Whatcom County has seven cities. Six of them - Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack and Sumas - support the Gateway export terminal project.
Our six cities are different in many ways, but our citizens all support family-wage jobs, diversity in the economy, strong tax revenues and a commitment to protect our environment. The mayors of the six small cities recently asked agencies managing the Gateway project environmental impact study to take our views and concerns into account. Here are our key points:
Poverty in Whatcom County exceeds the state and national averages but our wage rates and per capita income lag the state and nation. Our cost of living is well above the national average and just slightly lower than Seattle. Our employment rate masks the fact that many residents who once had higher wage industrial jobs are now working at lower paying service-sector jobs. This puts stress on families and communities.
The Gateway Pacific Terminal would generate vitally important high-wage jobs to support families, as well as substantial tax revenues to support essential government services.
The existing Cherry Point industries have been good neighbors and corporate citizens, but we cannot take their future viability for granted. Growth and diversification within the Cherry Point industrial area is essential to a healthy and sustainable economy.
Whatcom County policy has long recognized the Cherry Point industrial area as appropriate for additional shoreline-dependent industrial activity, including a fourth shipping pier. These policies are the result of decades of study and deliberate environmental, land use, shoreline and economic planning.
Gateway's potential to expand U.S. export capacity through a domestic port, capturing the consequent economic and trade benefits, should be examined.
It would be inequitable for major population centers to utilize transportation infrastructure capacity for their own needs while seeking to deny it to other communities. All parts of Washington must have beneficial access to the transportation infrastructure of ports and waterways, rail systems, roads, highways and airports in order to facilitate job production and commerce.
Although our cities may be "small," our desire to help our citizens is big. The Gateway Pacific Terminal will go a long way in helping local workers and their families. On behalf of all the mayors of Whatcom's small cities, I can tell you we look forward to the many benefits this project will bring to our county.
Scott Korthuis is mayor of Lynden.