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Approval Of Coos Bay Dredging Draws Criticism

Environmental groups are blasting a decision this week by Oregon’s Department of State Lands, because it could open the door to controversial export facilities in Coos Bay.

Oregon officials say they have never approved such a large dredging project in an estuary.

Opponents are focused primarily on what the terminal could be used for: exporting coal or liquefied natural gas.

Groups such as Columbia RiverKeeper say State Lands’ officials should have listened to Oregonians who submitted comments in opposition to such exports.

State Lands’ director, Louise Solliday, says Oregon law limits how much her department can look at the port’s intentions, when looking at a dredging application.

“We did look at the projects that the port had tried to establish, or the relationships that the port had tried to establish with customers over the last several years – and the fact that they were unable to do that because they did not have the kinds of port facilities that were needed to accommodate those shippers.”

Solliday says the port’s interested customers include not just coal and LNG exporters, but shippers of logs and wood chips, as well.

The Coos Bay port still has substantial federal and state hurdles to clear before it could build anything.