Waterfronts bringing jobs, cleaner environments to communities

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 8, 2013 

For decades our communities have seemingly turned their backs to the vibrant waterfronts that created the cities in first place. We'd like to talk about something exciting happening in our area and across the state of Washington; something that explodes the political myth that citizens must choose between creating jobs and protecting our waters and forests.

When people work together, we can have both a strong economy and a healthy environment.

The proof is right here at home.

The waterfront in Anacortes provided local jobs for decades. Then our economy changed, and paper mills and other businesses died out. They left behind crumbling warehouses and docks, creosote pilings sticking out of the water and sometimes hazardous or poisonous chemicals.

The cleanup of the Scott Paper Mill shows us how we can create jobs while building a better Washington for our kids and grandkids. A total of 200 local jobs were created during these projects.

Today, port towns like Anacortes and Bellingham are being reborn with cleanup projects that also fix up waterfronts with new sidewalks, trails and access to the beach. The Tommy Thompson Trail is a good example of how this can work beautifully and add something of real value to a community.

There's still a lot of work being done in Anacortes, where folks in hard hats started in 2008 with a total of $60.3 million being spent so far to make our waterfront cleaner. This work is a public-private partnership, with the funds coming from a fee paid by local refineries that is coming back to our community.

The industries of today are helping clean up problems caused by the industries of old, when handling toxic waste and chemicals meant dumping into the nearest field or body of water.

The port, city and state teamed up for this project, which employs private contractors to do the work.

This kind of work is a win for local environment, it's a job-maker, and it creates added business for our small business community.

We reject ideas from both extremes, the notions that government is the cause of every problem or that government can solve every issue. Both notions are overly simplistic and often wrong.

One of the best ideas concerning treatment of our environment isn't attached to any political party. That idea is simply this: Leave the world better than you found it, because it's your kids and grandkids who will inherit that world.

And one of the best ideas about creating jobs is equally simple: If you invest in our cities and towns, if you make them better places to live and work, then it will create jobs for generations.

These cleanup projects do both things. They aren't sexy. They'll never make the 6 o'clock news or the front page of the paper.

But for the people living in places like Anacortes and Bellingham, and dozens of similar communities in every corner of the great state of Washington, nothing is more important than giving our kids a better hometown, and a healthier environment, than what we had.

In a time when dysfunction and gridlock in D.C. are getting all the headlines, we think this sort of idea - something that creates jobs while helping local communities - is something worth fighting for.

We applaud our communities who are looking towards the waterfronts that made them great.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

State Representatives Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, and Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, represent Washington's 40th legislative district, which comprises all of San Juan County and significant portions of Whatcom and Skagit counties, including Mount Vernon, Burlington, Anacortes and much of Bellingham.

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