfere” with preservation of water for navigation, fishing and public recreation.

Members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have submitted affidavits to the state indicating they have tribal fishing sites in the proposed dock area.

Curtis says her agency will be gathering more information until June 30 and the company will have until Aug. 1 to respond to any questions from the state. After that, the agency will analyze the information and make a permitting decision.

The agency will not be collecting any more public comments on the permit, Curtis noted in her e-mail:

“The Department believes that the more than 25,000 comments already received are adequate to understand the public’s general concerns about the project.”

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