The Army Corps’ decision


It’s hard to fathom how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could issue a document stating that building a 400-foot pier into Puget Sound and operating it 12 hours a day, five days a week will have “no significant impact.”

While only a draft, the 62-page Environmental Assessment clearly reveals the Corps’ thinking — and it’s limited thinking at best. The Corps, for instance, did not take into account the impact the project will have on the forested upland, opting instead to take the narrowest of views. The Corps said that Glacier’s pier-building won’t have an impact on orca whales because it will stop construction when the iconic whales are in the neighborhood. Chances are, though, there won’t be any whales in the neighborhood when gigantic pile-drivers, dozens of construction workers, cranes and bulldozers are at work.

This is the same agency that came to Vashon in May 2005 to find out what Islanders thought of the proposed project and whether it should issue a permit to the corporation to build its pier. Some 400 people turned out, and dozens upon dozens spoke passionately, eloquently and fervantly in opposition to the proposal. What came of those comments? Apparently nothing. Instead, the Corps’ decision refers to the regional need for affordable sand and gravel, materials that will help to build more roads and bridges for sprawling Pugetopolis.

Like a third-world nation, Vashon stands to be the region’s supplier of cheap materials.

The effort, thankfully, is far from over. And yet it’s disheartening, at this time when we know so much more than we ever did about the impacts our decisions have on our fragile environment, to have a federal agency declare this one as “non-significant.”