The Washington Department of Transportation has proposed some major changes to traffic patterns on the congested stretch of Meridian Street between Horton Road and Interstate 5.
If these proposals come to pass, they will force some of us to adjust our routes to critical sources of burgers and fries, and local collision repair shops may notice a dropoff in business. But why be so negative? Decide for yourself.
Highlights, as proposed:
- Eliminate northbound left turns onto Telegraph Road
- Remove center turn lane
- Widen turning radius at the northbound Meridian off-ramp so trucks can navigate the turn more smoothly.
There is much more.
If the proposals clear the final public comment phase, construction would not begin until spring 2013.
Here’s the WSDOT web page dealing with the project. You can read the full 45-page document explaining it all, or the handy four-page summary.
This is more of a Jared transportation blog thing, but he didn’t trust me with the transpo blog password.
Kelli Linville is gearing up her campaign for Bellingham mayor with a series of brown bag lunches.
In a press release, organizer Ted Mischaikov says the events are meant to “solicit ideas, share issues and explore opportunities for Bellingham’s future.”
Mischaikov, a real estate developer, contributed $1,500 to incumbent Dan Pike’s campaign four years ago, according to Public Disclosure Commission records.
Here is the press release emailed by Mischaikov, starting with a schedule of lunches:
(At the end, there is a link to use to make reservations)
Wednesday, April 20 – Fairhaven Village Inn
Friday, April 23 – Cordata Neighborhood
Wednesday, April 29 – TBD
Friday, May 4 - TBD
Wednesday, May 6 - TBD
Friday, May 11 - TBD
Wednesday, May 13 - TBD
More dates will be announced after May 13.
In Kelli’s Mayoral campaign, she is seeking to meet people to solicit ideas, share issues and explore opportunities for Bellingham’s future.
To do so, she will host a series of Brown Bag Lunches (provided) on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the spring at various places around town. Please choose a date that works for you and join in on the conversation.
Please use the link below to schedule a time that works with you and thank you for participating.
Please follow the link to choose a date:
It’s April Fools Day again, and the Politics Blog security system has already fended off a press release announcing that Mayor Dan Pike has ordered the city to convert to the metric system to accommodate visiting Canadians. Nice try.
This April Fools Day is a special one for me. It’s the 30th anniversary of a hoax that was perpetrated on us 30 years ago by former Sheriff Larry Mount and the late Doug Gill, who was, I believe, undersheriff at the time.
Two days earlier, John Hinckley had become the most infamous man in America after wounding President Ronald Reagan in an assasssination attempt.
On April Fools Day, the Herald’s cops reporter was making his rounds at the sheriff’s office when he noticed a bulletin coming out of the office telex machine, which was used in those days to relay law enforcement information on fugitives and so forth.
This message was special. It informed the sheriff’s office that because of threats on Hinckley’s life, he would be transferred to a secret location: the Whatcom County Jail.
I wasn’t there, but as I remember the reporter’s retelling of the episode from 30 years ago, the reporter said Gill and Mount were yelling at him for peeking at this top-secret message.
The reporter raced back to the newsroom where a spirited ethical discussion broke out about whether we had a greater duty to our readers’ right to know, versus the legitimate security concerns of law enforcement.
This discussion lasted just a few minutes before someone realized what day it was. There was never any danger of this appearing in print.
I shudder to think what might have happened in a similar situation today.
The Washington Department of Ecology announces that the agency will keep the public comment period open awhile longer on changes to the Whatcom Waterway cleanup plan.
Among other things, the change involves deposit of some contaminated sediments in the old Georgia-Pacific Corp. wastewater lagoon, once the more highly-contaminated sediment inside that lagoon has been dug out for disposal in special landfills.
Those sediments would be covered with clean material while still leaving the water deep enough for eventual construction of the Port of Bellingham’s marina inside the lagoon, although the date for completion of the marina is receding deeper into the future. Under the current plan, the lagoon cleanup is not schedule to begin until 2017.
Here is the press release from Ecology:
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is extending the public comment period on proposed changes to cleanup plans for some areas of the Whatcom Waterway site on the Bellingham waterfront.
The changes are described in a proposed amendment to a 2007 legal settlement, called a consent decree, among Ecology, the Port of Bellingham and other parties. Ecology extended the end of the public comment period on the proposed changes from April 11, 2011, to April 27, 2011, because of a procedural error in publishing notice of the comment period.
Most of the Whatcom Waterway cleanup plan will remain unchanged from the 2007 consent decree, but changes are necessary to the cleanup action in a portion of the outer waterway. Ecology received new information that indicates that dioxin and furan levels in buried marine sediment in the outer waterway are likely too high to qualify for open-water disposal as originally planned.
In response to this new information, the Port of Bellingham and its consultants developed an alternative approach for managing these materials. This alternative approach also can be applied to some other areas of the site.
Ecology and port representatives held a public meeting on the proposal on March 15 at Bellingham Technical College.
Proposed changes involve moving material from portions of the outer waterway and other areas of the site into an old waterfront industrial waste treatment lagoon after the lagoon is cleaned up according to 2007 plans. Dredged material would be contained in the lagoon under a layer of clean sediment.
The clean layer would be designed to meet state cleanup standards based on the port’s plan to open the lagoon to Bellingham Bay and convert it into a marina.
Ecology evaluated the proposed changes and confirmed that the approach would meet state cleanup requirements.
Proposed changes also include adjusting the project sequencing.
Under the proposed amendment, the site would be cleaned up in two construction phases. The first phase would include cleanup of the inner waterway, consistent with the 2007 plan. Construction of the first phase of cleanup would begin in 2012. The second phase would include cleanup of the outer waterway and the treatment lagoon with construction beginning in 2017.
The Whatcom Waterway site is more than 200 acres. It includes underwater sediment and an industrial wastewater treatment lagoon.
Contamination at the site is the result of operations dating back to the 1960s at the former Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper plant. The port acquired property within the site in 2005.
Studies conducted as part of the cleanup process showed mercury and other contaminants at the site in concentrations that exceed requirements of the state’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act, and must be addressed.
The Whatcom Waterway cleanup is expected to cost about $90 million. Ecology will reimburse up to half the port’s costs through the state’s remedial action grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites. The state Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a tax on hazardous substances.
The site is one of 12 cleanup sites in the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot, a multi-agency collaborative effort to combine cleanup, control of pollution sources, habitat restoration and land use.
The pilot program is a major step toward restoring Puget Sound, and it is a model for other large-scale cleanup initiatives.
Submit public comments to:
Lucy McInerney, site manager
Washington Department of Ecology
3190 160th Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98008-5452
Google has spurned Bellingham–difficult as that is to believe.
Kansas City, Kansas–the lesser known, much smaller Kansas City across the river from the one in Missouri, is in the spotlight today.
Google chose that city in the nationwide competition for rollout and testing of a new ultra-high-speed Internet service.
We’ll be getting comment from local officials and private-sector activists later today.
If this is ruining your day, you could console yourself with this little musical tribute to Kansas City–altho the song does not specify which Kansas City. This is not the well-known and admittedly excellent Wilbert Harrison hit–it’s an earlier recorded version by Little Willie Littlefield. I discovered it and him just a few minutes ago. See if you like it.
UPDATE: The song makes reference to “12th Street and Vine, with my Kansas City baby and my jug of Kansas City wine.” According to Google Maps, 12th St. and Vine would be in Kansas City, MO. There is no such intersection today, but it looks like the streets around there have been reengineered since Little Willy and Wilbert’s day. Apparently traffic engineers with no sense of musical history did some realignment and urban renewal that eliminated this intersection.
They did create streets named Ella Fitzgerald Lane and Basie Place, among others in the area, so we can’t be too hard on them.
Kansas City Kansas has a 12th Street, but no Vine.
Larry Farr, who earlier announced his candidacy for the Ward 3 City Council seat, has changed his plans.
Farr announced Thursday, March 24 that he will seek a two-year term as the at-large representative instead. That would pit him against incumbent Seth Fleetwood, who has not formally announced plans to seek reelection.
UPDATE: In an email, Fleetwood confirmed that he expects to run for reelection and will make a formal announcement soon.
Farr had announced his Ward 3 candidacy after incumbent Barry Buchanan had announced he was running for mayor. But once former state legislator Kelli Linville announced her own challenge to incumbent Mayor Dan Pike, Buchanan bowed out of the mayoral race and announced he would seek reelection to his council seat after all.
Buchanan still faces a Ward 3 challenge from Cathy Lehman, director of the Whatcom County Chapter of Futurewise.
Fleetwood, in his first term on the council, attracted some attention recently when he proposed an ordinance that would ban plastic shopping bags in the city.
Asked if he thought this would be a campaign issue, Farr replied in an email:
“Well – plastic bags are an interesting topic and one we should discuss because they do create havoc with the environment – but if I have to prioritize what’s important in our community – that rates down the list a bit right now. I’d rather we focus on what needs to be addressed and pushed through from an ordinance perspective that supports Bellingham’s citizens, before we take on that. Let’s take a look at our local economy and how we’re going to implement all this stuff that comes out of Council – once we’re a little more stable we can talk bags.
It also seems odd that this is being addressed at the Council level. We have a variety of taskforces/groups that could come with a solid recommendation and options with costs included – before Council takes it on…. nuff said… maybe.”
The Bellingham City Council is set up to insure that four of its seven seats are on the ballot every two years. The council members representing the six wards get four-year terms, staggered so that three of those seats are on the ballot in any given city election. The at-large seat gets a two-year term.
Farr describes himself as having lived in the city for more than 20 years. He has served as chairman of the Downtown Parking Commission and the Railroad Avenue Merchants Association. He also describes himself as founder and former president of the Downtown Renaissance Network, now known as Downtown Bellingham Partnership.
He is on the board of directors for Whatcom Hospice, Red Cross, The Firs, and Lynden Christian Schools. Farr also has served as a Director of Royal Family Kids Camp for the past 18 years.
Farr served as a part-time instructor at Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University for 10 years, and as regional director of Catholic Community Services for 16 years.
He is now working as marketing manager for Whatcom Land Title Company.
If you stay in this business long enough, everything old becomes new, and vice versa.
It’s worth noting that back in 1981, port and railroad people made no mention of any existing right-of-way across the county on an east-west alignment to Cherry Point. They concluded that obtaining that right-of-way would be too difficult.
One might wonder: Why wasn’t such a seemingly logical link between the two parallel rail lines built decades ago? The answer seems to be that these two lines (Blaine-Bellingham-Everett via the coast, and Sumas-Burlington, via the South Fork-Highway 9 trajectory) were not built to form a coherent rail network. They were competing lines.
I’m going to oversimplify a bit here and get true rail history scholars a bit agitated, but it basically went like this: The coastal line originated as the Fairhaven & Southern, which was absorbed by Great Northern and later became part of the BNSF system. The Sumas route, a portion of it at least, was built by the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad, which eventually joined the Milwaukee Road.
This BB&BC RR had tracks extending from Bellingham northeast through such places as Van Wyck and Goshen before joining up with the north-south line that linked Sumas to Sedro-Woolley and Burlington. The existence of that connection enabled Bellingham people to take the train to the first Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden in 2010.
But that link was abandoned when Milwaukee Road shut down. That leaves the Bellingham coastal route as the most direct rail connection to Cherry Point.
Earlier today, Jack Delay of Communitywise Bellingham emailed me to clarify his stance on the potential routing of coal trains to the Gateway Pacific terminal at Cherry Point.
In an earlier article, I had erroneously suggested that Delay was proposing sending the trains full of Rocky Mountain coal through Canada, via the BNSF line that runs from Burlington to Sumas mostly alongside Highway 9. That route would take the trains into Canada and then down to Cherry Point, crossing back into the U.S. at Blaine.
That notion got Delay a testy email from a Blaine resident who didn’t relish the prospect.
Delay noted that in his written analysis of possible rail route alternatives, he favors a different approach: the completion of a cross-county rail connection that would enable the trains to go up the South Fork Valley and then head east toward Cherry Point without going all the way to Canada.
The existing east-west spur ends at Lynden. Extending that line west to the BNSF main line at Custer would mean coal trains rumbling through Lynden, I suppose.
Far-fetched? Check out Map 15 in Chapter Six of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan. It shows an “east-west rail proposal” as a dotted line from Lynden to Custer. (The map is on Page 23 of the pdf linked above.)
Also, on page 6-14 of the plan, Policy 6P-2 states: “Consider proposals for an east/west rail freight corridor.” (See pg. 14 of the pdf)
My next job: Finding out what “proposals” our county planners were referring to.
Although the matter is at an early stage, the city may have a buyer for a 31,000-square-foot lot at 1115 Cornwall Ave.
Public Development Authority Executive Director Jim Long said the first step in selling the property is a resolution of approval from the authority’s board. That board has scheduled a special meeting to consider such a resolution for 11:30 a.m. Monday, March 21, in its office in Room 308 of the old Federal Building, 104 W. Magnolia St.
Although the development authority controls the property, a sale would have to be approved by the City Council, Long said.
Before the city acquired the site, developer William Maris had planned to build a 15-story condo project called Cornwall Place there. But Maris lost the property to Bank fo the Pacific in a foreclosure in May 2008. The city purchased the site from the bank for $1.53 million later that year before deeding it to the Public Development Authority for possible redevelopment.
Long said he was not at liberty to discuss the potential buyer or terms of a deal, but he said his goal is to make sure the city recovers its investment while getting the property back on the tax roll.
Long said he wants a green light from his board before exploring a possible sale any further.
Clayton Petree has announced he will run for mayor of Bellingham, setting up a three-way race with incumbent Mayor Dan Pike and former state legislator Kelli Linville, who was anointed as the front-runner in the race even before she confirmed her candidacy.
Petree, 36, portrayed himself as an alternative to two other candidates who tend to share similar views.
“The only core difference between the two candidates who have offered themselves so far is gender,” Petree wrote in his announcement.
In a race featuring an incumbent mayor and a prominent former legislator, Petree might look like a longshot at best. But he said he isn’t running just to raise issues.
“I think I have a shot,” he said. “I’m running because I want to be mayor and I think I can do a good job.”
Among other things, he pledged to reexamine the city policy of spending millions on land in the Lake Whatcom Watershed.
He thinks that programs to transfer or purchase watershed development rights could be more productive.
He also indicated that he wants to make Bellingham more receptive to new and existing businesses.
He also pledged not to use yard signs, calling them “visual and environmental pollution.” He plans to distribute window signs to supporters instead.
More details will be available in print and online Saturday, March 19.
Dr. Robin Matthews and her team of researchers have issued the annual Lake Whatcom Monitoring Project report for 2010, and the results are not encouraging.
“I don’t think that we’re stabilizing yet,” Matthews said. “I was hoping that we might have been.”
Water quality analysis for the previous two years offered some small evidence that the quality of lake water might at least be stabilizing, although at a less-than desirable level. But the data collected in 2010 is mostly bad: dissolved oxygen levels in lake water are down, and phosphorus and algae levels are increasing.
Until 2009, those measurements didn’t seem to have any real-world impact. But in summer 2009, the algae levels got high enough to reduce capacity at the city water filtration plant, resulting in drastic steps to reduce city water consumption.
We’ll have a full story on Dr. Matthews’ report in print and online for Thursday, March 17. (Green water for St. Patrick’s Day?)
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s office has issued this press release, plus a transcript of his statement before a House subcommittee, concerning the need to do more to combat piracy on the high seas.
Here it is:
Today, U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-Everett), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, co-led a hearing to examine the United States response to piracy. Last month, four Americans, including a couple from Seattle, were killed by Somali captors while on vacation.
“Today’s pirate is no Jack Sparrow,” said Rep. Larsen. “The statistics are startling. The New York Times reported in late February that more than 50 vessels were currently captive ranging from Thai fishing trawlers to European supertankers, with more than 800 hostages. These 800 hostages represent mariners and seafarers that are only doing their jobs. It is time for the international community to stop this injustice.”
“U.S. and international efforts to combat piracy have resulted in a mixed bag of success. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), prosecution of alleged pirates remains logistically difficult, the pirates have greatly expanded their area of attacks, there has been a steady increase in the number of attacks, and there are more ransoms being paid at increasing rates. This rise of piracy in the region puts mariners in danger and is a disruptive threat to world shipping,” Rep. Larsen concluded.
The full text of Rep. Larsen’s Opening Statement Follows:
Rep. Rick Larsen
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
“Assuring the Freedom of Americans on the High Seas:
The United States Response to Piracy”
March 15, 2011
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for calling today’s hearing. Piracy, particularly off the Somalia coast, is a disruptive threat to world shipping.
Tragically, just last month, piracy also became deadly for Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California, and their friends, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, Washington. I extend my sympathies to their families.
These four individuals posed a threat to no one. They were not mariners involved in international trade. The Adams were living their life-long dream. Ms. Macay and Mr. Riggle were friends joining in the adventure.
While the circumstances of their deaths are still being investigated, we do know that they were killed by their Somali captors while their release was being negotiated. But for these pirates, these four U.S. citizens would be alive and well today. Today’s pirate is no Jack Sparrow.
Although piracy has been a threat to seafaring nations for thousands of years, the emergence of aggressive and persistent attacks off the Horn of Africa is especially concerning.
The killing of the four hostages aboard the Quest certainly increased the attention of the international community on piracy – and the international community has increased its focus on piracy.
The statistics are startling. The New York Times reported in late February that more than 50 vessels were currently captive ranging from Thai fishing trawlers to European supertankers, with more than 800 hostages. These 800 hostages represent mariners and seafarers that are only doing their jobs.
Once captured, these hostages can be held in deplorable conditions for months before release. It is time for the international community to stop this injustice.
The Gulf of Aden and the adjoining Indian Ocean constitute a critical shipping corridor. GAO’s September report on piracy states that over 33,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden annually. This includes tanker ships moving 10 to 15 percent of world petroleum shipments. For vessels headed west, the alternative route is around the tip of Africa and adds 4,900 nautical miles to the transit.
The rise of piracy in the region puts mariners in danger and poses an economic burden on ocean carriers and shipping companies. In fact, according to a Chatham House report, insurance premiums in the London insurance market for ships traveling through the Gulf rose tenfold in 2008. Fortunately, U.S. insurance rates have remained stable due to U.S. insurers not yet having to pay claims.
Several factors have contributed to the frequency of pirate attacks. A larger number of high-value targets passing through the Gulf, global proliferation of the small arms trade, and most significantly, persistent civil violence, lawlessness, and economic dislocation in Somalia.
Any comprehensive international approach to combating piracy must address the current political situation in Somalia, it must be truly international, and it must be a solution that will be address piracy around the world.
Somalia does not have a functioning government. With pirates having a virtually unlimited ability to operate from Somalia, piracy cannot be eliminated solely from the sea. I am particularly interested to hear what the State Department witness will say on this subject.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that China and Russia are leading a new effort at the United Nations to curb the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia and defeat al-Qaeda-linked terrorists fighting to seize control of that nation.
According to the report, Russia has circulated a draft resolution that would commit the UN Security Council to “urgently” begin talks on creation of three courts for piracy cases. The measure also would urge construction of two prisons for convicted pirates, and demand that all nations enact laws to criminalize piracy.
The international community has stepped up efforts to combat piracy. Combined Task Force 151, the multi-national effort joined by the U.S, the European Union Operation ATALANTA, NATO, which the U.S. also supports, and independent states are patrolling the area and providing greater protection to ships traveling through the Gulf.
The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center and MARAD have helped inform the maritime community about piracy and how to implement best practices for ships to evade and defend themselves from pirate attacks.
I look forward to discussing these international efforts with our witnesses.
GAO’s report from last September discusses several challenges and describes a mixed bag of success.
Prosecution of alleged pirates remains logistically difficult, although I note that on February 16, the pirate associated with the attack on the Maersk Alabama was sentenced to 33 years by a New York district judge.
The pirates have greatly expanded their area of attacks to an area as large as the lower 48 States.
There has been a steady increase in the number of attacks, even as the rate of success declines.
The number of hostages being held is increasing.
There are more ransoms being paid at increasing amounts.
These issues raise important questions for our panel.
Are the efforts of the U.S. and the international community succeeding or failing?
Are the rules of engagement changing?
In light of the recent killings, is transit in the area more or less dangerous?
When it comes to piracy in the 21st century, there is no X that marks the spot to point us in the right direction. But, there are several ways that U.S. policymakers can help combat piracy:
Encourage the international commercial maritime industry to adopt best practices;
Continue advances in the use of defensive technologies;
Help coastal states in pirate-prone areas boost their coastal monitoring and interdiction capabilities; and,
Provide resources to the Coast Guard and MARAD so they can continue to advise the industry on how to strengthen its own security.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you again for holding this hearing. I look forward to discussing these issues with the panel, and assessing how government and non-government entities can increase security and decrease opportunities for piracy, and help the maritime community navigate this serious issue.
This report from Bloomberg notes that two key features of President Barack Obama’s proposed new energy policy have been rather badly jinxed: First, increased offshore oil drilling, and now, the ongoing struggle to regain control of Japanese nuclear reactors in the wake of last week’s quake and tsunami.
As of a few minutes ago, that struggle was not going well.
Close to 30 years ago, back when the late Tom Glenn was port director, the Port of Bellingham was in preliminary talks to build a coal export terminal at Cherry Point, in cooperation with Burlington Northern and Mitsui Corp. In those days, the potential market was Japan. (Those talks ultimately went nowhere.)
Even if the threat of serious radiation bursts from the Japanese reactors can be contained, it appears that at least some of these reactors will never generate power again. One wonders if Japan would, or could, make up its power deficit with coal imports. Coal is a local issue once again, as you probably recall.