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Purchase of Glacier's Maury Island mine not a done deal—we're holding our breath | Editorial
Some Islanders believe — understandably — that the threat that Glacier Northwest posed to the health and vibrancy of our Island is behind us.
When news hit earlier this year that the Cascade Land Conservancy was negotiating with Glacier’s parent company, CalPortland, to purchase its 237-acre site on the eastern flank of Maury, a collective sigh of relief seemed to sweep the Island. The news, an amazing development to many of us, was made all the more stunning by another significant development — lawmakers’ approval of a state capital budget that included a $15 million line item to help cover the purchase price.
But here’s the rub: Such negotiations are exceedingly complex. They’re based in large part on the appraisal, conducted by a third-party professional whose assessment — high or low, depending on one’s perspective — can profoundly shape the discussions. Should the appraisal match the corporation’s own belief about the worth of its land, negotiations, presumably, will stay on track. Should it fall far below corporate expectations, negotiations could stall or even unravel.
And when public money is used, it’s no longer a typical real estate transaction — where a so-called motivated buyer could just ignore the appraisal and offer more. Public agencies, for the most part, can only pay fair market value, as determined by an independent appraiser.
So where does that leave us? Those who are paying close attention, such as Gene Duvernoy, head of the Cascade Land Conservancy, remain cautiously optimistic.
“All parties are working quite hard at it,” he said Tuesday morning. “That includes the Cascade Land Conservancy; that includes the landowner; that includes the Vashon Island Land Trust; that includes King County. All parties are working in good faith. A transaction like this is incredibly difficult. You frequently have a thousand deaths before you have a success.”
In other words, the chances are still good that an agreement will be reached. But it’s far from a done deal.
Meanwhile, the process — the 12-year effort on Glacier’s part to build a pier that will enable it to launch an industrial-scale mining operation on Maury — continues. And to that end, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to take the next step: It is figuring out the scope of the environmental impact statement, or EIS, that a federal judge ordered it to undertake as part of its review process.
A meeting where Islanders get to weigh in on the extent of that review is scheduled for next month. Even here, Preserve Our Islands and its allies had to play watchdog. Initially, the Corps scheduled a June meeting, with scant public notice. But in a refreshing twist, when POI cried foul, the Corps responded: It quickly withdrew the meeting date and has now issued a notice that the Vashon gathering will be July 14.
POI, rightly, is still paying close attention. So should we all. It’s a critical time for Maury Island. And while we’re hopeful, the final chapter is yet to be written.