COQUILLE -- Developers and oyster lovers will duel on Wednesday in the long-running war over a proposed natural gas plant on the North Spit.
The question at hand: Will native Olympia oysters be harmed by the construction of a 2.4 mile stretch of pipeline through Haynes Inlet?
Pacific Connector, the pipeline builder, will argue that it can move oysters out of harm's way during dredging and construction in the inlet.
Citizens Against LNG, led by Jody McCaffree, will argue that the company will kill an estimated 1.4 million oysters and disturb the shellfish's wider habitat.
Both sides will present their case to Andrew Stamp, a hearings officer appointed by the county, in a public meeting at 4 p.m. in the Owen Building Large Conference Room.
Members of the public are allowed to speak if they register before the beginning of the hearing. Speakers may only talk about the fate of the Olympia oyster.
After the meeting, Stamp will make a recommendation to the Coos County commissioners. The board is then scheduled to decide in November whether the project can go through as planned, Pacific Connector should do more to protect the oysters, or the entire project should be scuttled.
Commissioner Bob Main called Stamp 'one of the top land-use attorneys in the state" and said the commissioners chose him for his track record of conducting hearings that satisfied all parties.
Wednesday's hearing comes a year after the commissioners originally approved a land-use permit for construction of the 50-mile pipeline.
Citizens Against LNG appealed the decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals. That board found two issues the commissioners needed to address: Whether the pipeline would harm Olympia oysters and whether the commissioners had consent from all affected property owners.
Jill Rolfe, administrative planner in the Coos County Planning Department, said the consent issue was about wording and was largely resolved.
Pacific Connector delayed the hearing about the oysters twice to collect more evidence. The company is billed for the cost of the hearing and has been billed about $18,000 to date.
The pipeline is an essential component of plans to build a liquefied natural gas terminal at Jordan Cove on the North Spit. The plant has been mired in controversy since it was first proposed over five years ago.
Olympia oysters, the Pacific Northwest's only native oyster variety, once were abundant but have declined in number. Oregon's commercial oyster producers rely on the larger Pacific oysters.
Reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or at email@example.com.