Define “Mandate”

The Port contends it is mandated to increase revenue and jobs for the Port. But just what does that mean?

The Port contends it is mandated to increase revenue and jobs for the Port. But just what does that mean?

I recently had the pleasure of attending an enlightening presentation by Port of Bellingham Economic Development Director John Michener.  I was trying to understand how a Canadian company that collects and processes scrap metal for recycling and trans-oceanic shipping could have suddenly set up shop at the Port. How had they been allowed to bring in mountains of rusting machine parts and pile them directly at the ends of “view corridors” that were supposed to be one of the glories of our new Bellingham Waterfront Plan? How had this happened at the same time a set of new and flexible Mixed Land Use regulations had been instituted, “…designed to transform (the Waterfront) from its long history of an active industrial site to a new smart-growth urban neighborhood…” What was the Port’s justification for signing a contract with this noisy, ugly, and possibly environmentally hazardous business?

In 2013, City Hall instituted a new zoning category called “Waterfront Mixed-Use.” A few years later, they adopted the “Urban Village” concept and included the Waterfront District. The goals for the Waterfront District, as stated in the 2018 Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan agreement, were to:

“Redevelop the industrial site into a mixed use, waterfront neighborhood providing opportunities for a range of uses and activities…” and “Create a vibrant area that integrates water-dependent uses and open space with new office, retail, services, institutional, and residential uses, and enhances the economy and livability of the area and livability of the area.”

In view of this agreement between the Port and the City, it seems particularly questionable the Port would sign a 15-year contract situating an environmental monstrosity directly in the sight-lines of new condominiums, the Boardmill Building hotel conversion, and Wayfare Park.  

In my experience, when one has questions about an issue, there is no substitute for going to the source, which in this case is the Port officials who solicited and signed this contract. With minor variations, their answer to “Why?” has always been the same: “We have a mandate to increase revenue and jobs at the Port.

The “mandate” to which they refer apparently derives from language in Article VIII, section 8 of the Washington State Constitution authorizing “the use of public funds by port districts in such manner as the legislature may prescribe for industrial development or trade promotion".

But only the most self-serving, parochial interpretation could assume that this section directing “industrial development and trade promotion” should be achieved, solely or predominantly, through shipping. It is an especially implausible assumption since the Port participated in the Master Waterfront Renovation Plan, a plan that significantly reduced the heavy-industry credentials it had earned when it shipped to 600,000 tons of cargo annually. That was back in the “glory days” of the 1970s and ‘80s and was fueled almost entirely by Georgia-Pacific and Intalco. Now, no one wants to talk about those toxic legacies.

Is it possible the legislature actually singled out shipping activity as the most important engine of “industrial development or trade promotion,” for which a Port is allowed to use public funds? What about the myriad other undertakings within the remit of a port authority?

The Port of Bellingham is a major driving force of the economic growth and development of the county. But its power is exercised principally through the Economic Development Organization, separate from the shipping operations. And as one of 39 nationwide Associate Development Organizations (ADOs), it is largely funded by the Department of Commerce to stimulate economic growth. 

This being the case, the role that shipping plays in the overall economic picture of our region should be informed by our sense of proportion and context rather than become a single-minded effort to increase revenue through one strategy.

Mr. Michener, the Port’s economic development director, made clear in his presentation that much of his effort over the years has involved attracting new companies and businesses to Whatcom County. In fact, the goal of the economic development arm of the Port of Bellingham is expressly … to retain and attract livable wage jobs and to assist businesses, entrepreneurs, and local organizations to thrive.”

Mr. Michener’s projects have had considerable success.

Though he was unable to quantify the amount of revenue brought into the county by this program, in examining the various business models represented by firms that were successfully recruited to set up shop here, it seems intuitively clear that the economic benefit to Whatcom County has been substantial. Even more relevant for our purposes, the dollar value of these businesses must dwarf any projections of profit that might be realized exclusively by shipping from the Port. Even if it were possible to ratchet up tonnage to levels above those recorded in the 1970s and ‘80s, would we be willing to make a pact with the Devil in order to get there? Piles of rusting scrap metal? Why not? Bulk shipments of fertilizer? Bring ‘em on. What about coal?

The point is that the shipping terminal should not be regarded as a cash register open to any and every customer willing to sign a contract regardless of what they’re “selling” or whether their activities are compatible with the vision of the Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan. 

View corridors that provide vistas of the bay, islands, and mountains that make our location uniquely beautiful are in danger of being brought up short by an industrial landscape one might have seen in the 1920s. This will be the result if our port commissioners are unable to understand a new role for the shipping terminal as part of the Waterfront Urban Village. The days when the environment was of little consequence and the only goal of the Port was to grow tonnage should be behind us.

There is enjoyment in having an active waterfront and watching large vessels come and go; and yes, increased shipping activity is desirable for job creation. But creating a beautiful waterfront, with its potential for attracting tourism and commerce is more desirable. It may, in fact, be a source of greater revenue: Granville Island vs. Anacortes is not exactly a Hobson’s Choice.

If this is a topic that interests you, please visit our website for more information and ways you can get involved in determining the future of our waterfront. Visit Save the Waterfront 

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About David Netboy

Citizen Journalist • Bellingham • Member since Mar 09, 2023

Retired Emergency Doc with 30 yrs experience at St Joe's between 1987 and 2017.

Comments by Readers

Doug Karlberg

Jun 15, 2023

Dr. Netboy,

You sure have a bit in your teeth on this issue. I have to wonder if yu atteneded any of the planning sessions that happened over a ten year period before this Master Plan was adopted.

Did you attend any of the publicized meeting leading up to this contract being signed?

One of the interesting issues that is illustrated here, is what does a public official do, when a potential project is publicized, and public meeting are held, resulting in a signed long term contract, but then after all this public process, a handful of people protest, but after the contract is signed.

This scenario can happen to any public official, and it puts them in a bind because if they breach the signed contract, then the public/taxpayer is on the hook potentially for millions in damages.

If you did not show up for the public meetings, then don’t you bear some culpability?

By the way, I went up to the Armory on South Hill to listen to the noise when they were loading the ship. I highly recomend that folks take a listen for themselves. I could barely hear any noise from the loading. There was lots of background noise from traffic, planes, trains, that was far noisier. I would imagine that any music concerts on the waterfront generate more noise than this scrap metal ship does.

Folks, go listen for yourself, before you make up your minds. Only takes a few minutes.


By the way, tourism wages are horrible. I doubt that anyone working in the tourist industry even can afford to live in Bellingham. The way housing prices have soared, one has to be rich to live in Bellingham. Because you mention Granville Island, I will tell you and interesting secret. Most people do not know this but right in the middle of Granville Island there is a large cement batch plant with dust and cement trucks going in and out all day long. They learned to live with it because it saves everybody who uses concrete a lot of money in Vancouver.

It doesn’t look like the scrap is stopping the luxury condos going in, or the crowds of people riding bikes and having fun down there adjacent to the scrap pile. What I wonder is if the noise and dirt is so pervasive, then why is there not 1,000 people clamoring for relief, instead of just a handful of complainants?


Doug Karlberg

Jun 15, 2023

I really don’t like it when folks trying to make a point either get the facts wrong or present statements that mislead the reading public.

The land that the scrap metal storage is located upon, is zoned by the City of Bellingham as Industrial Mixed Use. Here is the description from the City of Bellingham. This description matches the scrap use perfectly, but does not match Dr. Netboy’s description above.

“20.37.410- Waterfront District Urban Village - Establishment of Boundaries and Land Use Areas

2.  Industrial Mixed -Use (IND). The Waterfront District Industrial Mixed-Use designation the value and unique character of property with access or close proximity to navigable water and reserves this property primarily for industrial use which depend upon or relate to the waterfront,”

There are not, and never were sightlines thru this property, which was not an oversight when planning this land.

Now one of the primary resons for putting this land back to work producing revenue is so that the Port can pay down the debt for cleaning this site up. This enables the Port to continue to reduce taxes as they have done for alost 20 years now. One of the only additions to your property tax bill that is going down. One of the few government entities to reduce taxes.

Additonal Port customers makes this possible. Parks do not, and all County residents pay for the Port. Maybe we should ask the County residents if they want less taxes or more taxes to accomodate view properties overlooking the shipping terminal.


David A. Swanson

Jun 15, 2023

 Perfect. The brown breeze bringing the  scap heap’s many  oily and corrosive blessings to the kids using the “pristine” Bike pump track. Perhaps it was a aimilar breeze, one  out of the realms of the Fraser River Canyon,  that brought many oily and corrosive blessings to those “pristine” souls responsible for this travesty,


John Servais

Jun 16, 2023


My.  A bit of condescending and marginalizing writing from you towards our writer.  Not what we do here.  A bit in his teeth, you say?  One could say you also have such, given you have posted 10 comments to his last three articles.

You are suggesting that a citizen should not speak up if they have not attended a certain number of planning sessions?  Doug, I attended many of those planning sessions and they were charades put on by the Port.  They went on for years and and always with new twists.  I do not believe a scrap metal shipping business was ever mentioned in any planning session - and that is what this article is about.

A citizen can speak out with full dignity whether they have attended special hearings and even whether or not they have voted.  Yes, IMO.  And per the Constitution.  I have attended hundreds of absolutely useless, deceitful and bogus hearings, and other types of meetings.  And I have been threatened physically by elected officials for what I have said at these meetings.  But the point is - we on this venue respect every writer and commenter and do not cast accusations that they should not speak out.  Or are not qualified to speak out.  

If you disagree with a writer then stick to countering what is in their writing. 

You ask what does a public official “do” when ciriticized.  Doug, they respond respectfully.  And they provide transparency on all that they are doing and plan to do.  And they can provide that information on their websites in a manner that citizens can easily access.  

You ask if not showing up at meetings makes a person culpable.  The answer is no.  We have representative governments because we citizens have our own lives to live.  This is the whole point of electing people with integrity, and with knowledge and values that benefit our communities.  We trust them.  But we do not forfeit our rights of free speech after they are elected.  

Doug, let me explain.  We can communicate with our public officials and our fellow citizens in several ways.  One is attending public hearings.  Another is to organize for community action when a government agency initiates a bad policy or project.  Another is to write.  In revolutionary days the newly invented pamphlet was the most effective manner.  (have you read Common Sense?)  Today the Internet via social media and websites such as NW Citizen are used.  All are legit.  

I also do not like it when folks get facts wrong.  But my feelings are not the issue.  This site is here for respectful discussion.  Make your counter claims without the whining about hurt feelings and about how the other guy is not as qualified as you to speak his mind. 

Doug, I could go on for a many paragraphs countering you on many points.  But my concern is your disrespect for others, and I’ve made that point. There is one more thing.  Doug, I’ll match you on meetings and public involvement anytime over a beer.  You know that. 


Doug Karlberg

Jun 16, 2023


I admit that I am a little frustrated with this issue, but when I went up to the Armory which is directly in front of the ship being loaded, I could not hear a bunch of racket. There was a nice woman sitting there reading a book. I asked her if she could hear the ship being loaded. She said “What noise”.

I encourage people to go listen for themselves, but if folks listen for themselves, they may come to the same conclusion that I did. What noise?

I am not claiming that Dr. Netboy cannot complain all he wants, but I am saying that this property has been under open public process for almost two decades, and if you do not speak up BEFORE there is public action taken, there are consequences. What would the complainants propose the Port does now? Fair question. What is their solution?

I am not asking what a public official is to do when criticized. I did not say that. What I am saying is: What is a public official supposed to do after they have taken action, and then complaints come in after the public hearings, which are intentionally held before action is taken, precisely to prevent this exact sort of a situation?

This whole situation could have been avoided if the complainants would have showed up at one of the two public meetings to complain about this scrap contract being contemplated.

This predicament is not just a Port problem, but can happen to any governmental agency in the county. We hold public hearings for a reason. Today, public hearings are held before any action can be taken. It is a good process. The public is notified, then the public gets to weigh in. In this case. not once, but twice. Then, and only then can officials make a decision.

There are 200,000 people that own the Port of Bellingham, and I don’t see very many of them complaining.

I am a little sensitive on this issue. I was down at the Port of Tacoma visiting a business that has been there for 50 years, and the people in the beautiful view houses have been buying telescopes and watching the businesses on the waterfront looking for minor violations and then turning the businesses into the EPA for not tarping stainless steel fish processing equipment. Petty stuff.

There is only so much land availible for businesses that hire working class people. We fought hard for years and were successful at reserving the shipping terminal and the log pond for industrial land that provides “living wage” jobs, only to have a handful of folks on the hill complain about a plan that was crafted years ago with full agreement by all the public participants.

Bellingham is slowly pricing the working class and the poor out of this town. I don’t think this is fair, nor wise. The shipping terminal and the log pond have been industrial land for 100 years, and it provided for generations of working class families living in Bellingham. I think this industrial land is important to the whole county. A little noise is a small price to pay for jobs that pay more than the minimum wage.

And truthfully, very little noise. Go listen for yourself.

If I cannot hear the noise, the lady reading the book could not hear the noise, and you cannot hear the noise, then what is this all about?


Scott Jones

Jun 17, 2023

If you did not show up for the public meetings, then don’t you bear some culpability?”

You mean the public notice campaign that not even the mayor or city council knew about? Or the notices that possibly went out, hard to tell, in the midst of people dying of Covid? Or the fact that no document portrayed the hell hole that is the Log Pond? I believe it even surprises the Commissioners. 

Two decades of public process

Promises and goals of Maritime use, beautiful parks, residents, hotels, connectivity with downtown and public access to the waterfront. That was the public process. Not a foreign metal rust pile that sits spewing dust.


“why is there not 1,000 people clamoring for relief, instead of just a handful of complainants?”

There are hundreds of people, whom I’ve spoken with alone,  who are confused, bewildered, tired and angry. They’re tired of being berated by the likes of commentors above.


20.37.410- Waterfront District Urban Village - Establishment of Boundaries and Land Use Areas

Port can pay down the debt for cleaning this site up.”

As you can see at, the wrong zone classification was chosen by the Port and sadly allowed by a city planner. The activity is not allowed. To say ‘too bad, so sad’ is not acceptable.


And the debt? The metal scrap is less than 1/2% of annual revenue, and much of the cleanup was paid for by grants.


A little noise is a small price to pay for jobs that pay more than the minimum wage.”

 To poo poo an 8 year old awake until midnight for days straight because of ‘a little noise’ is monstrous. Hundreds of residents from every demographic, and geographic location around the area has complained to the Port and the City. 

 Good paying jobs? What about those workers who can’t safely work because of a lack of sleep. Or the workers on the site breathing in the red dust. Or the 10x more union jobs that construction will bring in in comparison to the Port Jobs created. Did you know that because of the false designation as a Maritime activity, a  SEPA review and other environmental safeguards are not required? 

 Created jobs? I don’t think so. Let’s call it for what it is. Temporarily reassigned from elsewhere for a few shifts a month. I’d love more union jobs, but a statement that gives cart blanc like ‘a small price to pay’ is so yesterday.


I’m happy to go toe to toe with anyone on this . My facts will win out over your bluster anyday.


Doug Karlberg

Jun 17, 2023

Mr. Jones,

With all due respect, I am not blustering. 

In the end what matters is the reported noise. People need to go listen for themselves. That will solve this debate. The miniscule amount of noise on South Hill could in my view, be solved by closing a sliding glass door. But again, simply go listen for yourself next time a ship is in unloading. I don’t think the noise is “montrous” as you assert.

It is my understanding that the Port has hired a firm expert in noise to scientifically measure this noise. This is being done at considerable taxpayer expense. We probably should suspend this debate until the results become availible. We will know then how “monstrous” this noise really is.

Now facts really matter and you are misleading readers on a number of issues.

You continue to mistate the facts. This is not foreign scrap. 80% of this scrap is from four counties, including Whatcom County. Every scrapyard in Whatcom County is shipping through the Port of Bellingham now. There is in the contract a maximum cap of 18.75% of scrap that is allowed from Vancouver Island. This scrap comes in via barge and is never even loaded onto the land, but is loaded directly into the ship via the barge that is tied alongside. Please get your facts straight for the readers. There is zero Canadian scrap in the picture up above. Zero.

Secondly, the zoning for this land was not the “wrong zone classification”. “The activity is not allowed”. This is patently false and a reckless statement. This land was zoned Industrial Mixed-Use intentionally with the full knowlege of the City. I know. I went to the meetings where there was a compromise between the folks who wanted residential (luxury condos) along the waterfront completely destroying this land as a port altogether. This proposal was nixed and a compromise was crafted to ensure that Whatcom County did not lose an international deep water shipping port and the family wage jobs it creates. Frankly, the condos and bike track area was a close call as to whether it was even legal for port to do. Ports nationwide primarily deal with commerce and industry and are not in the luxury condo business.

Third. the Department of Ecology is all over this site, carefully monitoring that ALL environmental laws are being followed. Statements otherwise are irresponsible and designed to rile people up. Call DOE and ask them.

Fourth, grants are not free, and they are funded from state and federal taxpayers. Last I checked the federal, state, and county taxpayers have invested over $70,000,000 into this site. The major cost was cleaning up the site to residential standards, which the log pond area was not.

I never had to look up any of this information, because I attended many of the meetings beginning in 2004. (This is the benifit of attending meetings) I never trusted any of the previous Port Commissioners except Mike McAuley. This is simply the best set of Port Commissioners I have seen in my 65 years of living here. I am 100% certain they will listen and respond to any practical solutions that may mitigate noise. I would hate to see the Port sued for millions by canceling this contract. Losing a millions on a court case, only burdens Whatcom County taxpayers further, on top of the cleanup debt that remains to be paid off.

Folks, please go up to the Armory and listen for yourself.

PS: I don’t think Mr. Jones is blustering, but I do think he has gotten some critical facts wrong, and that erroneous facts need to be challenged so that readers have accurate facts, always.




D. Crook

Jun 17, 2023

I’m curious to learn more about the Port’s exemption from SEPA duscussed in this debate.  I’ve done a little of my own homework on Ecology and Port websites, but not finding much.  It appears that the Port is not categorically exempt from SEPA (?)—is that right?  If so, what is the nature of the SEPA exemption in this discussion?


David Netboy

Jun 17, 2023

The evasion of SEPA scrutiny in this instance is related to the Land-Use category to  which the ABC activities at the Port have been assigned.  You must look at the land use chart describing the “Waterfront District Urban Village-Uses” which you can access by clicking this link:

ABC Recycling has been placed in Land Use E 10 which is designed for operations that can be characterized as “Water-related and dependent industrial uses such as: aquaculture, barge loading facility, boat/ship building, boat repair, dry dock, net repair, seafood processing, cargo terminal, web house, and offices supporting the same” 

This entire category of businesses is entirely exempt from SEPA scrutiny under the present SEPA guidelines.  I am not privy to the complicated considerations that established these guidelines but only to the Rules to which they led.

Our contention is that what ABC Recycling is actually doing at the Port does not fit into that Land Use category.  They are bringing into the port, enormous quantities of scrap metal by truck and barge, piling it up into a mountainous scrap heap and then, piecemeal, over weeks and months trucking it out to the Shipping Terminal where it is loaded onto a bulk carrier and sent off to a trans-oceanic port, usually Asian.  Properly described, ABC Recycling is using the Port as a Storage facility since the average “stay-time” for a piece of metal scrap brought in and dumped on the pile can be weeks to months, given that there will be only 8 carriers per year employed to transport a total of 80,000 tons of scrap, with each vessel requiring 4 or 5 days for loading. 

Our view is that category F11 more accurately describes the ABC operation. However in this category there are further requirements applicable to their activity, one of which is EPA evaluation.  The circumstances surrounding the soliciting of this contract and its negotiation and approval are not available in any document easily retrievable. There was little to no advertised public discussion other than at one or two Port Meetings where public input is severely restricted by House Rules that confine citizen remarks to 2 or 3 minutes and do not require responses from the Port Commissioners.

The confirmation of the absence of public discussion is that in a recent meeting of the South Hill Neighborhood Association at which both the Mayor and a City Council member were in attendance, they both stated that when the ABC operation actually started up, they were as sandbagged as we were since our introduction to the start-up was the sudden presence of very alarming noises from the Port, cacophonous and initially unidentifiable.

This leads to a surmise that the peculiar and inapposite Land Use categorization of ABC Recycling had, for the Port, the singular virtue of bypassing environmental scrutiny. And this trumped all other considerations about where and whether ABC’s operation actually best fit into the zoning scheme.

For this reason we are trying to convince COB to examine the ABC Recycling operation in the way that they should have done before it was made operational.  It is most galling that all this occurred at a time when the Waterfront Sub-Area Plan promised us an Urban Village that reflected the natural beauties of our splendid and unique geographical location.  


Thomas Gilmore

Jun 18, 2023

I suggest that councerned citizens, city government, and the port purchase several

decibel soundmeters and obtain noise measurements at various locations over a month. 

With accurate data a noise mitigation plan can be put in place.  Violations of the noise plan

can be decibel meter monitored 24/7 and appropriate fines assessed for any violations by

ABC Recycling. 



Jeff Hegedus

Jun 19, 2023

Chapter 173-60 WAC, Maximum Environmental Noise Levels, provides guidance on allowed noise, measured at the property boundary, between properties with different land uses. The Health Department used to, and may still have, a sound level meter available for public usage.


John Servais

Jun 20, 2023

Let’s not allow public concerns about ABC Recycling’s scrap heap to be redefined by anybody. Those defending government screwups or corrupt deals often try to redefine, distort, or even change public concerns. 

It is not just some modest, occasional noise. The noise initially attracted the attention of many. But the bigger issue is the Port of Bellingham secretly contracting with a Canadian company to use the waterfront in the middle of our new city park as a junk yard—for the next 15 years. This is not recycling—there is no recycling going on down there. It is re-shipping.


Thomas Gilmore

Jun 20, 2023


I completely agree with your statement!

I am still waiting for someone at the Port or ABC Recycling to answer

the questions that I posted about the contract.  Can this Port contract

be posted at this site for the public to see and comment on?

Thomas Gilmore

May 31, 2023

How many good paying jobs has ABC Recycling actually created in Bellingham?

What do these trucking and recycling jobs pay per hour?

What worker benefits are included?

Are these ABC Recycling jobs unionized?

Why was a 15 year contract granted to ABC Recycling? Why not a 5 or 10 year contract?

Has a clean up bond been posted for when the ABC contract ends in 2037?

What does ABC Recycling pay the Port Authority for the use if this land?

Is the rental fee adjusted annually? In not annually, how often is it renegotiated?

What environmental safe guards have the port staff negotiate into the contract?

Do other ABC Recycling operations have noise reduction clauses in their operating contracts?




David Netboy

Jun 21, 2023

Mr Gilmore,

Your questions are precisely those that everyone who is aware of the presence of this peculiar and anomalous intrusion into our Waterfront Plan should be asking.

The link above should connect you to the Lease Agreement between the Port and ABC Recycling that is supposed to be in Adobe Cloud Storage.  If my computer skills have failed to place it there, please email me directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I’ll send you the pdf from my desktop.  You will note that the “rental fee” which is proportional to the tonnage of scrap processed per year is a proxy for the “annual adjustment” but even so seems cheap measured against the injuries it inflicts on the stated goals of the Waterfront Sub-Area Plan in whose design the Port was a partner with COB


Dick Conoboy

Jun 22, 2023

And in a related development the city of LA just “discovered” this scrap plant’s pollution after the place has operated since 1949 next to a school!

“For generations of students, the grey mounds of scrap metal looming over the school, past the softball field, were a familiar sight. A Guardian investigation last year found that high schoolers had become inured to the sounds and noxious smells coming from the Atlas scrap yard.

“The smell is just very, very nasty,” Genesis Cruz, a 2023 graduate of Jordan high, told the Guardian. “A sharp smell, like thick oil.”

“This high school is contaminated with lead. It blames the recycling plant next door
 Class lectures were punctuated by clangs and crashes coming from the S&W Atlas Iron & Metal Co recycling facility, which has been operating next to the school since 1949. On occasion, shards of metal have flown onto campus, and authorities have found dust laced with dangerous levels of lead – a neurotoxin – and other heavy metals atop sports fields and inside classrooms.”

Good work LA!!  Stories like this make the Port here look good.  And we have a bunch of large dirt bumps and stacks of shipping containers to boast about to boot!  Woohoo!  And who knows what is blowing in the wind down there. 


Doug Karlberg

Jun 22, 2023

Dick and John,

It is with great sadness that I have to disagree with items you have both posted, but facts matter.

First in the woodshed is John. This agreement between the Port and ABC Recycling is not a a secret agreement. This item first made the Port agenda on Dec. 8, 2020 when the Commission authorized an option for the log pond area to ABC Recycling. A full descriptionnnnn of the project was entered into the record at that time. The record can be viewed at

The proposed potential lease to ABC then sat for 19 months while nobody said a word.

Then the Commission took up a final Agreement on June 21, 2022. which is a full 19 months after the Port originally notified the public in writting that this project was under consideration.

Second, I have seen zero evidence that this agreement is somehow corrupt, as John suggested.

Now onto Dick. I cannot believe that he weighed in from Tunisa, but he did with an example of a recycler in LA located next to a school. I read all the court documents and this recyling operation was indeed a very bad actor. Keep in mind that the operation at the Port of Bellinghma is not a recycling operation, taking in hazardous material like lead. As John points out above this is clean steel being simply stored here awaiting a ship. Something that has been dons of this property for over 100 years now.

There is a real danger in letting emotions run high and saying something that is untrue or unfair. The comparison of ABC Recycling to the LA “recycling” operation is simply not fair, unless there is data to back up the hasardous waste similarities.

Let’s keep our reporting standards high. The truth matters and let us make fair comparisons.

The Port can breach this contract tomorrow and make the folks with nice views happy and dancing in the streets, but the Port will get sued for approximately $30,000,000 and lose. My guess is that the 200,000 citizens of Whatcom County will not be dancing in the streets, when they get their property tax bill.

The Port of Bellingham has been steadily decreasing its’ reliance on property taxes, and renting this idle land out for $1,500,000 ayear is one of the reasons our Port’s cut of property taxes continues to go down.

Debate the wisdom of this agreement all you waaaaaant, but let’s keep it clean and factually accurate so that public readers get useful and not misleading information.


Dick Conoboy

Jun 23, 2023


Does this mean we are breaking up? 😊

My point, from my distant - as you indicated- vantage point, is more about how much murderous shit people have to put up with until they yell STOP.  Most often, as in the case of LA, is that the poor get hammered the most. 

When I came here over 20 yrs ago now, I put post-its on boards at grand meetings on port planning, most of which was for naught.  We got sold down the river with Harcourt and are still looking at gravel and dirt (covering heaven knows what) except for the “luxury” apartments being built next to that scree beach and rusted ball… to memorialize what?  I did a short piece on that master work of planning two years ago that readers can access here.

If the port were an animal, it would be put to sleep to relieve its suffering.


David Netboy

Jun 23, 2023


I’ve hesitated to get into this debate when the topic has undergone the usual attrition of having passed through several generations of comments.  However in this instance you’ve managed to return to one of the points I tried to emphasize in my original article which was that there was essentially no opportunity for public commentary nor for the agency scrutiny that would have been appropriate for the intrusion of a Heavy Industry activity into an active DOE cleanup plan and City/Port Waterfront Development Plan.

The fact that the contract surfaced at a Port meeting on December 8 2020 as an agenda item for consideration for approval and existed as a document retrievable at the Port’s Document Center “for 19 months while nobody said a word” precisely confirms my point.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly have no acquaintances that regularly troll the Document Center, trying to keep up to date on the myriads of business and financial items that populate the agenda of the Port meetings, looking for one that might impact their lives.  Unlike COB who informs residents of a neighborhood about requests for a permit for something that may alter the character, traffic flow or in some way break the calm surface of ordinary life in that area, the Port does not appear either to have the same obligation whether by law or out of courtesy to Bellingham residents.

I’m not aware of anyone who has implied that securing of the ABC contract was “corrupt”, nor was it a “stealth” operation.  The absence of public input seems to be the default situation at the Port if the input is confined to the tightly constrained “public” portion of selected port meetings—a Stalinist type exercise I’ve already commented about.

The “stealth” aspect of the signing of the contract had to do with the slight-of-hand zoning decisions that were made in order for ABC to be assigned to Industrial-Mixed Zone 10E thus automatically evading SEPA scrutiny which, given the presently built-in exclusion of opportunity for meaningful Public Comment regarding the Port’s land use plans, is the only safety net that we Bellingham citizens presently have.  

That COB was also derelict in not becoming involved with what the Port was proposing is another important indication of a general failure of the oversight one might have expected after a decade of collaboration between Port and City had finally evolved the visionary Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan.  Why was there no one at the helm?  And why is there still no one who has general authority to see that, at least in broad outlines, the Plan is developing as we all hoped for?

D Netboy



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