Next month, when Coos County commissioners again contemplate a natural gas pipeline through our bay, they'll be guided by a professional hearings officer's 67-page analysis. Andrew Stamp's conclusion, which county commissioners should endorse, is that the bay's Olympia oysters need not fear a pipeline-inflicted slaughter.
Such a decision surely will dismay pipeline critics. But let's be honest: Mollusk survival is not their real concern. Oysters are a proxy for opposition to a liquefied natural gas terminal on the North Spit. Opponents hope county leaders will use oysters as an excuse to block the Pacific Connector Pipeline, thereby cutting off Jordan Cove from Oregon's interior.
Stamp's report makes clear: That dog won't hunt.
To clarify, Olympia oysters are not the tasty Pacific oysters we love to slather with drawn butter and hot sauce. They are the noncommercial native oysters of Coos Bay. Their significance is ecological rather than culinary.
But the ecological risk is slight. A biologist hired by the pipeline company inventoried the route and reported that all the Olympia oysters in the pipeline's path probably would not fill a five-gallon bucket. The company has a plan to relocate these oysters, using methods that have succeeded elsewhere in the bay.
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The opponents predictably challenged the company biologist's credibility. But Stamp points out, with undisguised annoyance, that the opponents didn't bother conducting their own oyster count on the route.
He also dismisses an astonishing ploy by local LNG opponent Jody McCafree. McCafree asked Stamp to disqualify the company's expert witnesses, because an introductory letter from the company's lawyers was not printed on proper letterhead. Stamp didn't bite.
There's more, but the general gist is that opponents are grasping at straws. There may be valid reasons to block the gas pipeline, but oysters aren't one of them.
(Andrew Stamp's full report is available at bit.ly/xxi5fK.)