Year in review 2003

Published on Thu, Jan 1, 2004
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Year in review 2003

The bookstore, basketball and birding ... Gambling, growth, and grub ... Trains, Trillium and tragedy ... A year in the life of Blaine and Birch Bay ...

What do you think of when pondering the past year here in Blaine and Birch Bay? How about Luke Ridnour, growth, sewage, gambling on the spit, birds, logging, derelict vessels, the adult bookstore, shellfish? The news was quite a mix this year, and we�ve rounded out the top stories affecting our community over the last 12 months.

January 16: Blaine�s Marine Park and Birch Bay State Park are listed among 68 of the top birding spots on the newly released map of the Great Washington State Birding Trail�s Cascade Loop. Drayton Harbor received further distinction, as it was one of only four sites on the map designated an Important Bird Area (IBA).

January 23: The first public hearing of the year regarding the cogeneration facility proposed by BP was held at the Blaine library. Residents filled the meeting room, voicing concerns over pollution. Two more public hearings were held during the year.

February 4: Blaine high school�s wind ensemble left Blaine at the crack of dawn, bound for the Funabashi music festival in Japan, after spending months raising funds. The students were the first to represent America at the festival.

February 6: A man attempting to cross the border with two black bears � named Corkey and Pumpkin � was arrested after customs inspectors found 166 pounds of marijuana and $180,000 in cash. The bears were taken to a wildlife center in the state, but have since been transferred to Tennessee.

February 27: Border patrol cameras spotted three men jumping the border in east Blaine, but were apprehended by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on the other side of the line. The men were found to be carrying 41 weapons, $50,000 in cash and numerous diamonds.

March 6: The Trillium corporation announced it entered into a consulting agreement with Skagit Valley Casino Resort (The Skagit) to operate Semiahmoo Resort and its golf courses. Both companies now own 50 percent of the entities; however, Trillium was declared a silent partner and the Skagit tribe is the sole managing partner.

March 20: More than 100 people packed a city council meeting to express concerns over a recent application from Trillium to build 62 condominiums on Semiahmoo spit. Throughout the year, residents continued to voice concerns and after about six months, Trillium made a second application. The public hearing for that application has yet to be scheduled.

March 27: A Blaine teenager, 15-year-old Christopher Walsh, died as a result of a hit and run on Blaine Road while riding bikes with two friends. The driver of the vehicle has not been found. A memorial still stands at Yorky�s, on the corner of Blaine and Drayton Harbor roads.

April 10: The Birch Bay Hostel was back in business, becoming a new non-profit called the Birch Bay Hostel. Managed by the Birch Bay lions club, it is still owned by Whatcom County Parks and Recreation.

April 13: About 500 birders ventured to Blaine and Birch Bay to attend the first ever Brant Festival. Several birding areas were set up at locations along Marine Drive in Blaine, Semiahmoo spit and Birch Bay state park. A second Brant Festival is scheduled for mid-April 2004.

April 17: Nature�s Path was concerned it could lose millions of dollars in sales, and customers could lose a popular product, if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency prohibited foods containing hemp. The plant currently makes hemp granola, a product that accounts for three percent of annual sales. A recent stay granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals, allows Nature�s Path to continue production.

May 1: A border patrol agent making rounds in the gravel pit area near D and Allen streets discovered the body of a deceased adult female. Drugs were found in her system, but there was no sign of foul play. It was determined she died from hypothermia.

May 1: Denny�s Restaurant, the only 24-hour eatery in the Blaine area, closed for business. Representatives didn�t say much, except that the location was financially feasible. For over 10 years, Denny�s stood at 243 D Street and currently there are no plans to re-open another eatery at the location.

May 1: The city of Blaine continued its plans for the construction of a $1.5 million boardwalk on the western side of Peace Portal Drive between G and H streets. City manager Gary Tomsic signed a pre-construction contract with Anvil Corporation for design development and other services.

May 8: A ceremony officially marked the opening of the Blaine pier and wave barrier at the end of Marine Drive. The port of Bellingham spent four years working on the $2 million project.

June 5: Since 1988, local historian Richard Clark has been working on his 400-page book �Sam Hill�s Peace Arch: Remembrances of Past Dreams,� outlining the history of the Peace Arch. The book is complete, but is yet to be published.

June 17: The vessels stuck in Drayton Harbor are there no more. The USA and Liberty vessels, stranded in the harbor for several months, were pulled from the water by Fairhaven Shipyards. City of Blaine officials took it upon themselves to move the vessels, and the city became the first recipient of the brand new Derelict Vessels Act, receiving money for the removal. Remaining costs were split with the Port of Bellingham.

June 23: Blaine city council passed a gambling ordinance prohibiting any form of gambling in the marine planned recreation (MPR) zone. The city began working on the ordinance following the announcement that the Upper Skagit Tribe bought into 50 percent of the Semiahmoo Resort and golf courses. Skagit officials stated numerous times they had no interest in gambling there.

June 26: Luke Ridnour was drafted in the first round by the Seattle Super Sonics. Ridnour, who led Blaine high school on the court, decided early last year to turn pro after his junior year at the University of Oregon.

June 30: Blaine superintendent Dr. Gordon Dolman retires after 32 years in educational service. Taking over his position was Dr. Mary Lynne Derrington, who was most recently a superintendent at Chimacum school district.

July 2: The city of Vancouver, B.C., just 32 miles from Blaine, was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics, beating out Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

July 17: Birch Bay Water and Sewer district was awarded by the Department of Ecology for operating an outstanding water treatment plant. For the fourth year in a row, the district received the honor.

July 24: The state department of health (DOH) identified Birch Bay as one of 20 threatened shellfish areas across the state, according to its early warning system. The system identifies areas that are on the verge of failing public health standards or when the water quality is clearly deteriorating.

July 24: In an effort to enhance downtown Blaine and draw more visitors into the area, the city of Blaine erected the first of its gateway signs. The signs, developed by a committee and a designer, have since been placed in four locations around the city.

July 31: The Birch Bay community repeatedly set water usage records, amid unusually dry conditions. The record high of weekly water usage was 9.2 millions gallons, exceeding 2002�s records.

July 31: The Blaine police department assisted the New York police department in the apprehension of a man wanted on a New York murder charge. William Nmi Li, 25, of Queens, New York, was taken into custody while staying at a Blaine motel on Alder Street. He is the main suspect in a March 2001 homicide of a man in the New York City borough of Queens.

August 27: Students returned to Blaine schools, to find a number of programs had been cut from the budget, including the elimination of turn-out buses and homework centers, as well as a reduction in administrative staff, field trips, drama and coach�s salaries. Summer school for grades K-12 was also cut.

August 28: Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham topped out at 258 inmates � the second time the 138-bed facility had over 250. Sheriff Bill Elfo spreads word to the community that the jail restrictions have become even more restrictive. Individuals on drunk driving and assault charges are now likely cited and not jailed.

August 28: A 13-foot, one-ton healing pole created by Lummi Nation carvers left Blaine for a cross-country journey to Shanksville, Pennsylvania � the site of the September 11 crash of Flight 93. The pole was made from a 650-year-old cedar tree and involved numerous tribal carvers. August 28: The average price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline in Washington state set a new record high � the price of unleaded gas was around $2 per gallon.

September 11: Several members of the Blaine police department were recognized for their work, including police officer Mike Munden and senior officer Doug Balmer. Munden and his K-9 pal Yoschi, a three-year-old German shepherd, was certified as a K-9 master handler. On the fraud front, Balmer was recognized by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for his work in fraud schemes targeting the elderly. Officer Dan Sartain and chief Mike Haslip also attended.

September 25: Train delay complaints were increasingly voiced within the community. City councilman Bruce Wolf brings the issue up at a city council meeting, sparking weeks of debate and two public meetings. The delays were caused by the use of the newly implemented rail Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS) � a measure of homeland security which x-rays all train cargo just south of the junction of Bell Road and Peace Portal Drive.

October 2: Land near Cherry Point is named one of the first aquatic reserves in the state. Aquatic lands next to Maury Island, Fidalgo Bay and Cypress Island also made the list.

October 9: The Blaine Book Company, the last remaining visual of Blaine�s pornographic past, was torn down in less than two hours. The building, erected in 1909, began life as Oertel�s, a community market.

October 16: Blaine city council unanimously passed a $250,000 bond ordinance to be used for the purchase of 5.43 acres of land near the southern end of the Blaine Municipal Airport and the removal of hundreds of trees encroaching into the flight path.

November 4: Jim Jorgensen � a former Blaine teacher for 30 years and current salmon charter operator � was voted in as Port of Bellingham district 3 commissioner, with 70 percent of the vote, beating incumbent Ginny Benton.

November 8: About 150 people joined the work efforts involving the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA), planting over 800 trees and shrubs, including spruce, cedar, willow and cottonwood at Terrell Creek.

November 10: The city of Blaine�s hopes of solving wastewater issues by sending its waste to Canada were flushed. The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) informed the city of Blaine via a letter, that it would not be able to serve the city because it is outside of their service area. Sending waste to Canada had emerged as the preferred alternative to finding a wastewater solution, following months of planning between city staff and the Citizens Wastewater Advisory Committee (CWAC), a group of 10 residents from a broad range of backgrounds.

November 15: More than 75 people attended the ground breaking ceremony at the Blaine skate park site. And even more showed up for an auction later that night, raising an additional $3,500 for the park.

December 4: Mike Campbell, former North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services (NWFRS) division chief, pleaded guilty to rape of a child in the second degree and is currently in Whatcom County Jail, awaiting sentencing.

December 4: In response to a proposed 10-acre retreat-spa on Birch Point Road, residents formed a new organization and are fighting the project through a petition drive. The retreat is proposed by Ellen Shea, creator of the Chrysalis Inn in Fairhaven, and is planned to be a 10-acre secluded site. A public hearing for the matter has been scheduled for Thursday, January 8.

December 18: The Birch Bay community plan was discussed by the Whatcom County planning commission and is expected to be voted on in early 2004. A community meeting has been set for January 10 to discuss the recent land donation from Ken Hertz of Malibu Associates worth $338,000. The meeting will prioritize ideas from the community plan for use of the donation, and attendees will vote on the project.

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