Can the Working Waterfront Coalition have a positive effect on our working waterfronts?
1. Candidates for Whatcom County's November 7 Port Commission elections are answering the important questions
2. The Working Waterfront Coalition joined Port Staff to work on a committee to draft a new marine rental policy
As recently as five years ago, Port staff was working under Port Commission direction to raise lease rates for all tenants, including maritime companies, to market rate levels. This policy resulted in several marine trades shops leaving the Port's harbor buildings. Three years ago this policy was de-emphasized, and Real Estate Director Shirley McFearin began to recruit maritime companies by offering discounted lease rates. The Port Commission supported each of these proposals on a case-by- case basis. In spring of 2017, Director McFearin formed a committee with the Coalition to draft a policy for offering a favorable lease rate schedule for maritime companies. The goal of a new policy would be to formalize and make lasting a process to offer favorable marine business rates.
The unanimous acceptance by the Port Commission of the new
"Water Reliant Commercial Marine Rental Rate Policy" that offers advantageous rates to attract and hold qualifying maritime companies. There is no doubt this policy will help sustain the harbor core of the county's maritime cluster.
3. Economic Impact of the County Maritime Sector
The Working Waterfront Coalition spearheaded an effort to publicize the economic value of Whatcom County's maritime sector. Never before has the positive economic impact of the local maritime sector been made so starkly clear. The Working Waterfront Coalition (WWC), in partnership with the Whatcom Commercial Fishermen's Association (WCFA) and the Port, played a key role in making this happen.
In 2013, the Port of Bellingham published an economic impact study of its entire operations. We pointed out the maritime sector was not adequately separated from other Port-based businesses in that study. So, with WWC and WCFA providing some data-gathering legwork, the Port sponsored an addendum that showed 2,720 direct and 1,353 indirect maritime jobs originated on Port-owned land. This study was a real eye-opener, but it included only businesses based on Port property. So WWC and WCFA sponsored a compilation of the original study and the addendum to bridge the gap, this time with assistance from Pete Granger, a Washington Sea Gran Seafood Industry Specialist, and WWUs Center for Economic and Business Research. This compilation showed 6,033 total jobs in the County are maritime-related, including 3,970 direct jobs.
Whatcom County citizens and officials are better informed about the economic benefits of our maritime sector and are more likely to support policies and candidates that promote the vitality of our working waterfronts.
4. Blaine Harbor Industrial Area
The Working Waterfront Coalition is facilitating meetings between Blaine Harbor stakeholders and Port of Bellingham staff to help plan infrastructure improvements. The industrial infrastructure at Blaine Harbor is suffering from long term neglect. To correct this problem, the Port will invest about twenty million dollars on two major environmental cleanups, reconstruction of bulkheads, working docks, and roads. Multiple planning decisions are required, so WWC initiated ongoing meetings between Port staff and stakeholders. All parties agree these meetings are very
beneficial to the planning process. Blaine fishermen, processors, and tradesmen are explaining their needs to port staffers, who are listening.
5. Port purchase of City-Owned Marine Trades Property
The Working Waterfront Coalition rallied public opposition to the conversion of city-owned marine trades land to use for a homeless shelter. When the City focused on a Roeder St. site for a much-needed low barrier homeless shelter, the waterfront community objected to the potential loss of irreplaceable shipyard-accessible land and the city's failure to consider more appropriate alternatives. Throughout this controversy the Coalition was in direct contact with both Port and City officials. In response to public concerns, the Port exercised its option to purchase the property and preserve its marine trades use. The Coalition's opposition was NOT a case of NIMBY (not in my backyard) because in our judgment there were appropriate sites near the waterfront, as well as elsewhere. In fact, the City is now considering five alternative sites.
The Roeder site is now reserved for marine trades, preventing the
displacement of five maritime companies and the loss of shipyard accessible
land, with no net loss of working waterfront.