Sunday, February 10, 2013

ASB to Marina: Look Past the Personalities and the Past

Former Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike made a presentation at Huxley College (a sub unit of Western Washington University) on the redevelopment plans for the Bellingham Bay waterfront and the Bellingham Herald published an opinion piece by Mr. Pike former-mayor-says-to-scrap-marina. His criticism of the current proposed plan revolves around the three issues: 1) the park plan, 2) historic buildings and 3) converting the former Georgia Pacific waste water treatment basin (ASB) into a marina.


I agree with Mr. Pike that the former ASB turned into a marina should be dropped from the waterfront redevelopment plan. However, I should say that I am very skeptical of his alternative ASB uses, and I have no particular strong views on the park plans or on the reuse of historic buildings on site. I will only add that I have done subsurface drilling at the former GP site and evaluated soil liquefaction potential, and yes, the soil will very likely liquefy and laterally spread in an earthquake and that issue ought to be considered when thinking about any development on the Bellingham Bay waterfront fill soils.

But on the issue of converting the ASB into a marina, I would encourage those that may be offended by Mr. Pike's style, timing and suspected political scheming to really think through this flawed idea and how it drives the rest of the planning efforts for the area. That said, I am perplexed that the former mayor would have such a strong view on the marina concept now, but as mayor failed to include a non ASB to marina scheme as an alternative in the Environmental Impact Statement. His failure to do that should lead to pause when criticisms are aimed at the current mayor.

Turning the ASB into a marina has drifted to such a fiscally ridiculous position that it is irresponsible to leave this scheme as the center piece of the waterfront redevelopment plan. It is the dominant feature of the plan and yet I have been assured in various conversations that "It won't be built." One excuse consistently raised for leaving it in is that it is too late to take it out because an alternative was never included in the the EIS. The waterfront plan will very soon be presented to and then deliberated on by the Bellingham Planning Commission. As decision makers advising the City Council, one would hope that the Commission will take charge of the information they need to make an informed decision.   

I have posted and written about the ASB/marina and bay cleanup previoulsy (see below). Chapter 1 provides some history and Chapter 2 may be the more helpful in understanding the cleanup issues that have previously confused people, including Bellinghams VSPs (very serious people for you non Krugmanites). The remaining chapters get a bit detailed and take some dedication. The bottom line is the ASB to marina project costs have drifted from $44 million to upwards of $120 million.

bellingham bay cleanup planning 15 years and counting - Chapter 1
bellingham bay cleanup death of alternative J - Chapter 2
bellingham waterway and-bay cleanup port alternative - Chapter 3
mtca funds proposed for marina excavation - Chapter 4
bellingham bay cleanup how is ports plan going - Chapter 5 

1 comment:

Ryan M. Ferris said...

I am beginning to believe that all of the big macro-economic plans of Whatcom County:

coal trains
waterfront development
continuing Canadian sales, airport revenue

are simply pipe dreams destined for failure. One has to wonder if we shouldn't have just stuck GP with the clean-up, created a big waterfront park out of the unstable land and pumped all the money that is being spent on the waterfront into a rebuilt central library, corporate recruitmeny program, aggressive build-up of downtown Bellingham. Is their a running ticker somewhere of how much money has been spent on the waterfront pipedream?