Bonner Dems urge Inslee to stop smelter

Sylvia Humes
Reader Contributor

With over 20,000 additional trucks and over 15,000 additional train cars moving through our communities every year, we recognize that the collective impacts of the proposed Newport silicon metals smelter immediately across our western border will have a greater effect on our Bonner County citizens than even those impacted in Newport. Therefore, the Bonner County Democrat Central Committee has written a letter to Washington Governor Jay Inslee urging him to put a stop to this travesty.

We want the governor to understand that Sandpoint and the upper Idaho Panhandle also will be hard hit by this increased train traffic carrying the raw materials of coal from either Kentucky or Columbia, S.C. and the crystalline silica from Canada and the charcoal from Indonesia. PacWest is bringing it all in by train.  

Consider the staggering numbers of trucks and trains to run through our communities if the smelter is to become a reality:

A) Pac-West’s own data shows – for just one stack and two furnaces – the amount of raw materials transported to be: 7,860 train cars per year (151 per week; 22 per day). So double that for the two stacks and four furnaces that the Newport plan calls for. That’s 15,720 additional train cars a year (or 302 per week; 44 per day) coming through our communities.

B) Now add the truck traffic! Pac-West’s data shows 10,833 woodchip trucks per year (or 417 per week; 60 per day), again, for only the one stack/two furnaces. Double that, too, for the two stacks, four furnaces planned. That’s 21,666 additional TRUCKS coming through our communities in just one year (or 834 a week; 120 a day)

That’s way too much traffic for our current infrastructure with NO promise to pay for the damage and NO economic benefit to our communities.

In part, our letter to Governor Inslee reads:

”Although we live, work and breathe in Sandpoint, Priest River, Spirit Lake and the environs of North Idaho and the Panhandle, the smelter – as proposed – will greatly impact the quality of life for each and every citizen here.  Even though you are governor of adjacent Washington State, we implore you to consider what this smelter will do to us just across the border. . . . There is, truly, NO separation as far as natural geographical reaches and prevailing winds are concerned. Consider these concerns: 

1. “Truck traffic and infrastructure:  Nearly ALL of the trucks that haul hazardous materials to the smelter will be moving through Boundary and Bonner Counties, along Highways 95 and 2 through the towns of Sandpoint, Dover, Laclede, Priest River and others, with the final destination of Newport. Our collective county infrastructure – roads, bridges, small communities – simply cannot handle that kind of increased traffic with virtually NO economic benefit to improve or repair those roadways or to mitigate the severely impeded traffic.

2. “Water and air safety and quality: The air pollution issue is one of grave, grave concern to us all. One of the reasons many of us live in the Idaho Panhandle is because of the cleaner air and water; because of the “green” we can enjoy as citizens. The air pollution generated by the proposed smelter would definitely impact our health and well-being here in Idaho.

3. “Economic impact: We won’t even be beneficiaries of the promised positive economic impact touted for the Washington plant. We will, instead, be responsible for paying for all of the added negative impact to our area – from transportation damage to infrastructure to healthcare and environmental blows on our citizens.”

Our letter also says: 

“It is a known fact that Golden, British Columbia, DID NOT WANT the smelter in their community . . . so what happens?  HiTest (now PacWest) decides to take all of its pollution and destruction to us in the Pacific Northwest. No thanks. 

“I am certain that you know the negative impacts on this project – at least I HOPE you have studied these vital health and financial issues. We believe that you, with your stellar stand on the environment and quality of life, would be strong in your stance against this blight on our beautiful part of the world.

“In good faith, we send this plea to you to weigh in on this smelter project and help put an end to it. Real people with real lives call North Idaho home . . . and we absolutely DO NOT WANT THIS SMELTER POLLUTING OUR LIVES, OUR FAMILIES, OUR WELL BEING AND OUR ENVIRONMENT.

“Thank you, Governor.”

Sylvia Humes is the chair for the Bonner County Democrat Central Committee. 

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