Comment period begins on cleanup of Blaine Harbor site

Published on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The decaying wooden bulkhead at the Blaine Marina Inc. site has caused portions of asphalt above the bulkhead to cave in. The building to the right will most likely have to be demolished. Photo by Jeremy Schwartz.



Local residents have until May 9 to comment on a draft agreement that outlines cleanup bulkhead repair requirements for property on the western end of Blaine Harbor.

The Port of Bellingham, which owns the land, and the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) are teaming up to clean up the site where Blaine Marina Inc. is located. The property sits between MacMillan and Sigurdson avenues, adjacent to the Boundary Fish Company property.

The draft agreement sets out what the Port of Bellingham must do to clean up the site must include in a later feasibility study and analysis of cleanup options for the site, DOE spokesperson Katie Skipper explained. The site, which is home to three large, aboveground fuel storage tanks, has seen the accidental release of gasoline and diesel fuel over the years, including a 1990 spill of 500 to 700 gallons of diesel.

The property has been considered a high priority for cleanup over the past three years due to a failing wooden bulkhead that is supporting underground fuel lines and preventing petroleum-contaminated soil from falling into the harbor, said Mike Stoner, the environmental programs director for the port. The first step of the project will be replacing the decaying bulkhead timbers with sturdier sheet metal pilings.

“We want to make sure there’s not a release into the harbor if the bulkhead fails,” Stoner said.

The comment period for the draft agreement is the public’s chance to offer input on anything that may be missing from the agreement, Skipper explained, but similar agreements in the past have seldom been controversial. The agreement offers details on the site itself and will act as a roadmap for the bulkhead replacement project.

“People can look at it, and they can tell us if we missed something,” Skipper said. “The public can see what government is doing with its property.”

The port expects to begin work on the bulkhead in June, after the project goes out to bid, Stoner said. He believes the bulkhead repair alone will cost about $120,000.

The port is eligible to receive up to 50 percent in matching state and local grants available for cleanup of publicly owned sites, Skipper said. This money comes from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances, mostly paid by the state’s refineries.
“It’s an incentive for publicly owned sites to get cleaned up,” Skipper said.

Mike Dodd, whose family has operated Blaine Marina Inc. on the site since the 1950s, said he will be glad to see repair work on the bulkhead begin. He said he has been after the port for years about the repair work that he sees as desperately needed.
“I’m a little shocked [the bulkhead] hasn’t gone sooner,” Dodd said. “Especially with all the heavy trucks traveling this road.”

The bulkhead repair is just the first step in a cleanup process that will begin in earnest next year. Stoner estimated the study and analysis alone could cost around $400,000. The entire cleanup process will include several other opportunities for public comment.

To access the draft agreement, visit the DOE website. The document is also available in hard copy at the Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Avenue, and the DOE’s Bellingham field office, 1440 10th Street.

Send written comments to DOE site manager Jing Liu at jing.liu@ecy.wa.gov or 3190 160th Avenue SE, Bellevue, WA 98008. Liu can also be reached at 425/649-4310.