Another year has come and gone ...

Published on Tue, Dec 31, 2013 by Ian Ferguson

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Nationally and internationally, 2013 was a strange year of viral videos, government gridlock, twerking and the Harlem shake. A Toronto mayor admitted to smoking crack cocaine while in office but refused to leave his position. Legislators shut down the U.S. government for half of October in an attempt to prevent a law that was already passed from taking effect. Obamacare came to fruition anyway, only to disappoint universally with a glitch-infested rollout. Syria, Nigeria and the Central African Republic descended deeper into bitter civil unrest. Miley Cyrus happened.

Locally, things progressed on a more even keel, despite a changing of the guard in many areas of local government. Blaine said goodbye to one city manager and welcomed a new one. Republicans Kathy Kirshner and Bill Knutzen were voted out of the county council, as progressives swept up all contested seats. Semiahmoo Resort reopened under new ownership, and several other area businesses changed hands.

Join us in taking a look back at the local news highlights of 2013.

• PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center opened a new $23 million cancer center in Bellingham.
• Blaine students used their musical and acting talents to promote cancer research.
• Many area pharmacies and doctor’s offices ran out of flu vaccines just as the flu season arrived.
• Port of Bellingham commissioner Jim Jorgensen was selected to serve as president of the port’s board of commissioners for 2013.
• Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic announced his retirement.
• The scoping process got underway for the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility project.
• Adrian Montelongo and Jose Santo were arrested after admitting to shooting a man in the parking lot of the Golden Nut Company in Blaine in 2011.
• The Arts & Jazz festival raised more than $9,200 to support the arts in the Blaine school district.
• Developer Ken Imus, angry at a Blaine City Council decision to reinstate connection fees, pulled the plug on all of his Blaine projects. 

• The annual Hands Across the Border event was canceled due to insufficient funds.
• Jack Niemann, owner of the Black Forest Steak House in Blaine, opened CJ’s Beach House restaurant in Birch Bay. 
• Blaine resident Leo Wegner won $280,000 in a lottery.
• The Blaine High School Wind Ensemble performed at the 2013 Funabashi Music Festival in 
• Bronwyn Crossman, a native of Bellingham, set a women’s course record in the Birch Bay Marathon with a time of 2:53:12.
• Kenneth Cassell was apprehended in Bellingham after a fire at his Birch Bay residence sparked a manhunt.
• The Blaine boys high school wrestling team placed eighth in the state 1A tournament at the Tacoma Dome. Sophomore Olivia Adams competed in the girls state wrestling tournament.
• The Blaine girls basketball team was defeated by Castle Rock in the regional round of the state tournament.

• Via Birch Bay Café reopened after repairing extensive damage from a winter flood.
• The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) and the Port of Bellingham agreed on steps to clean up the Westman Marine site in Blaine.
• The historic Plover ferry returned to service after its engine was replaced.
• Whatcom County Council voted 5–2 to purchase 8,884 acres of land east of Bellingham from the state department of natural resources to create a park.
• The Pacific Arts Association speakeasy benefit raised $9,000 for the Blaine Jazz Camp and Festival.
• James Wynstra, founder of Homestead Northwest, was fined $100,000 after defrauding investors of more than $65 million.
• Residents on Birch Bay Drive voiced concerns about the right of way  delineations as county engineers plotted out the original course of Birch Bay Drive during scoping work on the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility project.
• Blaine Visitor Center manager Carroll Solomon announced her retirement.
• Advocates lobbied for a new Amtrak stop in Blaine as the state department of transportation updated its long-range rail plan.

• Government agencies began reviewing a 140-page report summarizing the nearly 125,000 public comments received concerning the scope of the environmental impact statement for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.
• A man armed with a handgun was arrested in Abbotsford after U.S. Border Patrol agents said he shot at them east of the Sumas border crossing.
• Whatcom County Council voted to fund the Baker to Birch Bay tourism promotion for four years.
• Sierra Club and its partners filed an ‘intent to sue’ document against Burlington National Santa Fe Railway and several coal companies for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
• Ground was ceremonially broken for the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education in Birch Bay State Park.
• Ken Oplinger, Blaine city council member and president of the Bellingham/Whatcom County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, announced his resignation to take a position in southern California.

• Vonna’s Purple Fin Restaurant opened in Birch Bay.
• The public was invited to comment on the scope of the environmental impact statement for the proposed site in Ferndale for a new county jail.
• Beaches in north Whatcom County were closed to shellfish harvesting due to unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning biotoxin detected in molluscan shellfish.
• New developers completed construction of the Marin condominiums on Semiahmoo.
• A span of the Skagit River bridge on I-5 collapsed after being struck by a semi-truck, sending two cars plummeting into the Skagit River. No life-threatening injuries were sustained, but traffic on the state’s only north-south interstate route was impacted for months while repairs were completed.
• Dave Wilbrecht was hired as Blaine’s new city manager.
• The Blaine boys golf team placed third in the 1A division at the state tournament.
• The Blaine girls softball team was defeated by Mount Baker in the Tri-District tournament, ending their season with 17 wins and nine losses.
• Blaine sophomore Olivia Adams won the 1A state championship in girls pole vault by clearing 11 feet at the state meet.

• A transient black bear was sighted numerous times from Semiahmoo to Ferndale. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials eventually captured and relocated the bear to eastern Whatcom County.
• Birch Bay resident Kenneth Cassell was found not guilty of starting the fire that destroyed his home earlier in the year.
• Hundreds of spectators and competitors gathered for the sand sculpture competition in Birch Bay.
• Community to Community, a farmworkers’ rights organization, filed a civil rights complaint against the U.S. Border Patrol and the cities of Blaine, Lynden and Sumas for discriminating against Latino residents who use 911 emergency services.
• Wright Hotels, Inc., a regional hotel asset management company based in Seattle, purchased Semiahmoo Resort and its two golf courses for $19.5 million. Semiahmoo Resort had been closed since December 2012, and managers announced plans to rehire staff and reopen by the end of the summer.
• The Merry Go Round consignment shop opened in Blaine.
• More than 137 pounds of cocaine were seized by the Canada Border Service Agency at the Pacific Highway border crossing.
• The Delanco, a 92-foot tugboat, ran aground in Semiahmoo Bay due to a piloting error.
• Blaine’s Subway restaurant celebrated 20 years in business.

 Munger Farms, a property owner in west Semiahmoo, requested an amendment to the city of Blaine’s zoning text to allow blueberry farming on their property, but city planners denied the request after an uproar of opposition from Semiahmoo residents.

• A Blaine man was kidnapped and held captive in a Seattle suburb after he pulled over at a gas station while suffering a seizure on his way home from a visit to a Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Seattle. Two men were charged with unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping and vehicle theft.
• A Blaine man was sentenced to more than three years in prison for providing heroin and methamphetamine to a 14-year-old girl.
• Professional choreographer Vincent Patterson endorsed the Birch Bay Activity Center and its Zumba program while visiting his sister, Birch Bay resident Leslie Kaeufer.
• The city of Blaine reached an agreement with the Martin family for a utility easement through their property in east Blaine.