COOS BAY — Hundreds of people poured into the Salmon Room at The Mill Hotel-Casino on Thursday night for a public hearing hosted by the Oregon Department of State Lands regarding Jordan Cove LNG’s application for a removal-fill permit for Coos Bay.
As many as 400 people attended the hearing. Many more folks showed up, but were unable to get into the meeting room because it had reached capacity.
Hundreds of folks stood in line Thursday night to sign up to make a public comment regarding the removal-fill permit that Jordan Cove LNG has …
“People in these communities have important information that the department needs and they are voicing that information to us by coming to these hearings,” Ali Ryan Hansen spokesperson for the Oregon Department of State Land said. “So far across the state we’ve been able to hear from hundreds of folks, and we’ve gotten thousands for written comments. Those comments are critical to the removal-fill permit process, and we really urge folks to keep them coming.”
This specific permit is for dredging out four points of Coos Bay’s navigation channel to allow for the safer passage of large tanker ships that would be moving in and out of the bay should the LNG export terminal be approved. Along with the dredging, the applicant for the permit, Jordan Cove, was required to provide DSL with a mitigation plan for the habitats that dredging would disturb.
Any project in Oregon that proposes putting material into or taking material out of waters and wetlands is required to receive a removal-fill permit from DSL in order to mitigate any impacts to waters and wetlands associated with that project.
Those opposing the project mostly showed up in red, as a symbol that they would like to stop the project. Those supporting dawned green hats as a symbol that they would like to see the project move forward.
Though the contrasting sides colored themselves a like sporting event, the fact that many of these people are members of the same community, who just happen to have different opinions, shined through. All were respectful during the hearing, and before it started green hats and red shirts could be seen talking civilly like the neighbors they are.
There was a large turnout for both the supporting and opposing groups. There were clearly more folks in opposition of the project, but not overwhelmingly so.
A brief rally against the Jordan Cove LNG project was held across the street from The Mill Hotel Casino before the hearing.
Of the 59 folks who were able to make comments during the allotted time for the public hearing, the majority of them were against the removal-fill permit being granted. However, there were many people who signed up to speak that were not able to due to time restraints.
It is important to note that those who were unable to make their public comment can still make themselves heard by mailing, or emailing their comment to DSL before the comment period deadline on Feb. 3, at 5 p.m.
“If you did not get a chance to testify you can still submit your testimony, please, we do read it,” Oregon Department of State Land director Vicki Walker said.
According to a count done by Ali Rosenbluth of Rouge Climate there were 41 commenters against the granting of the permit and 18 who agreed with the permit application.
Folks who were prioritized during the comment period were folks of the age of 65 or above, elected officials and impacted land owners.
Former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury lead off the comment period by sharing his issues with the removal-fill permit application. Bradbury commented about greenhouse gasses, and said that the Jordan Cove Project is not in the public interest.
Many folks had issues with the dredging involved in the project and felt that it have a negative impact on recreation, wildlife habitats, and tourism among other things. One woman, Natalie Ranker, took some of her time commenting to address Jordan Cove’s mitigation plan regarding the Kentuck Inlet.
“This constant re-silting with what we do not know will be detrimental to oysters, clams, crab larva and salmon crop. These resources bring millions of dollars to our local economy…perhaps the greatest problem I see is what they say they are doing with mitigation of the Kentuck Golf Course. This is already a wetland, how can they create another… There has never been a pipeline that does not leak, and Pacific Connector will not be the exception. This is not mitigation it’s more destruction of another ecosystem,” Ranker said.
Impacted landowners Larry Mangan and his wife Silvia made comments against the permit.
“For many years our family has crabbed and clammed in areas that are being proposed for dredging,” Mangan said. “Those recreational activities will now be prevented or curtailed by the purposed dredging. The habitat will be degraded at least temporarily during the time dredging is occurring… We feel this proposed project is an unreasonable curtailment of crabbing, clamming, and fishing opportunities in Coos Bay, and will have a significant adverse effect on the tourism dollars brought into this community.”
Local officials like North Bend City Councilor Jessica Engelke, and Coos County Assessor Steve Jansen came out to lend their support to the Jordan Cove Project.
“The Jordan Cove Project will build a safe, clean and reliable natural gas pipeline and LNG export terminal that will create 6,000 family wage jobs during construction, and an estimated 8,500 spinoff jobs,” Engelke said.
A number of members from our local and regional Native American tribes took to the stand to voice their concerns regarding the project and its potential impact on tribal lands.
Many Workers from the UA Local 290 Plumbers and Steamfitters Union attended the hearing, several of which were able to come forward and voice their support for the project. A common theme to the comments of the Union workers was that they are some of the best trained workers in the country, and do not build infrastructure that fails.
“We are the best trained workforce in the world we don’t build things to fail… We don’t just haphazardly go out here and want to destroy this planet… This natural gas that’s going to be traveling through that pipeline is going to be a bridge to get China and other manufacturing facilities off of coal. This is going to help the environment in the long run,” Local 290 president Robert Porter said.
One commenter, Mike Graybill of Charleston, took particular issue with the dredging involved with the permit, and the lasting effects they can have.
“Economic development projects come and go, but the legacy of their earth work continues long after the benefits of the project are gone… If you have to issue a permit I ask that you place a condition on it that at the end of this project, after the benefits used to justify the impacts to Coos Bay’s wetlands and waterways end. I ask that you require the permittee to restore the wetlands of this project to a pre-impact condition,” Graybill said.
Outside of the hearing Jordan Cove Spokesmen Michael Hinrichs spoke to why the company needs this specific permit to proceed with its plans for an export terminal and pipeline.
“Dredging in the navigation channel is necessary, and as part of that it’s to ensure that our ships can safely come through and ship slip we are entering, and all the mitigation's that go along with that,” Hinrichs said.
After the comment period ends DSL will review the comments made and if they deem necessary will ask for more information from the applicant Jordan Cove LNG before making a final decision on the permit. It will be several weeks after the comment period ends before a DSL consolidates its comments and potentially even longer before a final decision is made.