Kinder Morgan estimates that the terminal will require between $150 million and $200 million in capital investment for construction and development. According to Keyser, the port would add 50 well-paid jobs to the local economy.
Taken together, the five terminal projects would require more than $1.5 billion in investments and provide more than $20 million a year in taxes to Oregon and Washington. Even after construction ended, they would employ several hundred people for daily operations.
But Rainier's Nelson cautioned that those benefits would have their own costs. "The terminal at Port Westward is supposed to create 50 jobs," he said. "Between our businesses here in Rainier, my wife and I employ 15 people. I can't tell you exactly what's going to happen, but I can tell you we won't be employing 15 people if the train goes through."
Not on our river
Coal producer Ambre Energy Ltd. has proposed an alternative route to Port Westward, one that would spare Rainier and many other towns along the way. Ambre's proposal would carry coal by rail to the Port of Morrow, near Boardman, Ore., where it would be loaded onto barges and floated down the Columbia River. At Port Westward, the coal would be transloaded directly from the barges onto oceangoing freight vessels.
But even Ambre's more modest proposal of 8 million tons per year has hit a strong current of opposition, this time from Northwest tribes concerned with the impact of increased traffic on their ancestral fishing rights over the Columbia River. Most vocal in opposition has been the Yakama Nation, whose members have subsisted for generations off salmon, steelhead and sturgeon from the Columbia and its tributaries.
"We see it as incompatible use," said Emily Washines, spokeswoman for Yakama Tribal Fisheries. "Our leadership and legal counsel have an ongoing review of activities and options. Right now we're primarily monitoring the Army Corps of Engineers [environmental assessment of the Port of Morrow], but once we've reviewed their response to our concerns, we'll decide where to go from there."
The tribes may, in fact, have more power to oppose the terminals than towns like Rainier or even cities like Missoula. While towns along the tracks have little influence over the cargo sent through their communities, the tribes of the Northwest have legally binding treaty rights that guarantee them the right to fish, unimpeded, in their ancestral waters.
"There's been many fishing rights cases that have reaffirmed the tribes' treaty rights to access fish along historical tributaries," said Washines. "These are high-profile cases, and by now the precedent is pretty solid."
"What makes it difficult for us is the amount of different proposals, all of which would send coal along the Columbia at some stage or other," she added.
The Yakama Nation is one of a number of entities -- including U.S. EPA, the governors of Oregon and Washington, and several city councils -- that have called on the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a comprehensive environmental impact statement. Rather than site-specific evaluations of the various terminals themselves, a comprehensive EIS would look at the combined effects of all five terminals on the Northwest.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500