BELLINGHAM, Wash. -

The state is deciding whether to protect 45 acres of aquatic lands that had been set aside for a proposed coal-export shipping terminal at Cherry Point.

The Department of Natural Resources is considering incorporating that area into the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, now that the facility won't be built.

In May, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit to the Gateway Pacific Terminal, saying the proposed deep-water port would interfere with the Lummi Nation's treaty-reserved fishing rights. In June, DNR also denied the project a state land lease that it needed.

The Lummi Nation asked DNR in September to add those 45 acres to the reserve.

DNR says a team of scientists recommended that those aquatic lands be incorporated into the reserve.

The department is taking public comments on the proposal until Nov. 18.