The coal terminal debate returns to Spokane on Sept. 25, when three government agencies will host a scoping meeting for an environmental impact statement on a proposed coal port at Longview on the Columbia River.
The scoping meeting in Spokane will be the second of five in the state. It will be at the Spokane Convention Center from 5 to 8 p.m.
Millennium Bulk Terminals – Longview LLC is seeking to build and operate a $643 million coal port at the site of a former Reynolds Aluminum smelter in Cowlitz County, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.
The coal from beds in Montana or Wyoming would be shipped to Asian markets.
Last December, nearly 800 people turned out at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center for a similar meeting on a proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal and Custer rail spur at Cherry Point near Bellingham.
Sightline Institute, of Seattle, said last week that shipments to the Cherry Point and Longview terminals, if built, would send 34 coal trains a day through the corridor running from Sandpoint to Spokane and on to the southwest. Those trains would increase delays at crossings in North Idaho by a combined total of one to two hours depending on train speed, the institute said.
Spokane has a series of separated crossings, including the downtown viaduct, to help reduce the problem. Still, at-grade crossings with BNSF Railway are still found at Park, Pines, Barker, Harvard and Idaho roads.
Environmentalists are concerned about pollution from coal dust flying off the uncovered loads. Potential derailments along lakes and rivers are another issue. But the big concern among opponents of the coal ports is Asian use of U.S. coal that may worsen global warming through increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Proponents said coal shipments are good for the economy and part of growing trade with Asia.
Cowlitz County, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are jointly conducting a process with the goal of producing a single environmental impact statement under state and federal law.
The agencies will ask other parts of government, including tribes, as well as the public to provide input on what issues should be studied in the EIS.
The Spokane meeting includes an open house with information on the proposed project, staff availability to answer questions, and opportunities to provide both written and oral comment.
The written comment period ends Nov. 18.
WSU to head up biofuel research
Washington State University Tri-Cities has been selected to be the headquarters for a national biofuel research center.
WSU will work with 16 other universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Washington, to develop aviation fuel from renewable sources.
The biofuel headquarters is being funded through the Federal Aviation Administration, which will put up $40 million over the next 10 years to be matched with $40 million from industry partners, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Cantwell, chair of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on transportation, wrote the language creating the new FAA Center of Excellence in Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment.
WSU researchers are looking at various plant sources, including the introduction of a gene from the castor bean plant into a type of mustard plant.
Airport building’s efficiency honored
Spokane International Airport on Friday announced that its new snow removal and equipment building along Airport Drive has been awarded the prestigious gold certification from Leadership in Energy Environmental Design (LEED).
The nine-bay building contains energy-efficient materials, operates with less energy and sits on a site developed with sustainable practices.
Among its green features, the building has in-floor radiant heat, high-efficiency boilers, occupancy sensors in interior lights, increased wall insulation and a cooling system that does not employ air conditioning equipment.
Concrete from an old runway at the site was processed and used for a base material. More than 370 tons of steel in the building came from recycled material.
The building uses 48 percent less energy than more conventional construction and will cost 42 percent less to operate, the airport said. The annual energy savings is equivalent to driving a car 493,000 miles.
It is the first building of its type in Washington to achieve gold LEED status, and is among 26 LEED gold certified buildings in the Spokane area.
Website helps with ride matching, more
Spokane Transit Authority and Spokane County’s Commute Trip Reduction program have announced a new website to help commuters find alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles.
The website is CommuteFinderNW.com. It provides a ride-matching service where commuters can enter the starting point of their commute and where their work site is. The tool will show options for vanpools, carpools, biking, walking or public transit.
Green Street Bridge work closing lanes
Work to extend the life of the Greene Street Bridge over the Spokane River is causing lane restrictions through mid-October.
The project involves installing fiber-reinforced polymer to the bridge deck and beams to extend the useful life of the bridge at a cost of $1.1 million.
Colville meeting set on transit needs
The Washington State Transportation Commission is traveling to Colville on Tuesday to hear from residents and local agencies across the region on transportation needs and priorities.
Freight, public transit, state highways, local roads and economic activity are among possible topics.
The meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. in the City Council Chambers at Colville City Hall, 170 S. Oak St.
Valleyfest events will close Sprague
Sprague Avenue from University to Pines roads will close at 6 p.m. Friday for Valleyfest, which includes a parade at 7:30 p.m. and an evening street fair.
Maple Street Bridge curb lane closure
The southbound curb lane on the Maple Street Bridge will close on Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for guardrail work. The closure could cause backups.