By Oliver Lazenby
The Port of Bellingham is gearing up for construction projects in Blaine this fall that include demolishing and rebuilding a marine storage building, creating a new stormwater treatment swale and extending the promenade trail about 715 feet from the eastern end of the harbor to the public boat launch at the end of Milhollin Drive.
The port hopes to start construction in September and finish in mid-January 2019, said port engineer Jon Gibson at a June 5 commission meeting.
The Port of Bellingham is already working with the city, which has to permit the work, on a design review, Gibson said.
Demolishing a weblocker in the marine industrial part of the marina and building a new one south of the harbor’s other two weblockers on Milhollin Drive is the biggest portion of the upcoming construction.
Weblockers are dry storage buildings typically used by commercial fishers to store marine equipment. The three weblockers at Blaine Harbor get a lot of use and are mostly full, said Adam Fulton, port director of facilities.
Demolishing the weblocker will make room in the industrial area for more marine businesses; several businesses in that area are interested in expanding, according to the port.
The size and design of the new weblocker would be similar to the others. The port hopes to have murals of old cannery labels on the building.
“We’d like to include those because they’re really quite interesting and I think people would really react to them,” said Jeff McClure, the port’s architect for the project.
Since the port will be adding pavement near the weblockers, it’s required to build some stormwater infrastructure. Port staff proposed building a stormwater swale with a trail running along it from the current promenade through the harbor, along the water, out toward the public boat launch at the end of Milhollin Drive.
The port isn’t required to build a swale – alternatively, it could build smaller landscaping features aimed at controlling and filtering stormwater.
“We feel we have the opportunity here to do the right thing [by building a swale]. We have a parking lot right there with vehicles traveling over it every day and that feeds directly into the bay,” Gibson said.
Port staff is also considering solar panels for the new weblocker’s roof, or at least building it so that solar panels could be added later. Commissioner Bobby Briscoe suggested they first check with solar panel manufacturers to see if panels can withstand clamshells dropped on them – a common phenomenon due to seagulls and other birds at the harbor.
The port has $2.6 million budgeted this year for the project but staff estimates it will cost nearly $3.2 million total. The project may be built in two phases, with some pavement and stormwater infrastructure coming in a second phase.