2006 in review: And another year has gone by
• The city of Blaine is once again set back on the construction of the boardwalk project after Blaine property owner Isac Feldstein appealed a Whatcom County Superior Court jury verdict regarding an easement on his property on Peace Portal Drive. In a November 23 ruling, Whatcom County judge Steven Mura granted the city of Blaine a portion of each of Feldstein’s three properties and awarded the Feldstein family approximately $19,000 in compensation. Earlier that year, the city of Blaine had offered the Feldsteins $57,500, which Feldstein appealed, asking for $1 million.
• Blaine city council voted to appoint fellow council member Mike Myers as mayor of Blaine.
• A January 2006 economic study by the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University predicts that upcoming border legislation would likely harm border towns such as Blaine, Lynden and Sumas by requiring all visitors to the United States to carry a U.S. passport.
• A Whatcom County district court judge dropped one of two misdemeanor charges against Blaine high school principal Dan Newell for allegedly tipping off a mother of a Blaine high school student about an impending drug investigation on a Point Roberts school bus in 2003. In February, Newell was sentenced to 240 hours of community service, $1,000 in fines and an 18-month period of deferment, upon the completion of which, the charge was dismissed.
• A chase involving two murder suspects, a high-speed chase and various law enforcement agencies ended in a shootout and a border crossing closure lasting several hours at the Peace Arch port of entry. Two men – Ishtiag Hussain, 38, and Jose Barajaf, 22 – were suspected in the murder of 43-year-old Richmond, California resident Ashok Malholta and were apparently attempting to flee the country. At the Peace Arch, the pair crashed through a roadblock and then veered off the road, crashing into the monument’s base, leaving tread marks throughout the Peace Arch lawn and then continuing west toward the railroad tracks along Semiahmoo Bay. The two were apprehended by Whatcom County sheriff deputies.
• Residents in Birch Bay and Point Roberts continued to cleanup after a storm ravaged several parts of the county and left 1,100 Whatcom County residents without power. In Birch Bay, several residents witnessed water surging up over Birch Bay Drive, completely covering Tsawwassen Loop and Nootka Loop roads and reaching as far as the clubhouse at Birch Bay Village.
• The North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Service (NWFRS) board honored three Whatcom County residents for their rescue of three boys caught in a burning car on I-5 just south of Birch Bay Square. Anthony Lopez, John George and his mother Sue George were each awarded a “Community Life Safety Award” plaque after they managed to pull three Bellingham boys through a car window on December 18, 2005, while gasoline spilled onto the grass around the car and the interior began to catch fire. Shortly after they were pulled to safety, George said she recalled a “whoosh” sound and the car was engulfed in flames.
• After much outcry from Washington businesses located along the U.S./Canadian border, Washington state legislators asked for more time and planning in order to minimize potential economic damage caused by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) legislation that would require all travelers to carry a passport when entering the United States. “I have freely crossed that border my entire life,” said representative Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham), chairing a February 16 joint state senate and House of Representatives work session. “I hope there is some way to focus on a simple way the average citizen is not impeded from the freedom they always experienced crossing the border and continuing our relationship with the people of B.C.”
• After Blaine high school teacher John Freal began teaching advanced placement (AP) classes in calculus nearly 10 years ago, Blaine has become a statewide leader in the AP program, drawing notice from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). State official Barbara Dittrich, who visited a Blaine school board meeting in March, said based on the percent of students in AP classes, Washington ranks sixth nationally and Blaine is near the top of the state.
• A standing room only crowd floods the Blaine Performing Arts Center during a joint memorial for two Blaine teenagers who were killed in a three-car accident February 28 just south of the I-5 Samish Way exit 252 in Bellingham. School officials estimated the number of people in attendance at about 1,200. The girls were also commemorated later by Blaine students who sported pink ribbons in their honor.
• Former Blaine superintendent Mary Lynne Derrington announces her plans for resignation on March 14 to pursue a teaching position offered at Western Washington University (WWU) Woodring College of Education in Bellingham. Derrington said she had plans to teach aspiring superintendents and principals in educational administration programs at the college, as well as complete some research and publications. Derrington called her former Blaine post “a dream job for her successor.”
• After much scrutiny from developers and local businesses, Blaine City Council voted during a March 13 meeting to allow more flexibility to developers and allow projects completely outside the specifics of downtown regulations, so long as they stick to the city’s vision for the area as outlined in the city comprehensive plan. “The answer lies somewhere between having total flexibility and good criteria,” said Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic, who suggested that a relaxation on building restrictions could jumpstart stalled downtown development.
• U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-Washington) met with other members of the International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC), a coalition of business and government entities from Canada and the United States on March 22 in Bellingham to discuss the potential economic impact of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. Larsen said he spoke on behalf of Washington business and the need to balance domestic safety with cross-border economic issues. “Our borders are about security, but they are also about commerce,” he said. “Up to $1.2 billion per day in trade crosses the border between U.S. and Canada.”
• A group of 20 individuals met with Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic to pursue a sister city relationship between the city of Blaine and Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Pugwash is internationally known for its conferences that aim to promote peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world. The group was spearheaded by Blaine resident and historian Richard Clark. Clark is also the author of two books chronicling the history of the Peace Arch State Park and the Peace Arch Monument. Their efforts will later be voted down twice by Blaine city council being dubbed “too political.”
• Undercover federal investigators working for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are successful in sneaking enough radioactive material through a U.S./Canadian border crossing in Blaine to make two dirty bombs. According to U.S. Senate Committee testimony GAO investigators were able to transport two containers of cesium 137 in the trunk of a rental car using forged official documents permitting its transport. The forged documents were made with the help of a GAO graphic designer and an “off-the-shelf” computer program.
• Bellingham developer Joel Douglas’ 22-unit Seascape Condominium project hits another snag when his appeal of two city-issued stop-work orders were denied. The city contended that Douglas had begun site work before having an approved site plan and stormwater management plan.
• Supporters of a proposed sister city relationship between Blaine and Pugwash, Nova Scotia, faced a disappointing snub from city council when they voted 3-1 that such a move would be “too political.” Then-mayor John Liebert was the only council member who voted in favor of the proposal.
• Authorities on both sides of the border hold a press conference at Peace Arch State Park to announce the arrest of 14 U.S. and Canadian residents, including one Washington resident, who were involved in a human smuggling ring that brought as many as 60 individuals into the United States over the past year.
• A 27-month-old Birch Bay toddler returns home after being bitten by a dog at a preschool in Birch Bay. Jayden Lynch suffered dog bites to the face and scalp that required 14 stitches and four staples to close the wounds. Jayden’s mother, Deanne Lynch, later told The Northern Light that the preschool’s insurance had covered all of her son’s medical expenses and that Jayden had recovered fully from the incident.
• A Portland, Oregon-based marketing firm, Realty Marketing Northwest, announces their plans to auction the former Birch Bay Golf Course located behind Birch Bay Drive near the Blue Fish restaurant.
The 87-acre site was formerly owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Grand Ronde, Oregon and was later purchased by Homestead Northwest, a Ferndale-based developing company.
• Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, visits Blaine as part of a safety review panel formed by British Petroleum (BP) to hear comments from county officials about worker safety at BP’s Cherry Point refinery.
The panel was formed in 2005 following a series of accidents at the company’s Texas City, Texas refinery that caused 18 deaths.
• British Petroleum’s (BP) Cherry Point refinery in Ferndale settles an environmental lawsuit that began six years ago regarding an extension to the refinery’s deep-water pier. Environmental groups cited the refinery’s violation of the Magnuson Amendment to the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act that restricts tanker traffic to the current demand for crude oil. The settlement allowed BP to continue with the use of the dock while they agreed to fund a $1 million study of oil risks and tanker traffic safety.
• Blaine resident and historian Richard Clark makes a second plea to Blaine City Council to reconsider a proposal to forge a sister city relationship with the city of Pugwash, Nova Scotia. “It was like trying to get a constipated child to take his castor oil,” Clark said of his efforts to promote the idea. In April when the council had a chance to vote, only council member John Liebert voted in its favor.
• The city of Blaine celebrates the completion of the first phase of its boardwalk project with the ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly finished Harborside Plaza at the corner of H Street and Peace Portal Drive. The next two phases will include the expansion of the current boardwalk and a pedestrian bridge connecting the boardwalk to a future park near the boat launch on Milhollin Drive.