By Jami Makan
Construction will soon begin on a new webhouse building to be located in Blaine harbor.
The new webhouse building will replace an existing structure that currently stands farther down the peninsula, adjacent to McMillan Avenue. The current structure consists of 22 units that serve as storage lockers and work spaces for local commercial fishermen.
The replacement structure will be 20,600 square feet and will be located along Milhollin Drive, next to two other webhouses.
It will closely resemble the existing webhouse, and will be constructed by Dawson Construction of Bellingham.
On April 1, 2019 the Port of Bellingham received two bids for the project, which were within one percent of each other. Dawson had the lowest bid.
Following construction of the replacement structure and the successful relocation of the tenants, the next phase of work will be demolishing the existing building and making way for redevelopment of Blaine harbor.
“The main driver for this project is that the existing webhouse is in the wrong location,” said spokesperson Mike Hogan. “Some of the tenants out there want to expand or have better access to the Sawtooth Dock.”
Port tenants in the area include a boatyard and several seafood processing companies, some of which have expressed interest for improved access and expansion of their leaseholds. The port believes this would facilitate economic development and job creation. “The removal and relocation of the existing webhouse is essential towards supporting business expansion and job creation in the Blaine marine industrial area,” said Hogan.
Construction is expected to begin shortly, with a preconstruction conference planned for Friday, May 10. The contract gives the builder 180 days to achieve substantial completion, which means that the new building should be mostly complete by mid-November.
There is high demand for web lockers among the commercial fishing fleet, with a waiting list in the double digits. “We have a really strong commercial fleet, and we have some of the lowest moorage rates in Puget Sound,” said Hogan. “We have a good location close to Alaska, and a strong marine trades community. We’ve historically been a maritime community and always had a good demand for that type of activity.”
The project is not limited to the construction of the new webhouse building. The pavement around the other two webhouses has started to deteriorate and will be repaired and replaced. The entire site will also be treated as one stormwater site. Facilities will be constructed that help filter stormwater before it gets discharged into the bay.
In addition, a water line will be replaced on Milhollin Drive that has had a series of failures. Another aspect of the project is a new gravel trail that will go 1,000 linear feet along the water’s edge. It will connect the promenade with the restrooms at the boat launch. There will also be a gravel storage yard, for the outdoor storage of commercial fishing gear.
The total authorized budget for the project is approximately $4.5 million dollars. The demolition of the existing webhouse building is not included in the contract with Dawson, and will require additional funding in the future.