The Port of Grays Harbor’s bid for a potash shipping facility at Terminal 3 reached a milestone Tuesday, when Port Commissioners approved a resolution allowing Port Executive Director Gary Nelson to sign lease options for project-related property leases.
“There’s been a lot of hard work put into this,” said Port Commissioner Phil Papac at a Tuesday morning commission meeting at the Satsop Business Park, where commissioners unanimously approved the resolution.
Terminal 3, located just east of Bowerman Airport in Hoquiam, is one of two locations under consideration for the potash shipping facility. The lease options are for properties needed for BHP, the global resources company behind the proposed project, to continue with the project should Terminal 3 be the location they choose.
The lease options run through Dec. 31, 2020, and are contingent upon a number of conditions, explained Nelson. Those include — among other things — completing the necessary State Environmental Policy Act review and BHP obtaining all local, state and federal permit approvals applicable for the proposed facility.
BHP put its initial shorelines permit application with the City of Hoquiam on hold late last year to address some local concerns with the project, and it has continued working with local stakeholders to refine its permit application to address those concerns. As of Monday, the company had not yet resubmitted that application, said Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay.
Two of the lease contingencies were addressed Monday at the Hoquiam City Council meeting. First, the council agreed to vacate portions of Paulson Road and Airport Way that would be included in the footprint of the proposed potash facility. The council also approved a resolution to allow Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff to sign the necessary lease-option agreement paperwork with the Port for city property needed for the facility. The property includes the sewer lagoon east of Bowerman Airport and some adjacent tideland property, said Shay.
“The City of Hoquiam is delighted to see this important step in the process being taken,” said Dickhoff in a statement Tuesday. “The city remains optimistic that Hoquiam will be selected as BHP’s potash export facility, and we look forward to the potential investment and job opportunities it could bring to our community.”
Tuesday’s Port Commission action also allows Nelson to sign lease-option paperwork with two other entities with property needed for the BHP project: Adams Street Hoquiam LLC and Emerson Street Hoquiam LLC.
“This project is important for Hoquiam, important for the Port and important for our community, so we are pleased to see this essential step in the process,” said Port Commission President Stan Pinnick. “While BHP choosing Grays Harbor is not a done deal, this is an important milestone in the process and we look forward to providing support and assistance through the option period to help make this project a reality.”
Nelson said it’s important to see this milestone for what it is, another step in the process.
“There is still work to be done,” he said. “We are in the game.”
BHP is currently exploring two options for the potash facility, Terminal 3 and a site in Vancouver, British Columbia, according to the Port. The site they select will receive potash from BHP’s Jansen Potash Project mine in Saskatchewan, Canada, and transfer it to ships for global distribution. Potash, or potassium chloride, is a naturally occurring nonflammable and noncombustible mineral used in agricultural fertilizers.
Nelson said the company has spent a lot of time in the region working with local stakeholders, the Quinault Indian Nation, regulators and businesses, and the public, including hosting a public open house at Hoquiam High School in September 2017. That outreach continues and will throughout the company’s site selection process.