by Sandy Robson
Craig Cole, the local paid spokesperson for SSA Marine/Pacific International Terminals’ (PIT) Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) wrote an Op-Ed published on August 15, 2014 in the Bellingham Herald entitled “Gateway Pacific Terminal working to safeguard environment, job creation.”
Considering the subject matter and timing of Cole’s opinion piece readers must assume it is in response to the August 11, 2014 Herald Op-Ed, “2014 totem pole journey honors tribes’ stewardship of land, water,” authored by Jewell James, who is a Lummi Nation tribal elder and is with the Lummi Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office. Craig Cole never mentions either the title or the author of the “guest commentary” he refers to in his piece.
Cole started out his Op-Ed claiming, “The Bellingham Herald recently published a guest commentary in which an opponent of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point made a number of statements that are provably untrue.” Cole stated that because the “spread of misinformation about Gateway Pacific Terminal is a constant challenge,“ that “we [PIT and Cole] are again called upon to correct the record.” Cole immediately goes on to purport that “The commentator [Jewell James] claimed that Gateway Pacific Terminal has disturbed sacred Lummi burial sites.”
Jewell James never makes this claim in his commentary. Neither does James suggest “that the Gateway Pacific Terminal project has somehow moved forward with little review or environmental regulation,” as Cole alleges “the commentator mistakenly suggests,” in his next effort to supposedly set the record straight. Twice here, respected Lummi elder James is being accused of having made “statements that were provably untrue,” that he never even made.
In July 2011, without obtaining the necessary permits, SSA Marine/PIT bulldozed/cleared 9 acres, drilled 19 boreholes (from 80 ft. to 130 ft. deep), performed 19 cone penetration tests (100 ft. deep), destroyed close to 3 acres of wetlands, and illegally filled approximately 1.2 acres of wetlands at the Cherry Point proposed GPT site.
The Washington Department of Ecology said in its September 2011 letter to PIT that the work done was in violation of state law.
According to section 5.5 in PIT’s Project Information Document (PID) submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in February 2011, PIT knew the exact location of site 45WH1, the first documented archaeological site in Whatcom County, and said that “no direct impacts to site 45WH1 are anticipated as the project has been designed to avoid impacts within the site boundaries.” The PID also stated that PIT would have an archaeologist on hand for any work done within 200 feet of site 45WH1, acknowledged the need for an “inadvertent discovery plan” in case human remains or other artifacts were uncovered, and would be required to consult with the Lummi Nation under section 106 of the NHPA.
Ignoring a requirement of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), SSA Marine/PIT failed to consult first with Native American tribes (the Lummi and Nooksack), about potential archaeological impacts of that unauthorized land clearing and drilling. Cole describes what was done by SSA Marine/PIT’s engineering contractor AMEC Earth & Environmental, Inc. as a “disturbance,” and says it was caused by “human error.” Whether it was an error or intentional, what is clear, is that the unlawful actions in July 2011 by AMEC on behalf of SSA Marine/PIT, amounted to something far more significant than a “disturbance.”
In his Op-Ed, Cole says, “. . .the Gateway Pacific Terminal team was very forthcoming, promptly self-reported the incident to Lummi Nation and various agencies. . .”
Whatcom County Councilman Carl Weimer was out in the Cherry Point area with his dog the week of July 15, 2011 and discovered the unauthorized clearing by SSA Marine/PIT, which he then reported. According to a settlement communication sent by SSA Marine/PIT’s attorney to RE Sources’ attorney, Randel Perry of the USACE sent a July 18, 2011 email to AMEC saying a complaint about the unauthorized work had been received by his agency. A Whatcom County representative also called AMEC on July 18, 2011, alerting them to the complaint. The boring work was not halted until three days later on July 21, 2011.
After the complaint, twelve days later on July 30, 2011, SSA Marine/PIT released a statement saying they ordered a stop to the unauthorized work. Yes, SSA Marine/PIT ordered its contractor AMEC to stop the work, but only after Whatcom Planning and Development Services (PDS) told them to do so in a July 22, 2011 email that said, “This work has gone well beyond what was previously authorized in 2008 and should be discontinued until future authorizations have been obtained.”
In his opinion piece, Cole depersonalizes Jewell James as merely “a commentator” or an “opponent of the Gateway Pacific Terminal.” In contrast, Cole personifies the GPT project a number of times, remarking at one point, ”Gateway Pacific Terminal is listening to Lummi Nation, Nooksack Indian Tribe and other tribal nations that have expressed concerns about the potential impacts from GPT on their treaty-protected fishing rights, the need to safeguard archaeological resources and a desire to preserve and carry on their traditional way of life.” Cole says this directly following a paragraph in which he minimizes the archaeological and environmental impacts resulting from SSA Marine/PIT’s unauthorized and unlawful actions at Cherry Point.
Are Cole and PIT really listening to the Lummi Nation? The Lummi Nation sent a formal opposition letter to the USACE on August 2, 2013, stating in the opening sentence: “The Lummi Nation has unconditional and unequivocal opposition to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. . .”
In Cole’s bio under his Op-Ed, it states he “is the author of Whatcom County’s Natural Heritage Plan that led to adoption of the Conservation Futures Levy in the 1990s.” A November 2010 NWCitizen article gives a brief history of Cole having been the chair of a task force charged with exploring strategies for the preservation of our natural heritage.
Their recommendations were compiled in a 1991 report called, “’Preserving a Way of Life’: A Natural Heritage Plan for Whatcom County.” In the report’s introduction it states, “Nature is more than something to do or a place to visit. To Whatcom Countians, it is a way of life.”
Twenty-four years ago, Craig Cole worked to preserve natural heritage and a way of life for Whatcom County, yet now he does not stand with the Lummi Nation, as they fight to protect and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point), and their schelangen, or Lummi way of life.
Instead, Cole has chosen to work on behalf of PIT and its GPT project, a 48 million ton coal export facility, which stands to devastate the natural and cultural heritage of the Lummi Nation, and the sacred waters and lands of Xwe’chi’eXen.