September Conservation Report
- Last Updated: August 27, 2014
By Tim Manns
A few days before this newsletter’s deadline, Skagit County Planning reconfirmed its decision not to require a full environmental impact statement (EIS) but only impose additional requirements on Shell’s crude-by-rail project at its Anacortes refinery. What Skagit Audubon and others have been requesting of our public agency is a detailed analysis of potential effects on people and the environment from the rail transport of Bakken crude to our shores. A thorough, scientifically based study minimizing assumptions and wishful thinking is not too much to ask given the potential adverse consequences of this project and related activities. The Skagit Audubon board will look carefully into what Skagit Planning is requiring of Shell and then decide whether to comment on and appeal the agency’s decision.
Earlier this summer, Skagit Audubon submitted comments to the Army Corps of Engineers and Washington Department of Ecology on Shell’s requests for permits required under the Clean Water Act. These are two of the 13 permits Shell needs for its rail project. Comments also went to the Army Corps on its plan to kill 16,000 cormorants near the mouth of the Columbia to reduce predation on out-migrating salmon. This would reduce the western population of Double-crested Cormorants by 25% and act out the age-old prejudice against this species. We believe habitat loss, hydropower, over-harvest, and hatcheries have very much more to do with salmon decline. Skagit Audubon also joined other organizations in asking the Army Corps to beef up the quality of its court-mandated EIS on the effects of the North Dock at the BP Cherry Point Refinery. The dock sits amidst Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, a major spawning site for Pacific Herring and, thus, a significant feeding area for declining sea birds. There are also important implications for increased shipping traffic in the Salish Sea with associated risks of collisions and spills.
In late spring, Skagit Audubon joined other organizations and Audubon chapters in commenting on what should be addressed in Environmental Impact Statements for two projects at the Port of Grays Harbor in Hoquiam. These would provide for receiving Bakken oil and other crudes by rail for transfer to large tankers bound for west coast refineries, such as those at Anacortes. The Grays Harbor area has huge importance for many bird species, particularly shorebirds and the federally listed western snowy plover and streaked horned lark. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has also strongly expressed its concerns.
In summary, since the last Skagit Flyer none of the big issues have gone away. Rather, things continue to grind onward with these projects which offer a host of potential impacts to people and the environment. Many also foster our fossil-fuel-based way of life without regard to climate change.