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Coyote Island Terminal permit application review

Ambre Energy subsidiary Coyote Island Terminals, LLC, has applied to Portland District for a Department of the Army permit to build a new shipping terminal at the Port of Morrow on the Columbia River near Boardman, Oregon.  Coal would be brought to the facility via rail, transferred to barges, shipped down the Columbia River to Port Westward near Clatskanie, Oregon, and loaded onto ocean-going vessels for export.

The facility would include nine dolphins, walkways, a fixed dock and a conveyor system for loading coal, along with enclosed warehouses in the uplands for storing coal prior to loading onto the barges. Approximately 140 permanent piles (from 14 to 24 inches in diameter) and 110 temporary (16-inch diameter) piles would be installed; over 15,000 square feet of new overwater structure would be constructed for this project.

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Authority and process

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Our regulatory authority over the proposed Coyote Island Terminal is Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.  Section 10 gives us authority to ensure that there are no obstructions to the navigable waters of the United States. Under this authority, we regulate work and/or structures within navigable waters such as construction of piers, jetties, and weirs; dredging projects; and other such projects.

We also have regulatory authority over some projects under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which requires a permit for the discharge of dredged or fill material into waterways or wetlands.  The Coyote Island Terminal proposal does not involve these activities.

The Corps must of course comply with other applicable laws and regulations when reviewing project proposals, including the National Environmental Policy Act.

 

We issued a 30-day public notice on March 6, 2012, soliciting comments from the public; Federal, state, and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects and other public interest factors.  The comment period was extended an additional 30 days at the request of commenters.  We received over 30,000 comments.

 

We have completed an initial evaluation of the proposed Coyote Island Terminal project and review of laws, regulations and policies governing the Corps’ Regulatory program, and determined that the Corps’ control and responsibility over this project includes construction of the in-water and upland facilities at the Port of Morrow. We also think there is a close causal relationship between permitting the terminal at the Port of Morrow and an increase in vessel traffic within appropriate reaches of the U.S. navigable waters.  The Corps will assess the indirect effects of vessel traffic.  The geographic extent of the consideration of effects has not yet been defined.

Rail traffic, coal mining, shipping coal beyond the territorial seas and/or burning coal overseas are not considered effects of the Corps’ action.  Some of these activities fall under the regulation of other federal agencies.  These activities are beyond the control and responsibility and/or expertise of the Corps and require no involvement from the Corps, and these activities are too attenuated and too far removed from the activities regulated by the Corps to require analysis by the Corps.  However, given the public interest in these issues, we anticipate that the Corps’ NEPA documents will acknowledge these activities to some extent while recognizing that the Corps does not have control or responsibility over them.

 

Based on our scope of analysis, we have determined that we will continue our analysis and documentation of the potential effects of permitting this project with an environmental assessment, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The purpose of an EA is to determine the significance of the proposal’s environmental effects and to evaluate alternatives that could accomplish the proposed action’s purpose and need. Details about the EA process are available in the Council on Environmental Quality’s “A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA” at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf.

As we consider direct, indirect, and cumulative effects, we may determine that some of those effects are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, which would trigger the need to prepare an environmental impact statement.

The applicant has prepared an environmental review document which will be considered as part of our analysis, along with our own environmental studies (including those based on the technical expertise of other agencies), information provided by the public, and relevant law and policy.

Proposed projects in Washington state being reviewed by Seattle District also involve loading facilities that may handle coal.  Each proposal is based on the applicants’ needs in those locations and each is unique.  Portland and Seattle districts are coordinating their reviews but are evaluating each project individually.

 

We have a trust responsibility to protect certain rights/assets of federally recognized Indian tribes, and we are coordinating with the tribes to obtain information concerning the nature of impacts of concern to the tribes.

We initiated consultation in November 2012 with the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine the project’s potential impacts to species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Consistent with the National Historic Preservation Act, we initiated consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and other interested parties regarding potential impacts to historic properties.

These consultations tend to be the lengthiest part of our permit application review process.  At this time we don’t have a sense as to their duration, and so can't speculate on a timeline for completion.

While those consultations are ongoing, we're also continuing to evaluate those parts of the proposed project within our control and responsibility, to determine impacts to recreation, navigation, economic interests and other public interest factors.

 

After all of these steps, we will make a decision whether or not to issue a permit for the construction of the dock facility, and what conditions and mitigating actions to impose with the permit if issued.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is fully committed to protecting and maintaining the navigable capacity of our Nation's waters and to protecting our aquatic resources through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.

It is important to note that this project may require additional permits from other agencies, like the Oregon Department of State Lands.