I'm Steve McMinn, from Bellingham.
I would like the Gateway EIS to study the costs to the tourism industry in Whatcom county and in the entire coal transport corridor.
A year ago, my wife and I, along with 3 other couples, bought the Willows Inn on Lummi Island, because it was going out of business and we believe that a healthy economy is integral to a healthy community. Tourism is the largest economic driver on the island. The Willows, which includes the Beach Store Cafe, employs 55 people in peak season. The Willows has been featured in outlets like the NY Times, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and many others. People come here from around the world to visit, dine, and experience a slice of quintessential Northwest.
Tourism is a big business in Whatcom county, providing over 5000 jobs, and bringing in over $550 million in visitor spending. The Willows is just a drop in this bucket, but the impacts of the proposed coal port would have a direct effect on us. Unpredictable delays at the grade level crossing at Slater Rd. would make catching the ferry uncertain. Dust blown from the coal heaps, as at Westshore, in twassin, would coat the surrounding area. 900 yearly transits by vast, noisy ships just a mile offshore, each ship spewing diesel pollution equivalent to thousands of vehicles would do nothing to encourage tourism.
The whole NW is an increasingly popular tourist destination. Truly, it is one of the last best places on earth, and with climate change and its attendant droughts and superstorms upon us, it is also an oasis, one that people will be even keener to visit in the future.
We in Whatcom have good jobs now, in tourism, as well as in other industries, and we can make more. Let's not compromise these existing jobs, let's not cannibalize our robust and diverse economy to make a coal dump.
Please study in detail the costs that this proposal would would place upon the tourism industry, both in Whatcom County, and in the whole GPT rail corridor.
I'm Steve McMinn, I live in Bellingham.
I am concerned that the cost of delays at rail crossing on the GPT coal train route will negate any economic benefits that might be gained by building the port. I believe that this project, as proposed, would hurt existing businesses, leading to a net job loss in the region. My own business would certainly be hurt.
I own a small specialty sawmill, Pacific Rim Tonewoods, up the Skagit river. We make wooden parts for guitars; if you've played or listened to a Martin, Taylor or Gibson guitar built in the last 25 years, we've likely cut wood for it. We take a comparatively small amount of wood, and turn it into a part that is exactingly made, valuable, and is an integral component for US businesses downstream, who in turn provide thousands of jobs.
We have 26 employees, and pay family wages and benefits. If I were using SSA math, I might claim 150 jobs.
Half of our people commute across the tracks, from Bellingham, Mt. Vernon and elsewhere, at grade level crossings that are already subject to delays. When the trains come, everything stops; there's no way around.
All of our freight and all of our goods, both inbound and outbound move through the same crossings. Further, we purchase most of our logs in Alaska and barge them to Smith Island, near Everett, where they are transferred to land and loaded on log trucks. To access this port, log trucks must deal with another grade level crossing, one that is already very congested.
Pacific Rim Tonewoods is only one small business, 20 miles from the BN tracks. But the cost of additional delays due to GPT trains would be large. Multiply additional costs to my business by the thousands of other businesses from Whatcom county to the Columbia gorge to get an idea of the magnitude of harm to regional businesses.
Times are hard, but we in the Salish Sea region have many good jobs already; jobs that are innovative and creative, from airplanes to software, from timber to raspberries; with imagination and perseverance
we can make more. We should not allow GPT's trains to shear us off from our working water fronts nor to obstruct the East West flow of traffic in our several counties.
Let's not compromise the good jobs we have now, let's not cannibalize our robust and diverse economy to make a coal dump.
Please examine the economic impacts to existing regional businesses, caused by delays and congestion from the mines to the coal dump, and set these against the purported economic benefits of this project.