Submission Number: MBTL-EIS-0002312
Received: 11/18/2013 8:51:40 PM
Commenter: Stephanie Buffum
Organization: Friends of the San Juans
Agency: Cowlitz County, the Washington Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Initiative: Millennium Bulk-Terminals Longview EIS
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I. ECONOMY OF THE SAN JUANS
San Juan County’s current economic bread and butter are visitors, retirees, and part-time residents who have vacation homes in the islands. The San Juan Islands economy is inextricably connected to the beauty of our environment and the health of our ecosystems. Many islanders depend upon a healthy and sustainable salmon fishery and Orca population. Tourism is the primary economy in San Juan County and our resident Orca whales are the prime driver of that economy.
With a boost from the recent designations of “#1 Island in the U.S.” by Trip Advisor ,“ #2 in the New York Times’ Best Places to Visit,” “#3 on Lonely Planet’s ‘Top 10 Destinations for 2013’”, and National Monument status, the San Juan Islands are now a major tourist destination. San Juan County’s visitors and part-time residents provide significant state and local tax revenues. In 2012, more than 700,000 people visited our islands and spent nearly $158 million. In the same year, 1,850 jobs here were directly related to the travel industry. During August 2012, the peak travel month, the total number of non-agricultural jobs — direct (due to tourism), indirect and induced — in San Juan County was 6,450.
The San Juan Islands face “direct, indirect and induced” damage to the health of our environment due to the MBTL increased shipping traffic, with its accompanying underwater noise, air and water pollution, increased risk of a fuel/cargo spill in our surrounding waters, and potential impacts to federally listed threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and marine mammals protected under the US Federal Endangered Species Act.
Please address the following impacts in the draft EIS for the MBTL:
1. What are adverse impacts, including the adverse impacts from the increased risk of oil and/or coal spills, to salmon, an essential food for the Orca, in the Columbia River?
2. What would be the adverse impacts to forage fish, an essential food for salmon and in turn Orca, from increased coal or oil spills in the Columbia River?
3. What is the economic threat from the loss of Orca to the economy of the San Juans?
4. What would be the loss of property values and what would be the loss of tourism, real estate sales, from depleted fish and wildlife populations such as Orca in the event of a major oil spill in the Columbia River?
5. What would be the loss of property values and what would be the loss of tourism, real estate sales, from depleted fish and wildlife populations such as Orca in the event of a major oil spill from vessels and barges transiting through the San Juans on their way to deliver propulsion fuel to ships in Longview?
6. In analyzing each and all of the above impacts, what would a “worst case scenario” look like in the presence of each of the plausible, compounding factors or events, including but not limited to human errors, storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other planned/proposed projects that may contribute to increased cumulative impacts and chance of accidents? What would a “worst case scenario” look like for all the above plausible, compounding factors combined? What would be the estimated damages in dollars, overall and for San Juan County in particular, if such a “worst case” event were to happen? Will the MTBL project have sufficient insurance coverage to insure against the “worst case” damages and economic losses?