Opinions are beginning to differ greatly over whether or not the Port of Bellingham is legally required to turn the former Georgia-Pacific treatment lagoon into a marina.
The Port says it is; a recent opinion by a Seattle lawyer brought into the fray by the Bellingham Bay Foundation says otherwise.
Who to believe? We’ll wait the lawyers out on this one, but in our view, the legal need to place a marina at that location is secondary to our opinion that regardlesss of legal necessity, a marina is simply the best choice for that location.
Regulations being what they are, it is just about impossible to get a new marina built anymore; placing pilings and the necessary rip-rap is an environmental no-go, and for good reason. Regulations as they stand now make any new marina construction almost impossible from Seattle north to the border … except in Bellingham, where the rip-rap is already in place, and emptying out the lagoon would create a new aquatic environment, not damage an old one.
From a business standpoint, the addition of a new marina would further jumpstart Bellingham’s marine-related industries. What is crucial to understand is how many of the people who would have boats in this marina would not be from Bellingham. This would be money flowing into the community from outside that it would not normally have.
Port estimates claim that anywhere up to 200+ new jobs would be generated from the new marina, and even taking those numbers with a grain of salt, it’s realistic to think that the direct and ancillary impact of the marina would be a large positive for the business climate.
The new marina would help further Bellingham’s reputation as the jumping-off spot for cruising to the San Juans, Gulf Islands, and points north, drawing more tourists and increasing our lure as a destination point.
The Port’s newest plan for the marina site also includes more green and open space, and easier and more direct access for the public. The recent purchase of the Gaasland property on the marina side of the Whatcom Waterway ensures both a cleanup of the former dump site there and, eventually, further unfettered public access to the area.
Saying "yes" to the marina concept doesn’t have to mean giving up parks, open space, and public access. It didn’t at nearby Zuanich Point Park, and doesn’t have to here either.
by Rik Dalvit