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Port of Bellingham launches new project, promising environmental cleanup and new jobs

The Port of Bellingham is starting a new project at Bellingham’s waterfront in Whatcom County, cleaning the water and creating new jobs

Posted on February 7, 2024

The Port of Bellingham is beginning a long-awaited, $27.5 million project that aims to create jobs, restore a dock and water depths and install a new stormwater system, according to a news release from the port.

The Bellingham Shipping Terminal Modernization Project is set to launch this month after crews waiting to begin in-water dredging received their needed materials on Thursday, Feb. 1.

The Bellingham Shipping Terminal is a full-service marine terminal with two warehouses that work in cargo handling and distribution. The terminal has 1,250 feet of dock space, 35 acres of upland and over 85,000 square feet of covered storage, according to port officials.

Throughout the two-year project, the port is aiming to achieve four main accomplishments by modernizing the terminal:

▪ Increase water depth: The project will allow larger vessels to access the shipping terminal by deepening the navigation channel from -26 feet to -35 feet, but removing approximately 22,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.

▪ Reinforce the dock: The project will remove and replace about 140 feet of damaged and deteriorating parts of the main dock.

▪ Improve environmental impacts: Along with removing the 22,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the water, the port is also adding a state-of-the-art stormwater management system to reduce the environmental impact of the terminal. The system will capture and treat stormwater from the new dock.

▪ Create new jobs: Once the reconstruction and modernization of the terminal is complete, the working terminal will “support long-term family-wage jobs,” according to the news release.

“Cleaning up historic contamination and managing our facilities to the highest environmental standards are key goals for the Port and this project accomplishes both,” said Director of Environmental and Planning Services Brian Gouran in the news release. “Removing 22,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment continues the work we started in 2016, when we successfully completed one of the largest cleanup projects in state history in the Whatcom Waterway. Rebuilding the central portion of the main terminal dock to capture and treat stormwater onshore is a best-in-class solution and the preferred approach of environmental permitting agencies.”

The project is supported by a $6.85 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Port Infrastructure Development Program.

“This project is a big win for Whatcom County’s working waterfront,” ILWU Local 7 longshoreman Joe Schmidt said in the news release. “Washington is one of the largest domestic and international gateways for cargo in the United States and the Bellingham Shipping Terminal is one of only 11 deep-draft seaports in the state.”

In-water dredging will take place this month and again from August to October as the port will limit the work to protect local salmon. When in-water dredging is suspended, construction will begin on strengthening the main dock.


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