Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Washington Ports See Pier Improvements


Bellingham, Washington's Whatcom County harbors (Blaine and Squalicum) offer many marine trades suppliers, and are certified Clean Marinas with 5-Star Enviro-Star ratings. Photo courtesy of the Port of Bellingham.

Blaine and Squalicum Harbors have seen a busy year with various commercial fishing activities despite the lack of salmon due to unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean. There has been a lot of activity on the Squalicum work dock with fish tenders and seiners leaving earlier in the year for the Sitka, Alaska herring fishery. The Puget Sound crab fleet was busy with Treaty and non-Treaty fishermen throughout its season which recently ended, and the gillnetters and seiners are preparing to leave in June for the summer fishing season in Alaska.

Andy Peterson, Blaine Harbormaster, says there is commercial moorage available and that both Whatcom County harbors (Blaine and Squalicum) still offer competitive, active commercial rates. "For a fishing boat that's less than 80 feet, the mooring fee is $6.14 per foot, plus tax. For vessels over 80 feet, the moorage fee is $6.92 per foot plus tax," he says, adding that both harbors offer many marine trades suppliers with long histories of working on commercial vessels who are available to work on the different fleets.

Both Blaine and Squalicum marinas are certified Clean Marinas and have 5-Star Enviro-Star ratings. Blaine has 100 slips that can accommodate commercial fishing vessels from 30 feet to 68 feet and a couple of end ties that will handle up to 100-foot boats. Squalicum Harbor can accommodate commercial vessels up to 120 feet, with the majority typically 58-foot seiners in addition to the 20 tie-ups that the sawtooth pier has.

At Squalicum Harbor, Peterson says it's been pretty much business as usual. There have been upgrades to create additional outside storage for various pieces of commercial fishing equipment, and at Blaine Harbor, there has been an ongoing project with the sawtooth pier. "We've had to close some sections of that to get some modifications done to keep it safe so we can continue to serve the fleet," he says. "This year, we're looking at doing small upgrades so we can open the pier up again."

Both harbors provide oil dumps so that engine oil, anti-freeze and hydraulic oil can be recycled. At Bellingham Harbor, there is a net recycling facility, although Peterson notes a lot of fishermen are now sending their nets out to be repaired. Portable drums are also available for winding nets off boats and a fuel jobber can supply bulk fuel at either Blaine or Squalicum harbors.

Both harbors are also holding Commercial Fishermen's Memorial Ceremony and Blessing of the Fleet events in May. At Blaine Harbor, the event takes place on Sunday, May 1 at 1:30 p.m. At Squalicum in Bellingham, it will be held at the Zuanich Point Park on May 7 at 11:00 a.m. "A lot of the families who lost a loved one come as well as fishermen paying their respects. These events honor the hard work and risks taken by the commercial fleet and the importance of the commercial fishing industry to the local community," says Peterson.

Larry Crockett, Executive Director at the Port of Port Townsend, says soon the Port will be putting out request for proposals for an engineering firm to undertake a feasibility study to determine a long-term solution to storm water management. The Port already has several storm water RX systems and a series of catchment basins to deal with metals run-off. An on-site environmental compliance officer is also made available for the various marine trades businesses as well as the boat owners so that everyone can follow best management practices.

One of the challenges with boat yard permits for Puget Sound yards has been the ever increasing requirements for dealing with zinc, copper and lead in storm water. The Department of Ecology recently released draft permit documentation for 2016, with a six-week public open comment period. The new permit is expected to go into effect in July. Crockett says the storm water requirements won't be changed this year, however, getting the feasibility study underway as soon as possible is going to be a necessary step for the future.

"We want to know what a detention pond system would look like," he says. "If we can deal with storm water through a series of detention ponds and large rain gardens, then we wouldn't have to worry about the boatyard permit issues. That's the long-term solution as we want to make sure the boat yard is still here 20 years from now."

The Port sees approximately 40 commercial fishing vessels that homeport over different seasons as needed. April, May and June are the busiest times of the year for the yard with much seasonal maintenance and repairs being done. "They (the fishermen) know the facilities. They have relationships with the marine trades here," says Crockett. "It looks like it's going to be a good season fishing up north and we'll be here in September waiting for them again."

Earlier this year, the Port of Seattle created a new Maritime Division as part of an internal organizational overhaul. The Maritime Division oversees a new sub-department called Fishing and Commercial Operations. Kenneth R. Lyles who has been with the Port for 20 years as Sr. Manager, Fishing & Commercial Vessels, is its new director.

"The driver for this is consolidating business departments as part of the Port's Century Agenda initiative," Lyles explains. The Century Agenda's primary goal is to double the economic impact of all Port businesses over the next 25 years. For Lyles, that means doubling the impact of the fishing business in the maritime cluster from $1 billion annually in the King County region to $2 billion over the next 25 years.

The Port is taking a three-pronged approach to commercial fishing objectives. Plans to redevelop Fishermen's Terminal are being studied as part of a long-range strategic plan in order to vet the feasibility of upland development that could translate into job creation in the fishing and maritime cluster.

A resurgence in fishing vessel recapitalization – Blue North, Northern Leader and Araho are examples of this – is also driving new business. "What we're doing from a federal and state level is providing political support as well as lobbying efforts to help promote legislation and to get it passed in order to energize and motivate these companies to invest."

Another component of the Century Agenda is performing a comprehensive real estate analysis in the Puget Sound area. This includes identifying locations where industry warehouse space is limited and determining what assets make sense to acquire for storage space, business space and to support entrepreneurship. "If we're going to recruit new business, we have to have assets that can accommodate and receive the new business," says Lyles.

Westport Marina, a facility of the Port of Grays Harbor, boasts the state's largest fish landing port in both value and volume. The marina is home to two-thirds of the commercial fleet, including several tribal commercial fishing vessels. Additionally, the marina has two fish processing plants as well as cold storage facilities.

Plans are underway to dredge the marina, which hasn't been done since 1980, in order for the marina to continue to meet the needs of its diverse commercial, tribal and recreational fishermen. The Port has put forth a 2016 capital supplemental budget request to the State of Washington to boost the $3.5 million the Port has already supplied for engineering, design and permit costs. If all goes well, dredging will begin later in the year.


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