Proposed BHP potash facility at the Port clears hurdle

The proposed BHP potash facility at the Port of Grays Harbor has cleared another hurdle as the city of Hoquiam has reviewed the company’s proposal and found the project would not significantly adversely impact the environment.

The city is the lead agency in reviewing the company’s proposal and has released a public notice announcing the decision and dates for public comment. Comments to the city will be accepted through Dec. 17. Shay said there will be a public hearing on the proposal at 11 a.m. Dec. 19 at the Hoquiam City Hall.

BHP has been filing updates to its environmental review papers for the last year, taking comments from the city and other agencies, then modifying their plan to offset any potential environmental threats.

The project

The facility would be built at the Port of Grays Harbor’s Terminal 3, the westernmost terminal on Port property, near Bowerman Airport and the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. It would receive potash — used to create agricultural fertilizers — by rail, either storing the sodium-based mineral or loading it directly onto ships for export, and is expected to provide jobs for 40 to 50 full-time employees.

At full operation, the facility would receive up to 8 to 10 trains per week, each carrying up to 20,000 tons of potash. Potash would be loaded onto up to two to four vessels per week, up to 220 vessels per year.


To minimize the impact of increased trains at the Port, construction would include an 8,500-foot rail loop that will tie into existing rail facilities, allowing entire trains to fit inside the project boundary; a covered rail car unloading facility; a potash storage building; upland conveyors, and a marine terminal including a conveyor, ship loader and mooring dolphins.

Support structures would include administrative and maintenance buildings, each approximately 38,000 square feet; a parking lot and a fueling station, which will house double-walled above- ground tanks located within secondary containment areas.

In-water construction would include a new marine terminal and berth located west of, and adjacent to, the existing Terminal 3 dock. New solid and grated over-water coverage would be constructed.

BHP also proposes to construct a wetland and aquatic site at the mouth of the Hoquiam River. The proposal includes restoration of a 43-acre site of previously filled tidelands.

The company also proposes to remove existing over water structures and pilings located near the Port’s Terminal 4 as part of its mitigation plan. In all, more than 1,300 creosote soaked pilings would be removed from the Chehalis River.

Visual impacts

BHP conducted a study of five properties north, east and west of the site: Triangle Park, Sandpiper Trail, Hoquiam High School, West Emerson Avenue and Circle Drive.

The view from the high school parking lot would include the top section of a pumice-colored storage facility south of the school. The view from Circle Drive would include the top portion of that storage facility and views of the marine terminal, conveyor system and a maintenance and administration building.

Views from Triangle Park and the Sandpiper Trail trailhead in the refuge would not be impacted, and the study concluded that “the project will alter some views in the community, but will not impair or destroy any views, and will have no impact on adjacent residential views of the shoreline.”

Air quality

As enclosed train cars enter the facility they are taken to a covered transfer station, where the potash is released onto covered conveyor belts, then taken either directly to awaiting vessels or to an enclosed storage building. The company’s study said any attributable emission increases are “sufficiently low enough to protect human health and safety from potential carcinogenic and/or other toxic effects.”


BHP has requested a substantial shoreline development permit, shoreline conditional use permit, shoreline variance, and zoning conditional use permit from the City of Hoquiam. The project also requires permits from the State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Email comments will be accepted through Dec. 17.