Environmental report on Cherry Point Refinery dock begun in 2006 released Friday

The two wings of the BP Cherry Point dock are shown in this undated aerial photo by NOAA, which was included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ draft environmental study. (NOAA/Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald)
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An environmental impact statement examining the incremental environmental impacts of the BP Cherry Point Marine Terminal was released Friday, Aug. 12, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The report looks at several alternatives to traffic at the refinery docks and evaluates their environmental impact risks. Risks include the possibility of oil spills and accidents in Puget Sound. Additional considerations of the report included assessing vessel traffic, including the use of extended escorts and the effect of eliminating a path between Cherry Point and Padilla Bay.

The report is part of a permit evaluation process after adding the north wing dock at the refinery. The review began in 2006 after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete the report. The order was put in place after it was assumed there would be an increase in vessel traffic with the addition of the dock.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act, an environmental impact statement must be prepared for any action that could “significantly affect the quality of the human environment,” according to the report.

In the report, three alternative actions were analyzed regarding the dock permit. One option would be to leave the permit and structure in place. Another option would allow for the dock’s use but authorize construction to comply with public interests. The final option would be the discontinued use or destruction of the dock.

A Record of Decision will be announced sometime after 30 days from the report release date. The Record of the Decision will discuss tribal treaty rights, the final permit decision, and a ruling on the Magnuson Amendment in this situation. The Magnuson Amendment was a federal ruling that limited tanker traffic on the Puget Sound area waters.