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Week of April 3, 2024: Ongoing port follies, humor and a long view on the waterfront

Weekly thoughts of NW Washington readers


Plaudits to Cascadia Daily for its coverage of the city’s waterfront redevelopment.  

I was born and raised in Bellingham and retired here nearly nine years ago after a long career dealing with public issues. I live overlooking the former Bloedel-Donovan mill site where my father worked 15 years as an unskilled laborer. A pulp mill, a paper mill and other industrial sites formed the backbone then of the city’s economy.

Several years ago, I responded to notice of a community meeting on waterfront redevelopment, at the Alaska Ferry Terminal, to involve city and port officials and prime-contractor Harcourt. It turned out to be more of a pep rally for plans already made by the officials and Harcourt. Mainly I was concerned that Harcourt, an offshore company thousands of miles from Bellingham, would be able to walk away from the project, if it chose, with little harm to itself. Its plans, presented at the meeting, were generally vague and not responsive to several audience questions.

Afterward, I wrote a memo to city and port officials expressing my concern for the Harcourt arrangement. The responses I got were negative — as if I were questioning the officials’ judgment. The Cascadia Daily series makes me think my concerns were well founded. Why not a Pacific Northwest company as contractor? Someone experienced in the region and subject to difficulty if its performance were questioned?

Bellingham and the port have little leverage on an offshore company for which the project is a minor part of its business. We can only be hopeful but hopefulness might not be enough. Cascadia Daily has exposed unresolved issues. City and port officials should pay attention. 

Ted Van Dyk

As reported in “MyBellinghamNow,” Port of Bellingham Commissioner Ken Bell made a grand announcement.

The announcement showcased a new “Restoration Project” for the four “iconic” digesters (his words not mine). They were initially offered to ABC [Recycling] on a first-refusal basis as part of a “don’t go away mad, just go away” token gift of appreciation for polluting the Bay.

So now, these precious relics will continue to loom over the tin can Pike Place-like Market replica instead of an Aquatic Center. Such a deal.

The digester vessels have long been the subject of behind-doors discussions as to what to do with them. A possible port commissioner’s suggestion might be to paint “MUSK” in huge 10-foot letters on the sides, one per vessel, anticipating that a grateful Elon will move Tesla production here. Another favorite is opening them up, building ladders and platforms inside. Thus, creating the mother of all kiddie climbing rocket ships and revenue center. Entry fee includes a tetanus shot, with optional hazmat suits and respirators.

Sadly, Ken’s restoration scope left us rather flat: The plan is to strip the rust off the rusty tanks and … let them rust. Important note though: executing this project, as scoped, is a huge step out for the port commissioners. It has a high probability of success. Finally, one in the “win” column!

Rounding things out, a use for that giant idle crane has been found: They’re considering using it to periodically move the digesters around like giant chess pieces and installing bright lights on the top. Retaliation for those pesky 24/7 South Hill Shore Watch noise complaints.

Bob Morton

I appreciated the juxtaposition of Ralph Schwartz’s Is Bellingham’s waterfront ready for a reset after past missteps? and Ron Judd’s What B’ham needs: A waterfront monument to dumb government (CDN, March 28, 2024).

Ralph professionally tackled the serious issues in straightforward reporting and Ron proficiently incorporated humor as a powerful tool for social commentary. Ron has a knack for highlighting the absurdities in the political landscape, and in doing so, holds those in power accountable. 

I love that CDN doesn’t shy away from complex and controversial topics and allocates resources for its enterprise reporters to dig deep to inform readers and spark conversations on issues that affect our community, now and years into the future. Using appropriate humor can challenge the status quo, and pique readers’ curiosity and involvement that can lead to meaningful change.

Thanks, CDN! 

Micki Jackson

Letters to the Editor are published online Wednesdays; a selection is published in print Fridays. Send to by 10 a.m. Tuesdays. Rules: Maximum 250 words, be civil, have a point and make it clearly. Preference is given to letters about local subjects. CDN reserves the right to reject letters or edit for length, clarity, grammar and style, or removal of personal attacks or offensive content. Letters must include an address/phone number to verify the writer's identity (not for publication).

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