State Rep. Sharon Nelson (D-34, Vashon) sent a letter to Public Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland on Monday, October 13, asking him “to clarify your current plans for the issuance of the aquatic lands lease” to Glacier Northwest for the company’s mining work on Maury Island.
In the letter, Rep. Nelson says, “I recently learned that Glacier has communicated to King County’s Department of Development and Environmental Services that your office [Department of Natural Resources] has given them [Glacier Northwest] assurances that their lease will be granted around the first week of November.”
Republican Sutherland is locked in a tight reelection bid against Democrat Peter Goldmark, a left-leaning, environmentalist rancher from Eastern Washington. If, as Nelson fears, Sutherland plans to issue the controversial lease to Glacier right after the election in early November, it would be a way to reward one of his biggest financial supporters—Glacier has given $50,400 to reelect Sutherland so far this year according to the most recent Public Disclosure Commission reports—without raising the ire of environmental voters before November 4.
Goldmark has already made a big deal out of quid pro quo campaign finance during this election season, asserting that Sutherland does the bidding of corporate donors like Weyerhaeuser.
Sutherland fought a contentious battle in the state legislature earlier this year when environmental legislators, like Nelson and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane), fought against Sutherland’s plans to give Glacier the go ahead to expand its mining on Maury Island.
Jim Chan, at King County’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES), told me the County met with Glacier last week to get the project on Maury started (DDES oversees the local permitting on the work). However, he said when DDES later learned that Glacier actually didn’t have the required aquatic land lease from DNR, they called Glacier to say the planning was “premature.”
Fran McNair, DNR’s Aquatic Land Steward, says, “No decision has been made [on the lease].” She reports that it’s a “really high bar” to get the lease and there’s “no estimated timeline” on when it might be granted because her staff is still in the fact-finding stage of reviewing the application.
Glacier Northwest did not return calls. Nor did Fred White, the DDES staffer who reportedly originally heard from Glacier that the DNR lease was a done deal.