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Fishermen Cast Their Doubts on NW Coal Terminal Plans

PHOTO: Some Northwest fishermen say the 'thrill of the catch' would be a lot less thrilling if coal shipments compromise air and water quality on the Columbia River. Photo credit: Nic Callero.
PHOTO: Some Northwest fishermen say the 'thrill of the catch' would be a lot less thrilling if coal shipments compromise air and water quality on the Columbia River. Photo credit: Nic Callero.
August 23, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Northwest fishing community says state and federal agencies ought to be trolling for a lot more information before allowing coal export terminals to be built along the coast.

Fishermen are signing a petition that warns more coal could mean fewer fish and jobs in Oregon's $3 billion a year fishing industry.

Bill Kremers, a fishing guide and president of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, says fishermen are concerned about the possible water and air pollution effects if barge traffic doubles on the Columbia River and rail traffic increases on land.

"Anybody that's been out on the river, on the Columbia, you know it gets windy, and that coal dust is going to blow around,” Kremers says. “And you go across rivers like the Deschutes, that are pretty fragile as they are, and adding coal dust with the mercury, and it can have a major, major impact. And it could be a long-term issue, too."

The letter asks for Environmental Impact Statements for each proposed coal terminal that include effects on water, soil and air quality – and a larger study of what multiple terminals would mean for the region.

It was sent to the White House, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state agencies and members of Congress.

Lyf Gildersleeve, who owns a sustainable seafood store in Portland, says from mining it to transporting it, to the chemicals created by burning it, coal could harm his business as well as the environment. He signed the letter, and hopes those who receive it will take it seriously.

"All you can do is, as a single person on this planet, is try to, you know, just move inch by inch,” he says. “Every one of these letters and every person that signed the letter, it really does make a difference, because there's a lot of people that are like-minded. So yes, I do feel like it's valuable and pertinent."

The Corps of Engineers has agreed to do a larger environmental impact study for the two coal terminals proposed in Washington, but not for the Port of Morrow terminal planned for Oregon.

The public comment period closed last week for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s draft permits for that terminal.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR