Cleanup, business expansion on tap for Fairhaven waterfront

Plans are moving forward on a major waterfront cleanup project that has the added benefit of creating opportunities for a longtime business.

The Port of Bellingham awarded a $12.5 million contract to IMCO General Construction to dredge and make infrastructure improvements around the Fairhaven Shipyard property near the Bellingham Cruise Terminal on Harris Avenue.

The project has several parts and will take two years to complete because cleanup and construction work will stop at different times of the year in order to protect marine life in the area, including salmon, said Brian Gouran, director of environmental programs for the port.

Crews will remove a 10,000-square-foot building that sits over the water, remove contaminated sediment and replace the wooden portion of the pier with concrete. Fairhaven Shipyard and the port worked with the Washington State Department of Ecology to finalize the details of the project.

The project’s first major step is expected to happen in June with the demolition and removal of the 10,000-square-foot Carpenter Building, currently the home of Fairhaven Shipyards, which is moving into a bigger building nearby. That facility is currently home to All American Marine, which is in the process of moving into a new building on Hilton Avenue.

The removal of the Carpenter Building is key to restoring near-shore habitat for salmon recovery efforts, Gouran said. The over-water shading the building creates hampers restoration efforts. Eliminating the building also means crews can more efficiently remove historic contaminants, he noted. That structure was originally built in the early 1900s as part of a fish cannery.

The next step includes replacing a 400-foot wooden section of the pier, which is in bad shape. Because the pier replacement needs to be done over a two-year period, it was important to come up with a plan to do it without cutting off access to the rest of the pier to Fairhaven Shipyard. Port officials and the company came up with a plan to remove half of the creosote-treated wooden pier lengthwise in the 2017-2018 construction window, dredge out the contaminants and install that half of the concrete pier. In the 2018-2019 construction window crews will remove the other half of the wooden portion, dredge and install the rest of the concrete pier.

Once completed, the new shipyard pier will have steel pilings and a concrete deck, matching the section of the pier that was constructed in the 1990s.

Doing that removal in the middle of a working shipyard will be complicated and requires a lot of pre-planning and communication, said Tyler Kimberley, president of IMCO. The company is based in Whatcom County.

The dredging of the sediment in the water will only be deep enough to remove the contaminants, which include a variety of metals such as copper and zinc. The contaminants came from operators in the past and not from the current business, Gouran said. There are no plans to dredge deeper to allow for boats to be docked where the Carpenter Building now sits.

This cleanup project positions Fairhaven Shipyard to expand operations and potentially hire new employees. Not only will the 26,450-square-foot All American Marine building be bigger for the company, but it is better designed for what Fairhaven Shipyard does, said Adam Fulton, director of facilities at the port. Upgrading the pier will also mean the company can put heavier equipment on it. Fairhaven Shipyard does a variety of repair work for public and private vessels, including state ferries, U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA vessels.

“Increasing the load capacity of the shipyard pier and improving the site layout will allow us to expand Fairhaven Shipyard’s services and capabilities,” said Neil Turney, president of the Fairhaven Shipyard parent company, Puglia Engineering, in a news release. “Whatcom County has a great tradition as a maritime community and we look forward to growing our business and continuing to be part of the economic development of the region.”

About half of the cleanup project is being funded through the Model Toxics Control Act, which is funded through a tax on hazardous substances, including oil. The rest of the project’s funding is coming from the port’s budget.

The project will have up to 25 people working directly on the property and many more supporting the project indirectly, Kimberley said.

“We love to have a local project,” Kimberley said. “So much of our work is a long way from home, requiring long commutes or being away from our families during the week. This project will be a nice break for our employees fortunate enough to work in Fairhaven and be home for dinner each night.”

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz