Citizen Journalism: CTNW Port of Bellingham Meeting May 21, 2019

In Cherry Point Industrial Area, Local Government, News by CTNW News

Developing an International Business Park at Cherry Point was one of the main points of interest at the Port of Bellingham Commission regular meeting on May 21, 2019.

The public meeting began at 4:30 pm. Board President Ken Bell, Vice President Bobby Briscoe and Secretary Michael Shepard were all present.

Link to May 21, 2019Port of Bellingham meeting agenda

Video of the full May 21, 2019 Port Commission Meeting

Five items were on the consent agenda. Approvals on a 3-0 vote were the following:

A. Approve the minutes of the May 7, 2019, regular Commission meeting.

B. Authorize the Executive Director to execute a Purchase Order with Herc Rentals for the procurement of portable LED light towers at the Bellingham Shipping Terminal.

C. Authorize the Executive Director to execute an Amendment to the Remedial Investigation Funding and Litigation Tolling Agreement between the Port, Yorkston Oil Co., Thomas Yorkston, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Chevron U.S.A.

This agreement is to fund and investigate the cleanup of petroleum fuels in the soil and groundwater at the bulk fueling terminal at 2801 Roeder Ave. Commissioner Shepard said this has been designated a Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) project that could qualify for a grant from the Dept. of Ecology.

D. Approve a Use Permit for Pacific Coastal Ventures, Inc. (d/b/a Alaska Wild Fish and Chips) to operate a mobile food service vehicle in Blaine Harbor.
Commissioner Briscoe said this deal with the food truck has worked out well and they see a lot of people there in the spring and summer.

E. Authorize the Executive Director to execute a Professional Services Agreement with RMC Architects for design and permitting services for the installation of restrooms in the 1000 F Street warehouse.

Action Items –

1. Authorize the Executive Director to execute a Professional Services Agreement with Landau Associates for engineering and environmental support services for the Sea K Fish site, located in the Blaine Marine Industrial Area.

Ben Howard, Environmental Project Manager, said the site is contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons from historic commercial activities, and an ongoing oil sheen at the shoreline can be seen in the summer months. The contamination likely came from leaking underground fuel storage tanks, fuel distribution activities and releases of hydraulic oil from fish processing equipment. All of the old storage tanks and equipment have been removed. The property is listed by Ecology as a cleanup site but there is currently no agreement or order to do any cleanup work at the site.

Under this agreement Landau Associates will provide project management, data review and planning, an environmental investigation and data report of the findings, and will assist the Port in developing a regulatory strategy for cleaning up the site. The scope of services also includes maintaining an oil containment boom for the shoreline sheen at the site. Approved 3-0.

Video starting at discussion of Action Item 1

2. A motion by the Port Commission to authorize the Executive Director to enter into an amendment to the Waiver of Landlord’s Lien Agreement with Washington Federal National Association. This Action Item was added during the meeting.

Executive Director Rob Fix said the Port came to a settlement earlier on May 21st with Washington Federal regarding Puglia Engineering’s Fairhaven Shipyard. Although its operations in Fairhaven and Tacoma were profitable, Puglia started to go bankrupt in 2017 after a problematic investment in San Francisco. Before entering Chapter 7 bankruptcy, in April 2019, the company continued taking on new projects and recently finished repair work on the Pierce County ferry “Steilacoom.” The business employed about 75 people.

Now that the shipyard is shutdown, Legal Council Frank Chmelik said all of the company’s assets must be sold at auction. That includes the drydock “Faithful Servant,” which is the most valuable asset on the site. The Port had a lease with Puglia for $60,000 a month. Under this agreement, Washington Federal will pay 80% of the monthly rent starting June 17th until the dry-dock is sold.

Executive Director Fix said the Port is talking to businesses interested in leasing the site and the level of interest is high. He said the shipyard is the largest revenue producing entity in the Port, and he would prefer to see it sold as one business. Commissioner Briscoe said he wants those 75 people back to work as soon as possible. Commissioner Bell said this agreement was the best possible outcome we could’ve envisioned. Approved 3-0.

Video starting at discussion of Action Item 2

Update: The Bellingham Herald has published an article about the Fairhaven Shipyard: Link to Herald article

Presentations –

Update – Cherry Point Industrial Area

Matt Anderson and Mark Goodman, from Heartland LLC, presented an update to the Port’s 1998 Cherry Point Study with a focus on a new objective to support the development of a large-scale international business park. The report says the Port has identified the lack of a modern and professional business park in Whatcom County (a park with modern amenities, utilities, streetscapes, etc.) as a major challenge to industrial job growth. Their report does not address the current County Council policy on fossil fuels.

Cherry Point is an amazingly important resource to the region, Economic Development Director Don Goldberg said. The region is in desperate need for shovel ready industrial sites. The property is key to future growth for the entire Whatcom County.

The study update covered an area of 1,629 acres south of Aldergrove Rd. and west of Kickerville Rd. – basically all of the unused land between the BP refinery and Alcoa Intalco Works. Although the site is mostly wetlands, the report identifies several areas (314 acres) that could be potential development sites.

Anderson and Goodman said Whatcom County has a strong and growing manufacturing sector, and the study found a potential demand for smaller-scale quality industrial space for local manufacturers. But local demand alone wouldn’t be enough to justify developing a large-scale business park. The Port would have to attract manufacturing businesses from lower B.C. The report says demand from lower B.C., although relatively untested, appears to be a realistic opportunity for Whatcom County as prices for land and industrial space are significantly lower here.

The Port could play the role of master developer, facilitator or supporter of the business park. Wetland mitigation would be one of the challenges to developing the site as well as providing water and sewer access. The site has existing rail access, multiple access points to I-5 and access to a state route (SR548), but it would need some infrastructure upgrades such as truck-friendly intersections and railroad overpasses.

After a recess, commissioners asked questions about wetland mitigation and where they could possibly buy credits to meet the requirements of the permit. Commissioner Shepard recommended including the Lummi Nation in future talks over the idea, and keeping fossil fuels out of the discussion.

This report comes a long way from the 1998 version, Shepard said. I appreciate you taking into consideration what has changed here in those years, both in terms of recognition of the Lummi Nation’s sovereignty and treaty rights and their ability to determine usage, and also the interests of Whatcom County citizens around fossil fuel development. And I’m pleased to see that there’s not a proposal for additional fossil fuel projects here, and that hasn’t been the thrust of this investigation and study that you’ve done. So I think that’s aligned with what I see are interests of the community.

Video starting at Cherry Point Industrial Area Update presentation

Other Business –

Commissioner Shepard congratulated the City of Bellingham Parks Dept. for winning a national award for restoration of a beach property at Waypoint Park. He also congratulated the Port’s Economic Development Team for getting $1.1 million from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board for the rural broadband project. Project Manager Gina Stark said the project is now fully funded and they’re moving forward with construction.

Waypoint Park, Bellingham, WA

Shepard asked for a future update on the fire-suppressant foam used at the airport and the possibility of stopping its use because it contains potentially toxic substances. He also mentioned the fertilizer and herbicides used on Port properties, and possibly switching to alternatives with a salmon-safe certification.

Commissioner Bell said his company is doing a pilot program on fire-suppressant foam and its cleanup, so he will recuse himself from any Port discussions on it. He also recognized and expressed gratitude for the work of Port Legal Council Frank Chmelik.

Commissioner Briscoe recommended looking into a circular fiber optic route for the rural broadband project that will prevent any breaks in service.

Bell said the Port reached a great decision on the Alaska Ferry route that will maintain service to Bellingham. Exec. Dir. Fix said the deal has not been finalized yet.

Briscoe discussed how the insurance premiums will double for users of the airport and if it’s mandatory. He also discussed his motivations for joining the commission and how transparency is very important to him, and said they’ve made great progress on that. Shepard said it would be a good idea to schedule work sessions to discuss agenda setting. Bell said his focus will continue to be fiscal responsibility.

Video starting at Other Business

Meeting Adjourned