Faced with not getting the environmental cleanup funds it was hoping for, the Port of Bellingham is making significant changes to its expansion plans with All American Marine.
The Bellingham shipbuilder’s new facility will be moved to Hilton Avenue, near Bornstein Seafoods and a U.S. Coast Guard station. At 40,000 square feet, the new facility will be about the same size as the original plans but will no longer be in Fairhaven. All American Marine also will have access to two nearby buildings, which combined offer 10,000 square feet of space for shipping/receiving and material processing.
The changes were detailed in an amendment submitted to the Whatcom County Council, which recently issued the project a $3 million loan through the Economic Development Investment Program.
The changes were made because the Port of Bellingham did not receive about $6 million in Model Toxic Control Act grants meant for several cleanup projects while All American expanded in Fairhaven, said Mike Hogan, public affairs administrator for the port. The cleanup projects were meant to happen along with the expansion project.
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Delaying the expansion project could have led All American Marine to moving out of the county, Hogan said. The company recently landed several large projects and needs the extra space to meet its deadlines. All American Marine builds high-speed catamarans for a variety of uses, including ferries and research vessels. It is currently on Harris Avenue near the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.
The Hilton Avenue area may work out better for All American Marine than the original plan, said Matt Mullett, company president and CEO. The new spot will make it easier for them to launch larger vessels into the water. The area also will provide a better chance for future expansion.
The company employs around 45 people and is expected to add around 30 more once it has a bigger facility. It currently has five vessels under contract, and the company recently hired five full-time employees in anticipation of the extra work.
The one downside for All American Marine is the move into expanded space will be delayed. The move-in should take place around December 2016, about four months later than the original plan.
One aspect of the original southside waterfront project is moving forward: The replacement of the wood pier for Fairhaven Shipyard, which will cost $7.6 million. The current pier is used by the company but has significant load restrictions, according to the port.
The Model Toxics Control Act was voted in by citizens in 1989 and is funded through a tax on hazardous substances, including oil. The revenue has declined in part because of the drop in oil prices, said Krista Kenner, communications manager for the Department of Ecology’s Northwest Regional Office.
Hogan said the port is hopeful it will eventually get funding for the environmental cleanup projects in the Fairhaven waterfront area, but it depends on whether the act can reclaim its previous funding levels.
“It’s one of our most important tools in terms of cleaning up sites,” Hogan said.