Ringing out the old: 2015 in Blaine and Birch Bay

January

Whatcom County appointed its first Native American superior court judge. Raquel Montoya-Lewis took office on January 20.

The Lummi Nation formally requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deny a permit to SSA Marine for its Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point.

Evergreen Cannabis, Blaine’s first retail pot store, opened for business on January 23.

Blaine resident Douglas Benton, 53, was killed in a hit-and-run accident near the SR-543 truck crossing on January 22. Police arrested 26-year-old Andrey Kirichkov hours later.

Volunteer Center of Whatcom County gave Blaine Food Bank founder Bert Isackson the first-ever Bert Isackson Award. The award will be handed out annually to commemorate exceptional volunteer service.

A new NEXUS processing center opened in Birch Bay Square. The new center can process larger numbers of NEXUS passes at a convenient location near the border. Within a month, the center was credited with dramatically reducing wait times at the border.

The trial for Birch Bay resident Lesley Villatoro began January 29. Villatoro was accused of aiding and abetting her boyfriend, Chad Horne, in an attempted murder that ended with Horne’s suicide.

February

Voters approved a $45 million bond for the Blaine school district. The bond, which was approved by a margin of 69.7 percent, will go towards a massive remodel of Blaine High School, as well as additional improvements to the other school facilities.

The Canadian dollar dropped below 80 cents on the U.S. dollar on February 10, the lowest the loonie had been in six years. Retail specialists voiced concerns about the impact the decline in value would have on Whatcom

February: Runners gather in Birch Bay State Park to compete in the Birch Bay Marathon.  Photo by Steve Guntli

February: Runners gather in Birch Bay State Park to compete in the Birch Bay Marathon.
Photo by Steve Guntli

County retailers. The loonie would continue to drop throughout 2015, going as low as 73 cents on the dollar by December.

Blaine City Council revived talks about a passenger rail stop in Blaine. Talks about building a station had gained momentum in 2012 but stalled out.

Steve Seymour and his son Mark cut the ribbon on the new storefront for Drayton Harbor Oysters on Peace Portal Drive.

Lesley Villatoro was found guilty for complicity in six felonies. She would later be sentenced to 43 years in prison.

March

Whatcom County councilmember Sam Crawford announced he would retire from the council effective March 1. Kathy Kershner, Satpal Sidhu and Jim Cozad applied to finish out his term, with Sidhu ultimately winning the appointment.

Construction crews began renovations on Telescope Beach in Marine Park. The city would clear much of the rubble from the shoreline and clean up the wild plants blocking access to the beach.

Mary Lou Steward was sworn in to the Blaine City Council. Steward stepped in to finish out Clark Cotner’s term.

Canadian citizen Xiao Ju Guan was sentenced to 30 months in prison for smuggling endangered rhino horns through Blaine and Point Roberts.

April

On April 1, sections of western Drayton Harbor were opened for clam, mussel and oyster harvesting. That portion of Drayton Harbor had been closed off since 1999, due to toxicity and health concerns.

Blaine High School student Nathan Smith won Best Male Musical Soloist at the Washington Thespian State Theatre Convention.

Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 agreed to donate $30,000 to finish the Boys & Girls Club pavilion project in Blaine.

Blaine school district canceled classes on April 24 to allow the teacher’s union to participate in a statewide walkout demonstration. Blaine joined eight other school districts around the state in the protest, which called for smaller class sizes and a higher rate of pay for teachers. The Blaine teacher’s union spokesman emphasized the teachers were happy with the administration in Blaine, and their participation in the protest was an act of solidarity and not in response to any specific complaint.

s March: A great blue heron takes flight over Drayton Harbor. Photo by Steve Guntli

March: A great blue heron takes flight over Drayton Harbor.
Photo by Steve Guntli

Blaine city council rejected bids from construction companies on the Marine Park playground. The bids came in much higher than projected, and the city decided to give community planners time to pare back the expenses before resubmitting the bids.

May

A woman led police on a wild chase through Blaine in a stolen school bus. The woman, who stole the bus from Stanwood-Camano Island school district, crashed the vehicle in Marine Park before fleeing on foot, diving into the bay and attempting to swim to Canada. Blaine police and Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office deputies were able to convince her to come back out of the frigid water and took her into custody.

NWFR chief Ron Anderson resigned his position amidst increasingly tense union negotiations.

An E. coli outbreak that originated from the Milk Makers Festival at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden affected more than 55 people. Most of those who fell ill were first and second graders from throughout the county, who had been brought to the festival on a field trip.

The state posthumously honored two Blaine border guards for their involvement in a deadly shooting at the border crossing in 1936.

Blaine High School drama students debuted “Soldat: A Bittersweet Alchemy,” the school’s first-ever original, student-run production.

Blaine High School students turned to crowd-funding website GoFundMe.com to raise money for their senior skip day. Seniors raised enough money from local residents and businesses to hold their own all-inclusive picnic for outgoing seniors in Bellingham.

Hundreds of employees of PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center went on strike after wage negotiations broke down. After the 24-hour protest, the striking employees were blocked from entering the hospital for another two days as temporary employees finished out their contracts.

Blaine man Kyle Green, 30, died after driving his truck off the pier on Marine Drive. Police ruled the death a suicide.

Blaine Marina, Inc. closed after more than 60 years. The business served as a crab and fish buyer and a refueling station for local fishermen. Over the years, the company also sold everything from kitchen appliances and furniture to groceries and real estate.

s May: Police help Elizabeth Jane Ray out of Semiahmoo Bay after she crashed a stolen school bus in Marine Park and attempted to swim to Canada.  Photo by Molly Ernst

May: Police help Elizabeth Jane Ray out of Semiahmoo Bay after she crashed a stolen school bus in Marine Park and attempted to swim to Canada.
Photo by Molly Ernst

June

City and county officials broke ground for the Boys & Girls Club pavilion project.

An Everson man was killed in an accident while working at Blaine’s Golden Nut Company.

Bellingham rejected a cost-sharing proposal for a new Whatcom County jail in Ferndale. Their reluctance to sign on to fund the jail called the whole project into question.

The Northern Light celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Two teenagers were killed and two more were injured in a devastating car wreck near Ferndale’s Windward High School. A car struck the teens as they were walking back from a gym class exercise. The driver of the vehicle, Bellingham resident William Klein, had fallen asleep behind the wheel. Klein was charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. His trial is ongoing.

The Hands Across the Border event at Peace Arch State Park returned after a long hiatus. The event brought together Boy and Girl Scout troops from either side of the border.

Elizabeth Jane Ray, 54, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for the high-speed bus chase and crash on Marine Drive in Blaine. Ray pleaded guilty to third-degree assault, possession of a stolen vehicle and attempting to elude police.

Birch Bay man Morgan Ritchie attempted to disembowel himself after a drunken altercation with his wife. Police were able to save Ritchie before he could cause too much damage, and brought him to the hospital.

NBA player and Blaine native Luke Ridnour made national headlines after being traded a record four times in one week. After landing with the Toronto Raptors, Ridnour ultimately decided to sit out the 2015–16 season.

Read part two of our 2015 retrospective next week. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

4 × 4 =