Fisheries Leaders Call For End to Coal Export Fast-Track in Oregon

Oregon’s commercial and sportfishing industry leaders are increasingly concerned that the plans to traffic over 100 million tons of coal along the Columbia River will mean less fish.

08-15-2013 // Miles Grant
Leading Oregon sport and commercial fishing advocates have sent a petition to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers asking leaders to stop fast-tracking coal exports though Oregon.

Oregon’s commercial and sportfishing industry leaders are increasingly concerned that the plans to traffic over 100 million tons of coal along the Columbia River will mean less fish, and less fish will mean less jobs. Yet the leading coal export project in Oregon at the Port of Morrow is on the fast track.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lead Federal agency reviewing the coal export proposals in the Northwest, while agreeing to perform the more thorough Environmental Impact Statement process for both coal export projects currently proposed on the Washington side of the Columbia River, is refusing to require a complete Environmental Impact Statement for Oregon’s Port of Morrow terminal, and instead is requiring only the shorter and narrower Environmental Assessment study.

In their petition the signatory fisheries leaders call for the following:

  • Update the joint US Coast Guard / EPA/ NOAA / OR DEQ Northwest Area Contingency Plan to reflect best practices adopted by the International Maritime Organization with respect to maritime coal fire prevention and to coordinate maritime coal fire training, supply, and response
  • Commission the National Academy of Sciences to fill in current information gaps with new baseline and dynamic studies on coal-habitat interactions
  • Require complete Environmental Impact Statements for each proposed coal terminal that review cumulative airborne, marine, and ground impacts from the facility sites and the areas that they would impact as a direct result of their use, as well as an area-wide programmatic study of the collective impacts of the multiple projects throughout the region.

Key fisheries leaders have this to say about the proposed coal exports:

Russell Bassett, Association of Northwest Steelheaders

Every year hundreds of thousands of Pacific Northwest residents fish recreationally and bring their catch home for dinner on their family kitchen tables. We are concerned that coal pollution, loaded with mercury and PAHs, will make the fish it contaminates less safe to eat. We are also concerned that a large increase in coal rail and barge traffic could risk our Northwest salmon and steelhead runs, many of which are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act. Increased barge traffic on the Columbia is also a concern for our Columbia River anglers that would be fishing next to the barges. We want to make sure the effects of coal pollution on salmon and steelhead are fully studied through Environmental Impact Statements.

Bob Rees, Northwest Guides and Anglers Association

The science is out: coal is a significant contributor to ocean acidification, which we know to harm the phytoplankton that forms an essential layer of the marine food web that salmon and countless other species depend upon. The fishing industry is in a fight to stay viable. In 2014 we’ll close our valued Columbia River sturgeon fishery, a fishery many of us built our businesses on. The salmon are all we have left before our industry implodes. We can’t allow coal to compromise this keystone species.

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