Company develops new port for Pacific Northwest shippingWritten by Rebecca Colnar
Wyoming’s coal companies and grain farmers may soon have a new option for shipping their products to the Pacific Rim. SSA Marine’s proposed dry bulk export facility, the Gateway Pacific Terminal, will be located at Cherry Point in northwest Washington.
The Gateway Pacific Terminal will serve as a multi-commodity transload station from trains to vessels heading to Asia.
Although grain and coal can be shipped into Washington state from anywhere, it’s estimated that a large portion of the products will come from Montana and Wyoming.
SSA has filed for a permit that will allow it to handle 54 million tons of products – 48 million tons of coal and 6 million for agricultural products, including wheat, grain and forestry items. The grain will then be shipped to Asian markets.
The economic boon of the proposed terminal is great, according to studies. A Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA)-commissioned, University of Wyoming-executed “Coal Economic Impact” study shows that coal in Wyoming accounts for 14 percent of gross state product, 9.3 percent of total labor income and 5.9 percent of total employment in the state.
The study also projects that the new port will produce 4,000 new jobs with $345 million in new labor income annually for the state of Wyoming.
In Washington, where one in four jobs are directly tied to imports and exports, the state will also see a boost with 1,250 permanent jobs created in northwest Washington.
Benefits of the project
A real positive is that the majority of the supporting infrastructure is already in place.
BNSF already has a well-connected northern tier with existing rail lines.
Cherry Point, the proposed location for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, already has an industrial zone with an aluminum smelter, industrial piers, good rail connections and utilities, and it’s already zoned for heavy industry.
Another plus is that Cherry Point is already a deep port so it would not need any dredging.
Work in progress
Joe Ritzman, vice president of SSA Marine, notes that there is work necessary to complete the project.
“We would still need to construct the pier, grade the stockyard area and construct rail loops. We’ll also need to construct sheds to store the agricultural export products,” notes Ritzman. “And naturally, our engineering team has carefully planned the facility to meet the state’s stringent water quality and air quality regulations.”
Certainly environmental issues are paramount, Ritzman comments, and there are other concerns being voiced.
One concern has been voiced by an Indian tribe in the area that has “treaty protected fishing rights” granted by the federal government long ago. That tribe has said Cherry Point’s fourth industrial pier will impact their fishing rights.
“This tribe’s concern is under review through the permitting process,” says Ritzman. “However, we believe the tribal treaty rights of non-fishing tribes should also be considered by the permitting agencies,” pointing out that Montana’s Crow Tribe has federally-protected treaty rights, as well.
“The Crow Tribe are part owners in the terminal with a five-percent stake in Gateway,” he says.
He continues, “Our view is that the permitting process needs to examine treaty rights across the board, including the treaty rights of the Crow Tribe and their right to control their economic destiny by shipping to where their resource is in demand.”
Washington and Montana Farm Bureaus support the project.
“This provides farmers from those states a good option as to where to ship their grain to the Pacific Rim. It provides another outlet to choose in the Pacific Northwest,” Ritzman concludes.