Opinion

Islanders must pipe up at July 14 meeting on Glacier’s proposal

Several weeks ago, The Beachcomber reported that the Army Corps of Engineers has announced they have initiated the development of a court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will investigate the environmental, social and public health impacts of the Glacier Northwest Maury Island proposal.

Federal law requires the Corps to invite the public to help scope the range of issues and concerns that will be evaluated in the EIS document.

The first step of this scoping process is a public meeting, which will be held next week on the Island. Oral comments will be taken at this meeting and written public comments will be accepted until Aug. 13, 2010.

It’s really not possible to convey strongly enough just how important it is that we all attend the upcoming public scoping meeting.

In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that the protection and preservation of Maury Island, and in turn Puget Sound, depends on it.

A decade ago, mining company Glacier North-west opened a permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, requesting permission to construct an industrial barging facility in the nearshore area of Maury Island. This barging facility would support a massive gravel mining operation proposed to be developed in an adjacent upland area heavily contaminated with carcinogenic arsenic.

The area of the proposed barging facility is widely recognized as one of Puget Sound’s “last best places,” and is regularly utilized by endangered orca and Chinook salmon.

Due to extremely high ecological values, the site has been designated as an Aquatic Reserve by the state of Washington and as a Marine Protected Area under the National System of Marine Protected Areas.

Not surprisingly, the preservation of this area is called for by the Endangered Species Act and Puget Sound recovery planning at the local, state and federal levels.

Independent scientists, from orca and salmon experts to arsenic transport specialists, have reviewed the project and found clear indication of significant environmental impact and public health risk.

Yet in disregard of the science before them, the Corps initially approved the Glacier Northwest permit.

Preserve Our Islands successfully appealed that decision in federal court, and in August 2009, all approvals were suspended. In their ruling, the U.S. District court found that in issuing the permits, the Corps had violated both the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act and directed the development of an EIS.

Now, as the court-ordered EIS and the Glacier Northwest permit process is reinitiated, everything we have fought for — every success we have won in working to protect Maury Island — could quickly disappear without the community’s active and informed participation in the upcoming public scoping meeting.

Yes, there is serious work being done on the potential acquisition of the site, but even with those negotiations in progress, Glacier is moving full steam ahead, trying desperately to regain approval on the suspended Army Corps permit.

And so, steadfast and tenacious as ever, this community needs to be there to make sure the science is followed and Glacier’s nonsensical proposal is stopped once again. Because as big as the federal court victory was, as exciting as the prospect of a full acquisition is ... while we may be close, we are not done yet, and there is no room for even one moment of complacency.

We need you to keep fighting with us for just a little while longer.

We need you to take some time to visit the POI website online at www.

preserveourislands.org to read the general EIS and scoping information documents we have posted.

We need you to start thinking about the information you already know about Maury and can share with the Corps.

And we need you to start pulling together the information that you don’t know, the concerns you have about the impacts from the Glacier proposal and the issues that you would like to see evaluated fully in the EIS.

Most importantly, we need you to make sure to move in off the sidelines, and to step up to ensure the protection of Maury Island and Puget Sound.

As we have sadly learned with the recent oil spill tragedy, a lack of public oversight and participation in the federal regulatory permitting process can have devastating social, environmental and economic effects — as industry is far too often given approvals for projects that should have been stopped before they ever reached the starting gate. Projects like the Glacier Northwest proposal.

Please make sure to mark your calendars and join us at the public scoping meeting on July 14, as we once again step forward, using the power of community to protect Maury Island and Puget Sound.

— Amy Carey is the president of Preserve Our Islands.

Meeting

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public scoping meeting for its preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for Glacier Northwest’s dock expansion project on Maury Island will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 14, at the Vashon High School commons.

The scoping period will continue to Aug. 13, 2010. Written comments on the scope of the EIS or requests for information should be addressed to:

Mrs. Olivia Romano, Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District Regulatory Branch, 4735 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle, WA, 98134. Or call 764-6960 or e-mail nwaeis@usace.army.mil.

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