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Posted on: February 1, 2024

Shipping Terminal Modernization Project Starts, Spurring Environmental Improvement & Economic Growth

The Port is pleased to announce the start of a transformative two-year project to modernize and enhance the Bellingham Shipping Terminal. 

The Shipping Terminal Modernization Project will remove historic contamination from the Whatcom Waterway to restore water depths for ship access, install a state-of-the-art stormwater system, fortify the main dock, and stimulate job creation throughout the region. 

The $27.5 million project is supported by a $6.85 Million U.S. Department of Transportation Port Infrastructure Development Program Grant. 

“This investment is part of an ongoing effort started many years ago to develop an active deep-water port as the centerpiece of a vibrant, mixed-use waterfront,” said Port Commission President Ken Bell. “When the Shipping Terminal Modernization Project is complete, we will finally have the maritime infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of the modern shipping industry and create working waterfront jobs for our community.” 

“This project is a big win for Whatcom County’s working waterfront,” said ILWU Local 7 Longshoreman Joe Schmidt. “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.”

ILWU Local 7 is located in Bellingham and supports operations at the Shipping Terminal by providing the workforce necessary to load and unload cargo. ILWU Local 7 recently registered 8 permanent longshore workers bringing the total to 18. Anticipating increased terminal activity, the ILWU has added 30 new casual positions increasing the labor pool to work cargo vessels.

KEY FEATURES OF THE MODERNIZATION PROJECT:

  1. Increasing Navigation Depth: The project will remove high spots from the Whatcom Waterway and deepen the navigation channel from -26 feet to -35 feet, allowing larger vessels to safely access the Bellingham Shipping Terminal. Approximately 22,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be removed and disposed of at a certified upland disposal facility. 
     
  2. Strengthening the Main Dock: Approximately 140 feet of deteriorating and damaged wharf structure will be removed and replaced, ensuring the central terminal’s capacity to handle heavier cargo and equipment, including the Port’s 124 Metric Ton Mobile Harbor Crane. Fortifying the main dock will allow the terminal to handle a wider range of cargo and support more efficient loading and unloading while ships are at the dock. 
     
  3. Protecting the Environment: Historic industries along Bellingham’s waterfront discharged pollution into the Whatcom Waterway. Approximately 22,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be removed as part of this project and disposed of at a certified upland facility under oversight of the Washington State Department of Ecology. Rebuilding the main dock will result in a state-of-the-art stormwater management system where all stormwater from the new dock will be captured and treated onshore, reducing the environmental impact of terminal operations and safeguarding Puget Sound.
      
  4. Supporting Job Creation: This project will generate a substantial number of construction and consulting jobs throughout its duration. Once complete, the movement of cargo through the Bellingham Shipping Terminal will support long-term family-wage jobs. A new study from the Washington Maritime Federation pegs the economic impact of Washington State maritime industries at nearly $46 billion and over 170,000 jobs. In Whatcom County over 6,000 jobs are created or supported by the marine trades representing 7% of the total workforce.  

“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 Port Director of Environmental and Planning Services Brian Gouran. “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.”

In-water dredging work will occur from January to mid-February and again from August to October with the work windows limited to protect salmon. When in-water work stops, construction crews will focus on upland work to strengthen the main dock.

A 2022 study from the Washington Maritime Federation pegs the economic impact of Washington State maritime industries at nearly $46 billion and over 170,000 jobs. The average annual compensation in maritime-related jobs is $112,000 including benefits.

In Whatcom County over 6,000 jobs are created or supported by the marine trades representing 7% of the total workforce. 

Construction crews will be working 24/7 so residents can expect lights from construction equipment and occasional nighttime noise until the project is completed in Spring 2025. 

Additional Info...
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