More than 124,000 comment on coal plan

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MOUNT VERNON — The public had plenty to say about a proposal to build a coal and dry-goods export terminal at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham.

By the end of the project's 121-day scoping period to determine how extensive the project's environmental review will be, more than 124,000 comments on the scope of the project were submitted to the agencies in charge of the review, a news release from the co-lead agencies said Wednesday.

Preliminary counts indicate that form letters or emails made up approximately 108,000 of the total, submitted by respondents to 24 organized comment campaigns, the release stated.

Throughout the scoping period, seven public comment meetings hosted more than 8,700 attendees who submitted 1,419 hand-written comments and 1,207 verbal comments, the release stated.

A scoping report with a thorough assessment of comments provided is expected to be issued by the co-lead agencies; Whatcom County Planning, the state Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the next few weeks.

Ecology spokesman Larry Altose said the number of comments received and attendance at meetings made this scoping period the largest in state environmental review history.

"As far as we can tell, there has never been a scoping process like this one, ironically, because of its scope," Altose said.

The agencies will then review that input and issue plans later this year for a draft environmental impact statement, which may take at least a year to prepare, the release states.

The project environmental review's official website, http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/, has additional details about the scoping process, project proposals, and displays comments received.