TERMINAL 5 MODERNIZATION: Port announces final environmental-impact statement, with ‘preferred alternative’

(UPDATED 11:35 AM with “what’s next” now that this is public)

(January 2015 photo of Terminal 5 by Long Bach Nguyen)

10:23 AM: Just announced by the port: It’s finished the final environmental-impact statement for the proposed $200+-million modernization of Terminal 5 in West Seattle. We haven’t read the fine print yet but the news release says some community requests are addressed – including shore power so ships aren’t running don’t have to run their engines while docked:

The Port of Seattle has completed the environmental analysis of Terminal 5 and has prepared the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the project to modernize the cargo-handling facility in order to serve larger cargo vessels. The proposed upgrades to Terminal 5 are wharf rehabilitation, berth deepening, electrical service and improvements to the upland portions of the property.

“Based on public comment we are including a number of improvements, such as shore power for vessels, installing gates for noise and safety mitigation for rail, and significant traffic improvement measures,” said John Creighton, Port of Seattle Commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “We want to thank the public for weighing in on this proposal during the comment period.”

“With this Final Environmental Impact Statement for Terminal 5, we are one step closer to making this prime maritime asset ‘Big Ship Ready’ and able to handle the largest container vessels working the market today,” said Connie Bacon, Port of Tacoma Commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “This region needs this terminal to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”

Mitigation measures for the project include construction of plug-in capability for shore power at two berths, tracking of air quality performance, establishment of a safety corridor between the Terminal 5 gate and the Duwamish river in order to minimize the need to use locomotive horns, required use of ambient-sensing broadband back up alarms, implementation of a Gate Queue Management plan, establishing a truck driver information system, comprehensive traffic signal improvements along SW Spokane Street and an operation noise management plan to ensure and monitor compliance with the Seattle noise code.

The FEIS evaluated potential impacts to earth, air, water, plants, animals, energy and natural resources, environmental health, noise, aesthetics (including light and glare), historic and cultural resources, transportation and public services. The Port of Seattle Commission must approve the recommended improvements in public session.

Copies of the FEIS are available for review at the Seattle Central Library, Delridge Library, Southwest Library, Highpoint Library, South Park Library, and West Seattle Library. Copies are also available at the Port of Seattle, Maritime Environment and Sustainability Department, Pier 69, 2711 Alaskan Way, Seattle, Washington, during business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

People interested in receiving a copy of the FEIS should contact Brenda Thomas at 206-787-3382 or email at: SEPA.p@portseattle.org. The FEIS can also be reviewed and downloaded at the Port of Seattle website and at the Terminal 5 Improvements Project Online Open House.

The entire environmental review followed community concerns, including a petition drive, that followed the port’s original announcement that it didn’t believe a full-scale environmental impact statement would be needed. The purpose of the EIS (direct link here – use dropdown under “Current Projects”) is for use by agencies making decisions about permits for the project, which the port says is expected to be complete by 2020.

11:35 AM: We talked with port spokesperson Peter McGraw regarding “what’s next” now that this is out. For one, there is an appeals process – deadline, November 1st. That’s explained here, on the “Next Steps” page of the “online open house.” And, McGraw points out, a big part of the final EIS is the announcement of the port’s “preferred alternative” – it’s the one that does NOT include “upland improvements” beyond T-5’s existing footprint.

17 Replies to "TERMINAL 5 MODERNIZATION: Port announces final environmental-impact statement, with 'preferred alternative'"

  • Dr. Richard Curtis October 18, 2016 (10:39 am)

    This whole exercise was a massive waste of time and resources.  The report is totally out of touch with reality and presents a view of the future that indicates those who prepared it live in a fantasy world.  Every expert in the world is telling us harbor island and most of terminal five will disappear with rising ocean levels, in particular the effects of larger storm surges.  The reality-challenged people authoring this report thought they should worry about everything other than this most vital detail.  What is the point of expanding port facilities if those expansions will simply be taken away by storm surge?  This is just insanity pretending that if they ignore global warming it won’t actually happen.  And these fools are spending our money!

    • WSB October 18, 2016 (10:49 am)

      Here’s a direct link to the section titled “Sea Level Rise Considerations”:


      From that section, “The Port of Seattle is developing a draft climate change adaptation plan to address projected rates of sea level rise at Port facilities. The draft adaptation plan notes that the longest design life that the Port assigns to an asset is 50 years and the most likely amount of sea level rise that an asset will experience over the next 50 years is about nine inches”

  • JIm October 18, 2016 (1:14 pm)

    >>>We haven’t read the fine print yet but the news release says some community requests are addressed – including shore power so ships aren’t running their engines while docked:<<<

    You should read the fine print before putting out statements like that.  People will think this EIS actually says shore power will be in use at Terminal 5.  What it really says is that the plug will be sitting on the dock in case anyone WANTS to use it.  No requirement to use it.  And the vast majority of  ships visiting T5 will either choose not to use it, or will not even be capable of using. 

    Don’t let the Port use you to blow their smoke.

    • WSB October 18, 2016 (1:35 pm)

      Sorry, we’re not “blow(ing) smoke.” The EIS says shore power will be available. The line we wrote says that THE NEWS RELEASE SAYS shore power is addressed. It is indeed addressed, such as in this section:


      One passage there says, “Mitigation to reduce air quality impacts is proposed by increasing the use of shorepower for moored vessels. It is anticipated that 30% of the vessels would use shorepower in 2020 and that number would be expected to increase to 50% in 2030 and beyond. Besides controlling air emissions , noise from on vessel generators would be reduced as a result of vessels plugging in to shore power. This change has the potential to reduce or eliminate low frequency noise from moored vessels that, in the past, has been reported as intrusive by some residents on the hill west of the facility. In addition, if noise complaints are received related to a specific hoteling vessel, and if subsequent noise measurements indicate that the vessel is emitting excessive levels of low frequency noise (as determined by a methodology identified in consultation with the City of Seattle DCI as part of the Operational Noise Management Plan), then that specific vessel will be required to use shorepower on any subsequent visits to Terminal 5, if possible.”
      Checking the archives – there was a time when it wasn’t clear shore power would even be available, unless a tenant insisted on it.

      That said, I will amend the line from “aren’t” to “don’t have to.”

  • JIm October 18, 2016 (2:13 pm)

    It’s the Port that is blowing the smoke.

    Thanks for putting out the actual fine print for the people that will not bother to read the document and get a false impression from the opening lines. 

    Changing to “don’t have to” is an improvement, but it still gives the impression that all ships will be availing themselves of shore power.  The fine print you added clears that up pretty well by showing how even their estimates (inflated?) of percentage use are low. 

    Did you catch the “if possible” loophole at the end?  Noisy ships that are not shore power capable?  Oh well, too bad.  BTW,  that noise methodology for “excessive” low frequency noise does not exist yet.

    • miws October 18, 2016 (3:11 pm)

      And whose responsibility is it to read the fine print, Jim, when WSB clearly stated that they had not yet read it?  

      Changing to “don’t have to” is an improvement, but it still gives the impression that all ships will be availing themselves of shore power.  

      Please cite your experience as a professional journalist/editor.


  • anonyme October 18, 2016 (3:56 pm)

    The Port is relying on the fact that very few people have the time and energy to read every bit of the fine print while fully understanding misleading comments such as the examples above.   Not that many of us are lawyers.  The next step would then be for all who did understand to launch an exhausting and exhaustive campaign to rally enough support to challenge this project.  That will never happen.  The EIS statement may as well not even exist.  They will do whatever they damn well please, despite the terrible environmental (and other) consequences of this project.

    I especially like the part about the requirement that complaints can only be made about specific ships, who would then be asked – not required – to make future changes while in port.  In other words, placing the complete responsibility of compliance on citizens, with lots of loopholes and no guarantee of results.  Typical BS.

    Humpback whales are passing by our shores today.  Say goodbye to such sights once this project goes forward.  It is a tragedy.  A few jobs and some big bucks funneled into a few pockets is not a legitimate trade-off.  FU, super ships!

  • Enid October 18, 2016 (5:35 pm)

    I just heard on the news that our governor is going to allocate 600 million dollars (probably federal funds) toward restoration of natural habitat in Puget Sound.  Someone please explain to me how we can simultaneously devastate the ecology of the sound while restoring it?

  • Mike Baker October 18, 2016 (6:04 pm)

    Where is the market demand for this?

    its not Hanjin.

  • Salty Dog October 18, 2016 (7:20 pm)

    Seems to me nobody is very happy with the proposed improvement of the port. Shipping is a vital part of our economy not to mention the jobs the Port of Seattle creates. Where do think most of the things we buy come from?

  • pseudoNIMBY October 18, 2016 (8:09 pm)

    Some people will never be satisfied with anything businesses do to survive or, God forbid, profit. They want their cheap crap from China to be flown over on Unicorns or hand crafted by their local artisans (for free, probably) and  delivered to them via Leprechauns complete with rainbows. People bought houses overlooking an active port that is essential to the flow of goods in this region. We all (myself included) provided our comments. Some issues have been partially addressed, some fully, some have not. It’s called compromise and was likely based on cost-benefit analysis. Win some, lose some. I’m pleased about the noise mitigation efforts and would love for them to require the use of shore power, but unless consumers start tracking their purchases from origin to delivery and demand that ships all use shore power, that’s not going to happen. So some better companies will use it, others will not. It seems like some people should take their complaints to the shipping companies? Or maybe just sell their million dollar view homes overlooking an active port and move, since the port was there first.

  • JIm October 18, 2016 (10:09 pm)

    Ah, the old “I was here first, so I can do anything I want.”   I use that on my neighbor all the time because he moved in after me.  He’s free to sell and move back out if he doesn’t like it.  Good luck getting his price with a guy like me next door.

  • JIm October 18, 2016 (10:31 pm)

    My neighbor doesn’t like the new mega-RV I just bought. (I had a much smaller one when he moved in next to me)  I now park it right along the lot line next to his house.  Sometimes I leave the generator on it running all night and day.  He doesn’t like the fumes or the noise from it.  I could probably get the power from the house.  But hey, I was here first.

  • Jw October 19, 2016 (9:19 am)
    1. I’d like to second the Hanjin comment.
    • Isnt Hanjin the ports biggest customer? So now that  Hanjin has gone bankrupt why not deepen the terminal by the rail yard? Wouldn’t that save on traffic and rail mitigation and upgrades? 
    • WSB October 19, 2016 (9:45 am)

      Hanjin had one ship calling per week at the time of the bankruptcy. Our story at that time focused on why the Port said the Hanjin troubles didn’t eliminate the need for the T-5 modernization – which, it should be noted, has NOT yet gotten the full green light from the Port Commission. Will be looking for info on when it might return to the commission for discussion. – TR

  • JIm October 20, 2016 (12:05 pm)

    Salty Dog – You know what is the real irony of your point?  Hooking ships up to Shore Power creates good, family wage jobs for the Longshore folks here in Seattle.  (not to mention reducing the Diesel Particulate Matter they have to breath in while at work)   And the Port of Seattle, that brags so much about creating good jobs for our area, is the one fighting so hard to limit the use of Shore Power at Terminal 5.  Go figure.

  • Fauntleroyguy October 21, 2016 (12:31 pm)

    I guess this seems to me to be a $250M insurance policy.  Nobody really knows if these super large ships will be both viable AND need to call in Seattle.  This may take 5-10 yrs. to fully sort out.  In the meantime, the Port is seeking a new client to lease T5.  That won’t happen without the capacity to at least service super large ships IF they choose to dock them here.   But as is the case with things like this, just having the capacity to do it is required to stay in play, and then if you don’t get those ships, well, you’ve made some improvements for whatever ships they DO choose to send our way.  

    The bigger question might be whether Tacoma is better suited to be the servicer of the super ships OR all the remaining cargo traffic, now that they have the joint operating agreement?  The plot thickens…

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