Correction: This was originally written 'off the cuff' as a comment on the Herald article hyperlinked below. I mistakenly misremembered the Port's marketing consultant as the Gilbert Group. Today's Seattle Times reminded me that it was actually the Herbert Group. James D. Herbert has been charged with ramming a juvenile on an ATV with his Ford explorer, breaking his shoulder, then approaching the injured youth and threatening him with an ax.http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2013/03/bellevue-firm-ceo-charged-with-threatening-boy-with-axe/
Living wage jobs require water supply and treatment capacity. These exist in abundance on the central waterfront, abandoned by G-P. They include a large stainless steel pipe from Lake Whatcom capable of delivering more water than the rest of the city uses, an aerated treatment lagoon of about 26 acres, an outfall far from the nearshore habitat, and a state-approved mixing zone that will make compliance easy and spare the shoreline. Shouldn't local officials try to recruit business with the prospect of surplus water and treatment capacity? They can't. The Port of Bellingham wants to turn the lagoon into a marina. Take away any part of the system - supply, treatment, discharge - and the entire asset becomes useless. That's the official plan and considerable government art has been required to get there.
Initially, the port avoided discussing conversion of the G-P treatment lagoon into a marina by keeping it in the No Action Alternative. Even the Department of Ecology said that wasn't right, but the tactic allowed the port to specifically refuse to consider questions about the treatment capacity of the lagoon. The then city public works director questioned this repeatedly in the margins of his copy of the plan. Much later, the city and port jointly adopted a new “Framework and Assumptions.” These prominently featured the marina but adroitly sidestepped renewed scoping for comments regarding conversion of the lagoon. Port and city policy both intend to deprive the public of the value of these utilities, while saddling the rate base with the future cost of replacing what we already have - all without discussion.
Some say the G-P lagoon won't work. I say, prove it. No one will even consider trying. A past mayor even promised an independent scientific review that never happened. The port misrepresents it as an industrial waste lagoon in need of remediation. But it requires nothing to continue treating water. That's already approved. Even if it's not the best technological solution, it's still the best 'upland' site downgradient from almost all of Bellingham. It's larger than Post Point where most sewage is pumped from this exact location at considerable public expense. Periodically, when the sewer is overloaded, raw sewage dumps into Whatcom Creek precisely at the northeast corner of the lagoon. Why just dump it in the creek's mouth?
Because the port want's a marina. To prevent dumping, the city - not the port - will spend tens of millions to build large concrete boxes to store excess sewage volumes. These boxes eventually pump back into the system but will require physical maintenance after every use. It's an expensive, maintenance-intensive alternative. Neither the port nor city seem to care how much abuse they heap upon our water/sewer rate base.
Now, let's go to Hilo or Waikiki, or many places in the world that have already been ravaged by tsunamis. They now have generous public shoreline open spaces that are key assets in their ability to attract tourism and business and support their economies. We are overdue for our earthquake. NOAA recently modeled tsunami effects for Bellingham Bay and found surprising areas of amplitude. We are not immune. Google tsunami bellingham. Has our waterfront master planning taken this into account?
The Waterfront Group was the first consultant hired by the port. They are indisputably the world's foremost authorities on waterfront redevelopment. They wrote the books. They said don't be stingy on the public waterfront. A generous public waterfront will be more valuable than development in the long run. They suggested First Nations be featured in place naming and public art. The port drove them to the airport and threw their report in the trash. Then they hired Gilbert to recommend riding the real estate bubble with fine condominiums, foo-foo boutique retail shops and bay view office buildings. Somehow, six Bellis Fairs might be absorbed without wrecking commercial property markets throughout town and consigning the future of downtown to the port. Somehow eventual tsunami wreckage is better than a broad public shoreline.
In the wake of the burst bubble, public officials would be well advised to review the Waterfront Groups recommendations and start recruiting living wage jobs with the surplus water supply and treatment capacity we currently have at our disposal. Even clean industry needs water and treatment. Foreclosing our ability to host living wage jobs so the port can build a marina for forty to sixty foot yachts is not in the public's best interest. Jigglepoking environmental review to secretly shift capacity replacement costs to the rate base is insult upon injury.