2008 In Review A Look Back At 2008

Published on Thu, Jan 1, 2009 by Pat Grubb

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2008 In Review
A Look Back At 2008

By Pat Grubb

Stock market meltdowns, housing price meltdowns, Ponzi scheme meltdowns – if there is truth to the old adage that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, then for sure we don’t want to take the chance of repeating some of the disasters that occurred in 2008.
Thankfully, there were plenty of good things that happened in 2008, especially to the good folks of Blaine, Birch Bay and Custer. Here to help us remember those events is the 2008 Year in Review.


• Drayton Harbor Maritime had the century-old Blaine railroad depot surveyed by engineers who declared it fit to be moved in order to become the proposed Blaine Station Waterfront Center. The building would house the Plover ferry office as well as other programs, if approved.

• An avalanche near Church Mountain killed two snowmobilers on New Year’s Day. Custer resident Danny Woods, an experienced snomobiler and “a real pioneer in the snowmobiling community,” was killed when the avalanche swept down on five people.

• Blaine and Birch Bay announced plans to step up water conservation efforts.

• Bonnie Onyon was sworn in as Blaine mayor along with new council members Scott Dodd and Harry Robinson.

• Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, speaking to reporters, said it was time for citizens to “grow up” and accept the need for passports when crossing the land borders into the U.S.


• Senator Patty Murray and 18 other senators called on Chertoff to delay implementation of new border I.D. requirements, to no avail.

• Former Blaine mayor and two-term council member and long-time airport supporter Mike Myers resigned due to health reasons.

• Little to no impact was experienced as new border I.D. requirements went into effect.

• The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for a Birch Bay Village resident after his unoccupied boat ran aground on Lummi Island.

• Blaine city council unanimously approved ward redistricting and approved a $1,500 contract that would establish a youth sailing program in a 3-2 vote, council members Scott Dodd and Jason Overstreet dissenting.

• Blaine wrestler Shane Hicks won the state heavyweight wrestling championship while Jacob Humphrey nabbed a second-place finish. In all, seven of the 12 Blaine wrestlers brought home medals.


• Local officials anticipate a boon to local businesses from the impact of the 2010 Winter Olympics being held in Vancouver.

• Plans for a mile-long commuter road connecting Birch Point Road to Semiahmoo Parkway were on hold after a local developer was unable to secure financing for the project.

• School bond requests went down to defeat across the county as local voters, apprehensive about economic bad news, declined to authorize higher taxes.

• Blaine city council agreed to review business license fees after discovering Blaine’s were the highest in the county.


• U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers nabbed some dangerous refugees hiding in a shipment of Vietnamese garden pots: three Lepidoptera moth caterpillars and several Platypodidae wood boring beetles.

• The Whatcom County Council relaxed some, but not all, proposed new inspection rules on on-site septic systems.

• A U.S. CBP agent, convicted of trading sex with a Canadian prostitute in return for a free pass through the border with drug shipments, was sentenced to nearly three years in jail.

• A Berk & Associates consulting firm study declared that residents of Birch Bay could receive higher levels of service than what they currently receive for the same amount of money should they decide to incorporate as a city.

• Blaine school board proposed cuts for the 2008-2009 school year to counter increased costs and decreased revenues.


• The city of Blaine approved the rezoning of the airport property in a 4-0 council vote.

• Whatcom County Council appointed five people to the new Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management advisory committee.

• The Port of Bellingham took an aggressive approach to the Blaine harbor redevelopment, projecting a public investment of roughly $11 million and private development of $115 to 128 million.

• The newly reinvigorated Northwest Park and Recreation District hired an office manager, leased office space and announced an impressive list of summer programs.

• The state DOH declared Drayton Harbor one of 17 shellfish areas considered threatened due to development pressures and coli form contamination.


• John Bates was appointed the new chief agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, Blaine sector.

• Blaine city council delayed a decision on selling the airport. In a later meeting, council voted to sell the airport to Dr. Patrick Rooney and Tom Hayes for $6 million.

• Blaine CBP officers seize $5.5 million in illicit ecstasy tablets.

• A 64-year-old Blaine man was one of 38 individuals arrested in connection with a Canadian drug smuggling ring with ties to the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang.

• Blaine math teacher Mike Shappell received the Reginald Campin teacher of the year award.

• A Birch Bay teen was killed when the steamroller he was taking for a joyride turned over on top of him.

• CBP announced plans to install RFID chip readers at local crossings.


• Over $16,000 in fireworks went up in bangs of sounds and flashes of light in Blaine’s Fourth of July fireworks show.

• The annual Blaine jazz festival opened to record breaking crowds at the public performances.

• A black bear, estimated at three to four years old, was shot and killed after it wandered through a Custer home.

• The GSA announced border traffic detours and delays in connection with the construction of the new Peace Arch border facility.

• Birch Bay’s annual Discovery Days Parade and Festival was once again attended by thousands of fun seekers.

• The Lady Washington brig returned to Blaine harbor.


• Newly formed Semiahmoo Lighthouse Resurrection Society, headed by Brad O’Neill, was appointed the official fundraising entity by Blaine City Council.

• Bellingham developer Rick Osburn submitted a planned unit development called Lincoln Village for a site near the Cost Cutter store.

• Washington state moved to a ‘top two’ election system.

• The Fraser Rive salmon run was deemed a ‘disaster’ for local commercial fishers.


• Blaine city council approved a binding site plan submitted by Blaine developer Doug Connelly and Doug Campbell for a commercial business park on Peace Portal Drive.

• Blaine school district’s WASL test results showed an upward trend.

• After an outcry from Birch Bay residents worried about losing their local deputy, county executive Pete Kremen said no cuts were anticipated for the sheriff’s department budget.

• After serving on the Blaine school board for 11 years, Pebble Griffin stepped down.

• Whatcom County approved the purchase of 54 acres for a new park on Point Whitehorn.

• A $514,000 FEMA grant enabled North Whatcom Fire and Rescue to purchase 84 state of the art self-contained breathing apparatus units.

• Former Blaine high school vice-principal Susan Holmes was appointed to Blaine school board to replace the retiring Pebble Griffin.


• Blaine city council ok’d a feasibility study of the railroad station depot renovation.

• County planning commissioners proposed impact fees for Birch Bay developments.

• A Blaine man pled guilty after posting threatening comments on the Bellingham Herald website.

• The state limited shellfish harvest in a quarter acre of Birch Bay.

• Border Patrol deputy chief Joseph Guiliano was arrested after admitting to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.

• The city of Blaine unveiled a $4.8 million budget for 2009.


• A Blaine man was arrested in Bellingham on suspicion of using a bat against two men who had ‘mooned’ them.

• The county approved wind turbines up to 100 feet tall, a size that would allow residents to power-up an average-sized refrigerator.

• Democrats claimed a landslide victory across the country as President-elect Barack Obama made history as the first Black American to win the nation’s highest office.

• City council decides against increase in property taxes in 2009.

• Northwest Parks and Recreation District held a series of meetings to solicit public input for programs.

• North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Service bid to raise the levy failed by a two to one margin in the November election.


• Blaine city council once again considered closing the skate park down while the school board struggled with project shortfalls.

• Proposed new urban growth area boundaries could impact Blaine and Birch Bay, according to county planner Kate Koch.

• Construction detours and population growth have dramatically increased traffic on H Street, according to Blaine police chief Mike Haslip who announced increased enforcement attention to the school crossings.

• Blaine city council granted an extension to airport developers who were in the process of seeking financing for their proposal.

• Blaine wrestlers captured the state wrestling tourney by 20 points.

• Long-time Blaine high school principal Dan Newell announced he planned to accept a position with state office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.