BELLINGHAM - Gov. Jay Inslee emphasized the importance of maintaining state funding for cleaning up hazardous substances during a visit to Bellingham Thursday, July 31.
The stop was part of a tour Inslee is making around the state to learn about environmental challenges and possible solutions.
In the morning, the governor toured the Building Performance Center on Redwood Avenue to learn about energy efficiency and weatherization building techniques.
He later met with a host of local officials at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal to learn about the Bellingham waterfront redevelopment project.
Port of Bellingham officials, representatives from the state Department of Ecology and other involved parties explained the history of a dozen extensive cleanup efforts on the waterfront that are being led by a partnership of public agencies.
Those officials explained that funding from the Model Toxics Control Act (MoTCA) is essential in making sure more than 200 acres on the waterfront can be cleaned and made ready for redevelopment into a residential and recreational area that has the potential to bring in retail and industrial jobs.
"I think you have a really unique asset here - to have a way to start by cleaning up a brownfield (site) that then gives you an incredible harbor with an incredibly dynamic cosmopolitan city," Inslee said.
Inslee asked port officials what they'd like to see as far as funding from the state. Port Executive Director Rob Fix replied, "Preserve MoTCA, preserve MoTCA, preserve MoTCA."
MoTCA money comes from a tax on crude oil and other potential pollutants that enter the state.
The waterfront cleanup projects currently call for 50 percent in matching funds from the act. Those matching funds are expected to total in the tens of millions, and the port has already set aside millions to cover much of its portion of the remaining cost.
Because a clean waterfront would allow the port to entice job-creating businesses and industry to a revitalized site, the project uniquely pairs the environmental benefits of cleanup with an economic incentive, Inslee said in an interview after the meeting.
"You've talked about why MoTCA is job friendly, and frankly, I hadn't thought about it," Inslee said during the meeting. "I don't think the connection is made as often as it should be."
In trying to figure out how to finance transportation, some legislators have suggested using money that would normally go to MoTCA cleanup sites for transportation projects, Inslee said.
"There's been an effort by one of the parties in the state Senate to effectively reduce what would be available for what we think would be appropriate in the MoTCA account in order to fund transportation projects, and that's been a point of contention," Inslee said. "You don't want to lose a project like this in order to fund transportation, so we're looking for better ways to do it."