2015 Year in Review, Part 2

MikeDahlonStilts

July: Mike Dahl entertains the crowd during Blaine’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July. Photo by Debby Harger

July

A number of amendments to the Whatcom County Charter were included on the ballot. The most significant measures called for district-only voting and splitting the county into five voting districts.

Property developer Ken Imus announced plans to revive his renovation projects in Blaine. The developer, best known for revitalizing Fairhaven in Bellingham, is starting by renovating the old Goff’s Department Store building on Peace Portal Drive. The building will hold retail spaces on the ground floor and condos on the upper levels.

The G’ana’k’w Canoe Family, the Lummi Nation and the Semiahmoo Nation used Marine Park as the final destination in a five-day ceremonial canoe journey. The event was marked with traditional native songs, dances and food.

Bellingham resident Autumn Veatch, 16, made national headlines after surviving a plane crash in Okanogan County. The wreck claimed the lives of Veatch’s grandparents and left the teenager stranded alone in the woods for two days. She eventually made it to a highway, where she was picked up, taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries.

August

Birch Bay launched its first-ever Roll Back Weekend, a celebration of classic cars and 1960s culture.

Steve Ibarra was charged for a drive-by shooting near Blaine’s Golden Nut factory in 2011. Ibarra, who had been since 2012 serving a prison sentence for another crime, was formally charged when his previous sentence ended.

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August: The city of Blaine opened a fire hydrant on H and Martin streets for an improvised splash park. Photo by Steve Guntli

Governor Jay Inslee visited Blaine and took a ride on the Plover Ferry. Inslee was in town to discuss ecological issues related to the Drayton Harbor watershed.

Whatcom County legislators Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven added their signatures to a letter from other state Republicans, calling for an investigation into Planned Parenthood. The letter was in response to a series of viral videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of aborted baby parts. While the videos were widely discredited, they remain controversial.

A massive, unexpected windstorm wrought havoc throughout the county on August 27. Winds reached speeds of more than 50 miles per hour, causing damage to trees. Flying debris killed two people in Washington, and people reported millions of dollars in property damage. In Whatcom County, several outdoor festivals were canceled or cut short, including the newly rebranded Discover Birch Bay Days and Crab Fest.

Red tide poisoning shut down crab fisheries all along the Pacific Coast. The increase in toxic algal blooms was likely related to the increased temperatures in the ocean.

The Lummi Nation refused further negotiations with SSA Marine over the Gateway Pacific Terminal, instead calling for a quick rejection of the company’s permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The tribe asserts the GPT would infringe on their federally protected fishing grounds and violate longstanding treaties.

September

Steelhead LNG announced plans to revive a liquefied natural gas pipeline project that would cut through Whatcom County. The pipeline would transport gas from mainland B.C. to Victoria, traveling in the U.S. from Sumas to Cherry Point.

Canadian health officials lifted the ban on importing poultry from Washington state. The ban had been in place for more than a year.

North Whatcom Fire and Rescue named William Pernett its new fire chief. Pernett, who moved to Whatcom County in 2014, had been serving as interim chief since Ron Anderson resigned in May.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) seized more than 700 illegal crab pots from Boundary Bay and Semiahmoo Bay. The WDFW conducts sweeps every few years.

October

Point Roberts Press, Inc. took home a record 21 awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

After several delays, the Marine Park Playground had its grand opening on October 26.

Developer Ken Imus began  preliminary work on a planned shopping plaza on Peace Portal Drive and F Street. Though the city has yet to permit the project, Imus hopes to build a seafood restaurant and public restroom facility.

Gregory Jason Walker robbed U.S. Bank in Blaine, and then waited outside for police to arrest him. Walker’s crime was similar to that of a Bellingham man, Richard Gorton, who on three separate occasions robbed a bank and waited for police. Gorton said he did it because he was facing homelessness and preferred to stay in a jail cell than live on the streets.

November

Proposition 2015-1, which would impose a 0.2 percent sales tax to help pay for a new Whatcom County Jail, failed by a narrow margin in the 2015 general election. Also of note: voters approved nine out of 10 amendments to the Whatcom County charter, including district-only voting and a new five-district electoral map.

After saying no to a proposal to rename G Street Plaza after Bruce Wolf, city council voted to honor the former city councilmember with a commemorative plaque. Wolf died in December 2014 after being struck by a car while walking his dog.

Struggling Bellingham-based grocery store chain Haggen announced plans on November 9 to auction off their core Whatcom County stores. The company faced bankruptcy after an ambitious expansion throughout the West Coast fell apart.

Alcoa reported plans to idle production at its Ferndale Intalco plant in 2016. The company will lay off 465 people, as well as another 415 workers from its plant in Wenatchee. The company cited poor prices for aluminum on the international market as the reason for the work stoppage.

After a disastrous 2014 season, the Mount Baker Ski Area opened for business on November 19, the first ski area in the state to open for the season. Road repairs along the Mount Baker Highway caused some traffic delays for commuting skiers and snowboarders.

Three kittens were abandoned near the Peace Arch border crossing on November 19. Border patrol and Blaine police were able to recover two of the kittens before too long, and sent them to Whatcom Humane Society for care. The kittens recovered and were quickly adopted.

December

Washington representative Suzan DelBene introduced legislation for LGBT Equality Day. If approved, the national holiday will be held on June 26, the date of three significant legal decisions affirming LGBT rights.

Notorious Washington criminal Colton Harris-Moore, aka the Barefoot Bandit, got some help paying his legal debts. 20th Century Fox movie studio paid nearly $1 million of Harris-Moore’s debt, in exchange for the life rights to his story. The movie version of the Bandit’s crime spree is in early production. Harris-Moore is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Whatcom County felt rumbles from a 4.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Vancouver Island on December 29.

Blaine resident Sandra Clifford, 72, was killed in a car accident outside Custer on December 18. Clifford’s vehicle struck a Washington State Patrol car that was parked on the side of the road while the trooper investigated an earlier accident. The trooper, Benjamin Ellis, was treated for a head injury and released.

  1. […] 2015 Year in Review, Part 2 – Bellingham resident Autumn Veatch, 16, made national headlines … from a 4.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Vancouver Island on December 29. Blaine resident Sandra Clifford, 72, was killed in a car accident outside Custer on December 18. […]

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