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LNG Report Rekindles Salmon Dispute

by Cassandra Profita
The Daily Astorian, June 5, 2008

NorthernStar submits Biological Assessment to feds;
opponents criticize document for minimizing impact

NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. submitted a 3,700-page Biological Assessment to federal energy regulators Wednesday, reaching another milestone in its development of the $650 million Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas project.

The document will be used by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine whether the project complies with federal environmental laws, namely the Endangered Species Act.

One of the document's primary purposes is to outline the project's impacts to listed species of salmon. It includes the company's Salmon Enhancement Initiative, a proposal to spend up to $59 million to improve salmon habitat on the lower Columbia River.

NorthernStar Chief Executive William "Si" Garrett said the company's mitigation and enhancement measures will ensure the project will have a "sustained net benefit to salmon productivity and the Lower Columbia ecosystem" while also adding needed natural gas supplies and stabilizing energy costs.

Project opponents have already criticized the document for omitting and minimizing project impacts.

A Biological Opinion from NMFS and USFW, expected in the fall, will determine whether the project puts threatened and endangered species in jeopardy. That opinion will be one of the final rulings on the Bradwood Landing project along with the licensing decision from FERC.

State agencies also need to grant clean air, clean water and coastal zone management approvals before construction can begin. Clatsop County granted local land-use approval for the project in March, though the decision is expected to face a challenge at the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. The company expects to start construction in 2009 and begin operating the terminal in 2013.

The proposed Salmon Enhancement Initiative would provide $7 million during three years of construction and $1.3 million per year over the 40-year life of the project. Company officials say the program could improve salmon survival by 1.77 million juvenile fish per year if their funds are matched three to one by public funds.

The Bradwood Landing project includes an LNG terminal located 20 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River and a 38-mile pipeline that will travel east from the terminal to Port Westward before crossing under the Columbia River and continuing northeast to an interstate pipeline near Kelso, Wash. The terminal would receive supercooled natural gas liquid from ships and reheat the gas to a vapor for pipeline distribution.

Project opponents argue the project will have severe impacts to salmon because of the extensive dredging required in the river to make way for LNG tankers, the removal of millions of gallons of ballast water from the river and the pipeline's stream and river crossings.

Brent Foster, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, disputed the company's claims that its plans will improve salmon habitat.

"We know that this project will kill salmon, yet Bradwood is asking us to believe that they will somehow restore salmon runs with $1 million per year over 40 years. At a time when we're spending hundreds of millions per year on salmon recovery, this is a drop in the bucket, and it ignores the huge negative impacts of this development to salmon."

Company officials say they have been working throughout the project's development to ensure that the potential impacts on listed species are adequately addressed. Along with the Biological Assessment, Bradwood also submitted its Compensatory Mitigation Plan, which company officials say far exceeds state and federal requirements.

The entire Biological Assessment for the Bradwood Landing project is available on FERC's Web site, under docket no. CP06-365.

Cassandra Profita
LNG Report Rekindles Salmon Dispute
The Daily Astorian, June 5, 2008

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