Port, Hoquiam trying to clear the way for potash facility

Australian company considers Port of Grays Harbor for $440 million potash export facility.

By Doug Barker

Twin Harbors Newspaper Group

The way is clear for the city of Hoquiam and the Port of Grays Harbor to enter into a lease option for property that could be used by BHP Billiton for a potash storage and export facility near Bowerman Basin.

Australia-based BHP has said it is deciding between Hoquiam and Vancouver, B.C., for its facility. The lease option would only be exercised if the company decides to come, makes it through the permit process and builds a facility.

At Tuesday’s Port Commission meeting, commissioners authorized Executive Director Gary Nelson to negotiate with Hoquiam. Monday night, the Hoquiam City Council did the same, authorizing city staff to work on the option.

The Port would have a lease option for 85 acres of city land next to the Port’s Terminal 3 and would then sublease it to BHP. The terms were not discussed at the Port Commission meeting.

In July, the Port entered into a lease option with BHP for 150 acres of Port land at Terminal 3 near Bowerman. At the time, the Port said it would be working to secure surrounding property for the project.

Port attorney Art Blauvelt said the Port has been in discussions with BHP for a long-term lease.

The lease option for the city of Hoquiam land will serve to “assure BHP that the Port is ready to be selected,” Blauvelt said.

“Hopefully, we’re one step closer to bringing them in,” Commissioner Phil Papac said.

Port Public Affairs Manager, Kayla Dunlap said they hope for a BHP decision late this year or early in 2019.

In its permit application, BHP has valued the project at $440 million. The company has said the facility would have a lifespan of at least 50 years.

BHP seeks to export the potash — a mineral mostly used in fertilizer — which will be mined in Saskatchewan.