I’d like to respond to David Netboy’s article of April 1, 2023, regarding the Port of Bellingham. Since I don’t remember Mr. Netboy ever commenting on the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan, I suspect he moved to Bellingham after that public discussion took place. I did not come from another region. Whatcom County has been my home for 65 years. As a long-time Port of Bellingham observer and often a critic of the Port myself, maybe I can shed some light on this writer’s complaints.
I suggest the writer read the Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan for this waterfront site more carefully. The shipping terminal was always planned to remain a shipping terminal. Mr. Netboy may be surprised by this because he did not read the Comprehensive Plan, which has been agreed to by many, many parties, including the City of Bellingham and community groups. It took forever to negotiate this agreement.
Quote David Netboy: “The extent to which this operation is antithetical to the stated purposes of the Waterfront Plan seems glaring.”
Quote Comprehensive Plan: “Shipping Terminal Area: The existing deep-water port in this 25-acre area will be maintained for shipping, port and industrial related opportunities.”
This is a direct quote from the Comprehensive Plan. The Port is honoring the Comprehensive Plan. If you would like to read the Plan, here is a link:
All readers should check out pages 35 and 36, which lays out what is permitted where. This plan was agreed to by the majority of Whatcom County.
A few thoughts:
One: The Port’s waterfront cleanup projects have actually left the water, land, and air cleaner than when Georgia Pacific operated a pulp mill and chlorine plant on this land. (See photo above) If Mr. Netboy remembered the stench and noise of Georgia Pacific, I doubt he would complain about what the waterfront is now.
Two: The current Port Commissioners inherited agreements produced by previous commissioners and were bound to honor these agreements. The current commissioners have done a damn good job considering some of the ill-conceived plans they inherited.
Three: The shipping terminal has been right where it is now for a century, and it is not going anywhere because it is the only land appropriate for a shipping terminal. Land that is appropriate for a shipping terminal is quite rare, and it improves the economic well-being of the whole region. Further, the shipping terminal is a solid green solution for shipping. A barge or ship burns one third the fossil fuel per ton compared to a semi-truck. There is lots of land for luxury houses with magnificent views. Please do not destroy good paying jobs just because you want a view, and don’t need a job.
Four: Industrial land, like the shipping terminal, produces the best blue-collar jobs, which are important to the youth of our community who do not attend university.
Five: The piles of steel are at the shipping terminal, not in front of the Waterfront District. That scrap comes from Everson, Lynden, and Ferndale and all goes through the regional shipping terminal at the Port of Bellingham. Scrap is a dirty business, yes, but we play a role in making these messes. Scrapyards cleanup our messes, our messes, not somebody else’s mess. Today’s scrapyards are highly regulated and are not the scrapyards of prior generations.
If Mr. Netboy is really concerned about unsightly activities around the new Downtown Waterfront District, maybe Mr. Netboy could call Mayor Fleetwood and get the homeless off City property on Cornwall Street.
Six: We all generate waste and the adults at the Port must balance the books. Every dollar generated at the Port is a dollar that the Port can use to reduce taxes.
Seven: The Comp Plan was a balanced plan that rededicated a third of the GP property to the public for recreation and housing.
Eight: If you live in a nice house with a great view overlooking the shipping terminal, and you do not like working people in your view making noise while they work, then move. Welcome to Bellingham. The citizens here vetted this Comp Plan. These negotiations took years to complete, and I doubt you will find many people who are excited to reopen them for you.