The Port Commission this week approved their 2021 operating and capital budget and five-year, $66.7 million capital improvement plan including $31.6 million in offsetting grants.
The Port is scheduled to invest $20 million in Whatcom County next year, including $10.7 million in state and federal grants, with a focus on sustainable economic development in support of Covid-19 recovery efforts.
The Port’s largest capital investment will modernize infrastructure at the Bellingham Shipping Terminal and create working waterfront, family-wage jobs by allowing a wider range of ships and cargoes. The Port recently secured a $6.85 million federal grant to supplement local dollars and remove navigation high spots, rehabilitate a barge loading facility, and reinforce a “heavy-load” receiving area to increase trade and commerce at the Shipping Terminal.
Other large capital projects scheduled for 2021 include repairing infrastructure at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal and Squalicum Marina, cleaning-up historic environmental contamination in Bellingham Bay and Blaine Harbor, revitalizing Bellingham’s downtown waterfront, making improvements to tenant-occupied buildings, and enhancing stormwater to protect Puget Sound water quality. The Port is also building “Fisherman’s Pavillion” at Zuanich Point Park to provide covered workspace for commercial fishermen during the winter months and to support events like SeaFeast during other times of the year. The Port’s strategic budget advances key initiatives established by the Commission which direct the long-term financing, as well as allocation of staff resources.
The Port operates four lines of business - aviation, marinas, marine terminals and real estate, with each line of business designed to work towards cash neutral after operating costs, capital expense and debt service. This strategy allows for one hundred percent of the Port’s tax revenue to be used for public priorities such as economic development, infrastructure preservation, environmental cleanups and parks and open space. The Port’s $7.6 million levy request in 2021 is more than $3.2 million less than the legal limit with the levy rate continuing to decrease year over year.