Thursday, May 15, 2014

Notes on the Demise of a Port

John Stark at the Bellingham Herald did a story on how at least part of Bellingham's Port is failing as a port: bellinghams-waterway-cleanup-plan.

Overtime the Whatcom Waterway has silted in such that deep draft ships and not so deep draft barges are unable to dock where desired. A problem at many ports near large rivers. Silt entering the Bellingham Bay from the Nooksack River has partially filled in shore line areas that were previously dredged as harbor areas.

The silt deposits have effectively buried mercury contaminated sediments from past use of the Whatcom Waterway and Bellingham Bay as discharge points for mercury tainted wastewater from the former paper mill in Bellingham. The Port would prefer to leave as much of the buried mercury contaminated sediment as possible where it is. That policy is clearly at odds with some of the shippers that would like to use the waterway.

Mike Stoner, the Port of Bellingham Environmental Director notes in the Herald article that the waterway had been a small barge facility in the past and will remain so. He also noted that dredging  would delay the cleanup of the waterway years and would add a cost of $10 million dollars to the cleanup.

Clearly there is now a demand for a larger barge facility now and the Port is not providing an alternative. The demand for gravel or aggregate shipping in Bellingham should be expected to increase as the area gravel pits near the city are nearly exhausted and there are no other land based sources to replace them. The lack deep draft barge loading will be an added costs to road and construction projects  throughout Bellingham until barge shipping is improved.

In terms of the added costs and delays to cleanup, it should be pointed out that the Washington State Department of Ecology approved a cleanup that included dredging the entire Whatcom Waterway in 2002 - any delay 11 years on now has been purely the result of the Port of Bellingham's actions as the Port very purposely derailed that cleanup plan by moving to condemn the location where the dredged sediment would have been disposed of. I will add that the claims of increased cost of $10 million sounds  bad, but again the original cleanup plan approved by Ecology was estimated at $23 million. The Port of Bellingham's plan is over $100 million. Hence, costs concerns are by no means the driver of this Port turning its back on the very purpose it was supposedly created for.

I have previously posted rather obsessively posted on the cleanup schemes for the Whatcom Waterway:
 bellingham-bay-cleanup-planning-15 years on
bellingham-bay-cleanup-death-of-Alternative J

1 comment:

Geoff said...

I agree with you on this one. The Port sounded more lame than normal in the article. We can make all these exceptions for rich yacht owners, but when it come to jobs, we have some whiny excuse. I hope they re-look at this.