West Seattle, Washington
(May 15th photo of Polar Pioneer at T-5, by Long Bach Nguyen)
1:54 AM: Since Shell‘s announcement two weeks ago that it was shelving Arctic offshore drilling TFN, we’ve been awaiting word on where its rigs would wind up – whether there was any chance, for example, the Polar Pioneer would come back to West Seattle’s Terminal 5, where it spent a month before heading off to drill. You’ll recall that the T-5 interim tenant, Foss Maritime, said at the time that it was too soon to say.
According to new reports in two publications, both quoting Shell, the answer is “no.”
Both KUCB in Unalaska and the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles say the Polar Pioneer will head back to PA. KUCB reports that both the PP and Shell’s other rig, the Noble Discoverer, arrived Sunday in Unalaska’s Dutch Harbor. According to KUCB, the ND didn’t stay long, heading out on Monday, bound for Everett, where it was docked until heading north for Shell’s short-lived drilling effort. The PDN reports Shell isn’t saying when the Polar Pioneer is due back in those waters, where it spent four weeks before coming to T-5 for a similar stay. And we don’t know if any of the support vessels might return to T-5; the one that seemed to spend the most time there, Aiviq, is currently Everett-bound, according to MarineTraffic.com.
(May photo by Long Bach Nguyen: Shell’s Polar Pioneer at T-5)
Two days after Shell‘s announcement that its offshore-drilling attempts in the Arctic are over TFN, a decision on a related West Seattle issue is in, though it might be a moot point:
That document spells out how the city Hearing Examiner’s Office has just ruled against the city Department of Planning and Development‘s contention back in May that the Port of Seattle would need a different set of permits to allow Shell’s offshore-drilling fleet to use West Seattle’s Terminal 5.
The fleet had done just that earlier this year, you’ll recall, despite DPD’s contention, which Shell, the Port, and T-5 leaseholder Foss had challenged, with the port calling it “irrational.”
Mayor Murray says he’s “disappointed” but adds that the city will not challenge the ruling by deputy Hearing Examiner Anne Watanabe, who listened to arguments over five days this summer; documents were still being posted to the voluminous online case file as recently as last week.
But Earthjustice, representing four environmental groups supporting the DPD decision, says it might appeal the Hearing Examiner’s ruling. Its managing attorney Patti Goldman is quoted in a news release as saying, âThe City got it right when it decided a massive drill rig is not a cargo ship and a homeport for Shellâs Arctic drilling fleet is not a cargo terminal.”
So far, Shell has not said where its rigs are headed after pulling out of the Arctic Ocean. Foss spokesperson Paul Queary told us on Monday that some items remained at T-5 to be picked up, and that fleet-related vessels had some cargo offloading to be done … but whether that would happen here remained to be seen.
(June 2015 WSB photo)
8:50 AM: Three and a half months after its Polar Pioneer rig left West Seattle, Arctic-bound, Shell announced overnight that it will “cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.” Shell said it “safely drilled (an exploration) well to a total depth of 6800 feet” and found “indications of oil and gas,” but not enough to justify continuing, so the “well will be sealed and abandoned.”
In addition to the controversy over Arctic drilling itself, Shell’s local presence still had some unresolved issues, including a pending city Hearing Examiner decision on the appeal of last May’s Department of Planning and Development “interpretation” saying more permits were needed for its use of Terminal 5 as part of Foss Maritime‘s lease. After multiple days of testimony over the summer, documents are still being filed in the case.
But the immediate question is whether any of Shell’s fleet will be headed back this way; besides the Polar Pioneer, several Shell support vessels used T-5 before heading north to the Arctic Ocean.
(May 2015 photo by Paul Weatherman: Shell’s Aiviq and Polar Pioneer @ T-5)
We talked this morning with Foss spokesperson Paul Queary. He says the company is “obviously disappointed” about Shell’s decision to abandon the offshore Arctic, but they don’t know yet what the oil company will do “regarding the vessels coming back to T-5.” Queary says there are still some loose ends at the very least, including items “to be picked up” and cargo to be offloaded. Shell or no Shell, he says, Foss still has a lease with the Port of Seattle and is “seeking other opportunities” for utilizing the space.
We’ll be following up on other aspects of the Shell announcement and will add to this story as the day goes on.
11:38 AM: Earthjustice, which went to court to try to stop the lease the port signed in February, sent a statement: “Shell’s departure from the Arctic Ocean removes for now a major threat to the region’s wildlife, already suffering from climate change more rapid than anywhere on earth. Arctic Ocean oil drilling is a thing of the past. The world cannot afford to burn the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves, let alone to search for unknown oil in Arctic Ocean, risking an irreplaceable region and wildlife in the process. President Obama now has an opportunity to build on his climate legacy and end Arctic Ocean drilling for good. Itâs time to invest in the future of clean renewable energy and a sustainable climate for future generations.â
12:04 PM: A statement from Mayor Murray: “âI am pleased that Shell has ceased their Arctic drilling operations. The people of Seattle stood up to oppose the use of our city as a base for expanded Arctic drilling. With todayâs announcement, it is time to move forward. I am committed to working with the Port and our critical maritime industry to build a clean economy of the future that provides high-paying maritime jobs and preserves our environment.â
1:26 PM: And from County Executive Dow Constantine: “While we should all be relieved that Shell Oil decided not to drill in the Arctic, this will not be the last proposal to drill for fossil fuels in that region, posing both local and global environmental risks. Let’s seize this opportunity to make King County a hub for clean-technology development and take the lead in creating a sustainable 21st-century economy.”
Around 4 pm, Holland America Line’s Amsterdam and Noordam and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl are scheduled to sail out of Elliott Bay, ending the 2015 Seattle cruise season. According to the Port of Seattle‘s media advisory for the departures:
For the eighth year in a row, Port of Seattle cruise terminals welcomed over 800,000 revenue passengers. This year brought 192 cruise ship calls. Seattleâs cruise business â currently leading all cruise homeports on the West Coast in passenger volume â is responsible for over 3,600 jobs, $441 million in annual business revenue, and $17.2 million annually in state and local tax revenues. Each homeported cruise vessel brings $2.5 million to the local economy.
Amsterdam and Noordam are leaving Pier 91 in Magnolia; Norwegian Pearl is sailing from Pier 66 downtown.
Thanks to Karen Berge for sharing photos from Saturday’s free Port of Seattle-presented boat tour of the area’s “Working Waterfront.” Karen reports the tour traveled along both the East and the West Waterways north of the Duwamish River; above, a closer look at one of the container ships in port at the time, the CGA-CGM Attila. The tour also traveled past Vigor Industrial‘s shipyard on Harbor Island:
One of the more eye-catching sights there, a partly wrapped state ferry – the M/V Tacoma, undergoing work at Vigor, same place it was built in the mid-’90s (when the shipyard was known as Todd):
As the tour headed into the Duwamish River, Karen says they traveled under the low bridge as well as the high bridge:
If the tide had been any higher, she said, the low bridge would have had to have opened. Along the Duwamish, the sights turned to many a barge:
That included the one that generated some controversy among local environmental advocates for bringing in contaminated sediment from Bellingham :
Speaking of controversy, the tour also went by West Seattle’s Terminal 5:
Part of Shell’s Arctic-drilling fleet is still expected back at T-5 after the short drilling season, but the city Hearing Examiner’s decision is still pending, regarding whether additional city permits are needed.
Along with the diversity of facilities along the waterfront, the diversity of vessels was in view too. With the reconfiguration of Highway 99 and Alaskan Way on the south side of downtown, you don’t get as much of a view of the Coast Guard’s ships any more – here’s what was visible from the tour:
Karen concluded, in her note with the photos, “What I found most interesting was the opportunity to see a different perspective of places that I think I know so well. I cross both of the West Seattle bridges frequently, but have not had opportunities to see the underside of these bridges from a boat.
“Today, we saw parks, buildings, and industrial facilities in a different way than we have seen them before. I’ve gone to Jack Block Park as a destination, but have never seen it or any of the surrounding shoreline from the water, so it was incredibly interesting to see it in that context.
“It was also interesting to see the mixture of newer versus older buildings and learn more about those that I’ve never pondered. For example, our tour boat passed by the old Fisher Flour Mill and when asked, no one could identify it by name.” She adds that port reps say they’ll be offering the “working waterfront” tour to other neighborhoods – West Seattle was the first.
(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Big changes for the Port of Seattle, and more on the way.
That’s what Seattle Port Commission co-president Courtney Gregoire detailed to the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce‘s monthly lunch meeting on Thursday, under a tent at port-owned Jack Block Park (whose namesake, a former commissioner himself, was in attendance).
Gregoire (pictured above with the WS Chamber’s CEO Lynn Dennis and board chair Hamilton Gardiner) touched only briefly on the controversy that turned commission meetings into international news earlier this year.
From tonight’s Southwest District Council meeting: A reminder that the Port of Seattle‘s rescheduled “West Seattle Working Waterfront Tour” is coming up on Saturday, September 19th, and registration is happening right now. It’s a round trip from Pier 66 on the downtown waterfront, aboard the Spirit of Seattle; free (validated) parking near the pier will be available if you need it. All ages are welcome and there will be a special program during the cruise for kids, as well as narration for all. The official description: “Get an up-close look at the Port of Seattle cargo facilities that generate 24,000 jobs in our community with an annual payroll of $2 billion.” Check-in will be at 9 am on tour day; the tour itself will take you out on the water 9:30-11:30 am. The Port (which is advertising on WSB to promote the tour) reminds you that space is limited and you can register for up to 4 tickets – “RSVP with the name for each guest attending and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15th. Questions? Call 206-787-3527.”
— NW Seaport Alliance (@SeaportNW) September 1, 2015
The Northwest Seaport Alliance – the new entity that includes the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma – says that’s the biggest container ship ever to call in Puget Sound, the CMA CGM Callisto, which arrived at Terminal 18 today. As big as it is – see all the stats here – it’s not as big as the ships the port wants to redesign Terminal 5 to handle, which will hold up to a third more container volume than this one. The Callisto is scheduled to head back out tomorrow. Speaking of the modernization proposal – this Friday is the comment deadline for key aspects of that proposal – details are in our report from two weeks ago.
You’ve probably seen those signs around Admiral and east Alki. They’re not for a political campaign – they’re for the citizen-advocacy campaign to get the Port of Seattle to change its mind about part of the process leading up to its planned modernization of Terminal 5; the web address on the signs points you to this online petition.
Though Terminal 5 has made headlines in the past several months for the short-term lease that brought in part of Shell’s Arctic-drilling fleet, this isn’t related to that. This has to do with the port’s long-term plan for the sprawling terminal in northeast West Seattle, as reported here more than a year ago – the plan to make it “big-ship ready,” as the phrase goes. Not that the ships that called at Terminal 5 until its closure a year ago weren’t big – but they weren’t as big as the ones that are expected to dominate the business in the years ahead.
Right now, the port says it doesn’t need a full environmental review for the proposal, because ultimately, it contends, the volume won’t be any larger – it’ll just come on bigger, and fewer, ships. Port reps defended that contention when they spoke at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s meeting last month (WSB coverage here, including first mention of the neighbors’ petition campaign). Nearby residents cited multiple reasons why they believe a full environmental review – which includes issues such as traffic and noise, not just ecological effects – is warranted.
A new twist since that meeting: The city reopened the comment period on a certain part of the process – the “shoreline substantial development application” – because it lost a month’s worth of citizen comments sent in via the Department of Planning and Development‘s online system. DPD spokesperson Wendy Shark confirmed this to us when we inquired via e-mail:
An upgrade to the Land Use Information Bulletin (LUIB) application was made on June 29. Before the upgrade, comments sent via the link posted in the LUIB were forwarded directly to the Public Resource Center. That didnât happen after the upgrade. The issue was brought to our attention by members of the public when they noticed that their comments had not been uploaded to our electronic library. We corrected the problem on July 29.
Here’s the revised official notice – if you used the form attached to the previous notice to send in a comment after June 29th, you’ll want to send it again. And if you haven’t commented on it yet, neighbors point out that unless there’s a turnabout on the environmental-impact review issue, it could be your only chance to comment on those impacts. The notice summarizes the project as:
Shoreline Substantial Development Application to allow improvements to existing container cargo facility (Terminal 5). Project includes removal and replacement of portions of pier structure, including crane rails, decking and piling, dredging of approximately 29,800 cu. yds. of sediment, and under pier shoreline stabilization. Project also includes installation of an electrical substation and utility upgrades. Determination of NonSignificance prepared by the Port of Seattle.
That last part is what the neighbors take most issue with – that’s the declaration (read it here, and read the “environmental checklist” here) that they don’t think a full environmental impact review is needed. Even if the terminal’s container volume is the same as before, or even less, many other factors have changed, they point out – population and traffic, for example, and that’s why they think a study is merited.
For now, September 4th is the new deadline for comments on the modernization project – via this form, or via e-mail at email@example.com.
(May photo by Paul Weatherman: Shell’s Aiviq and Polar Pioneer @ T-5)
This Thursday was supposed to be the day that the city Hearing Examiner started listening to arguments in the fight over permits allowing the Port to allow Foss to host Shell at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5. But it’s been pushed back three weeks, according to a notice in this morning’s city Land Use Information Bulletin, with the new start date August 13th, continuing into the following day and August 24th if necessary; the delay was requested by Foss, according to the case file. The Port, Foss, and Shell are appealing the city Department of Planning and Development‘s May “interpretation” saying that the port’s permits for use of the terminal don’t cover what’s involved in hosting Shell. More than a dozen maritime-related businesses sought to join the case in their support, as we reported last month, while environmental groups requested permission to support the city’s position. It’s been five weeks since the Polar Pioneer drill rig left West Seattle to head north; what happens in the appeal process now could affect whether it returns here after whatever happens in the Arctic Ocean later this summer.
Two updates tonight on the future of the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 in northeastern West Seattle:
(December 2014 photo by Long Bach Nguyen)
GETTING RID OF THE CRANES: After the port closed the terminal, separate from interim leasing including the Foss/Shell use, it announced plans to sell the six cranes on the site, saying they had been appraised as worth $3.75 million. Ten months later, no buyer(s) have surfaced, so the port wants to pay someone an estimated $4.6 million to take away the six T-5 cranes and one at Terminal 46 on the downtown waterfront. From a briefing paper accompanying last Tuesday’s Port Commission meeting agenda:
Cranes No. 61, 62, 63, 64, 66, and 68 are located at Terminal 5. They were purchased from PACECO Corporation and are classified as post-panamax cranes having a gauge of 100 feet and a lifting capacity of 50 long tons. Crane 54 is located on Terminal 46 and is an IHI crane classified as a panamax having a capacity of 40 long tons and a gauge of 50 feet.
Port staff advertised the cranes in trade journals, contacted used equipment dealers, and reached out to other ports, but received limited interest and no offers. Unfortunately, there are a number of used cranes similar to the PACECOs on the market with very few buyers. There is no market for the IHI crane and it has been inactive since 2008. The result is the Port will have to issue a major public-works contract to have the cranes removed from the terminals.
And that has to be done fast, the port says, because some demolition work is planned at T-5 “in early 2016.” Port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB a final decision is expected at the July 14th commission meeting; this week, along with this briefing, he says commissioners ratified a cost increase in a separate contract to remove three cranes at Terminal 18, which will now cost $1.8 million.
COMMENT TIME FOR MODERNIZATION PLAN: Another public-comment period is now open for the modernization work itself, according to this notice published in the city’s most-recent Land Use Information Bulletin, which summarizes the project as:
Shoreline Substantial Development Application to allow improvements to existing container cargo facility (Terminal 5). Project includes removal and replacement of portions of pier structure, including crane rails, decking and piling, dredging of approximately 29,800 cu. yds. of sediment, and under pier shoreline stabilization. Project also includes installation of an electrical substation and utility upgrades.
You can use this form to send a comment to the city Department of Planning and Development; the deadline is July 24th. You can find what’s been filed with the city by going here and putting 3019071 in the “project number” search box on the left side.
(SCROLL DOWN for updates)
(WSB photo, Sunday @ Don Armeni Boat Ramp)
12:21 AM: Hours after the latest anti-Shell rally at Don Armeni Park – this time, led by Native activists (WSB photo above) – the “Shell No” group says it believes Polar Pioneer will try to depart from Terminal 5 today.
(WSB photo, Sunday from Jack Block Park)
It’s put out a call for people to be ready to join a flotilla blockade, potentially departing from Don Armeni Boat Ramp, where the protest coalition has been headquartered. It’s been exactly a month since the platform leased by Shell for Arctic drilling arrived in West Seattle. The Noble Discoverer drillship, which Shell also plans to deploy, has remained moored in Everett rather than coming to T-5 as once expected.
1:38 AM: A Coast Guard cutter, Blue Shark, is patroling near T-5; in all our watching of maritime comings and goings, we haven’t seen that lately. A Port police boat remains in the area too. And the tug Garth Foss, one of the Foss tugs that brought Polar Pioneer to Seattle from Port Angeles a month ago, arrived in the area not long ago and is stopped offshore northwest of Jack Block Park. Meantime, for a look inside Polar Pioneer and details of exactly where it’s being sent and why, read this in-depth Houston Chronicle story (link tweeted by Stranger reporter Sydney Brownstone).
3:10 AM: Two more of the 4 Foss tugs that brought Polar Pioneer here last month are either in Elliott Bay now (Andrew Foss) or almost here (Lindsey Foss).
4:20 AM: Text alert from the ShellNo Action Council says kayakers have formed “a human blockade to stop Shell from leaving Seattle.” Meantime, tugs are gathering at T-5, MarineTraffic.com shows.
5:31 AM: The activity continues to intensify; more Coast Guard and police vessels are in the area, and one texter tells us a USCG helicopter is up too. We’re heading out for a firsthand look, now that it’s light.
6:16 AM: We’re at Jack Block and Polar Pioneer is definitely pulling out. It’s approaching a water blockade. We’ll be updating in a separate report.
Newest developments in the ongoing Shell presence at Terminal 5 and challenges to it:
WHAT’S UP AT THE DOCK: The latest vessel in the Shell fleet to come dock by the Polar Pioneer is the supply ship Harvey Explorer:
Lynn Hall shared the photo, noticing its arrival in Elliott Bay around 2 pm Friday; it’s one of the vessels specifically called out in the U.S. Coast Guard rule for “safety zones (and) restricted navigation area” related to the Shell Arctic-drilling fleet. We’re also seeing, frequently checking MarineTraffic.com, what appears to be a more constant presence of police/security/port tender boats near T-5. The “Shell No” coalition says it’s watching for signs of potential departure any day now; members expect to deploy a “rapid response” flotilla once they get those signs. It’s based at Don Armeni Boat Ramp:
We photographed the flotilla HQ last night, while musicians performed on the protest barge offshore.
The next major event announced at the barge is tomorrow:
CANOE PROCESSION/RALLY TOMORROW: The Native advocacy movement Idle No More is organizing a canoe procession and rally tomorrow, starting with departure from Don Armeni 10-11 am tomorrow, followed by a rally on the platform, and concluding with a blessing ceremony in late afternoon. The latest information is being posted via this Facebook event page.
MARITIME ‘INTERVENORS’ ASK TO JOIN APPEAL OF CITY ACTION: As first reported here last month, it’ll be late July before the city Hearing Examiner hears the Foss/Port/Shell appeal of the city’s “interpretation” saying the fleet shouldn’t be here. The newest document filed in the case is in support of Foss/Port/Shell, from maritime interests calling themselves the “T-5 intervenors.”
The “T-5 intervenors” are listed as: Alaska Marine Lines, American Seafoods Company, American Waterway Operators, Arctic Fjord, Inc., Arctic Storm, Inc., Ballard Oil Company, Crowley Maritime Corporation, Glacier Fish Company, Premier Pacific Seafoods, Sailorsâ Union Of The Pacific, SSA Terminals, LLC, Transportation Institute, and Vigor Industrial LLC. They are asking for permission to “intervene” and show support for the appellants in this case. Their document, embedded above, says they believe that if the interpretation is upheld, it will adversely affect their interests, which, they say, are not exactly the same as Foss, Shell, and the Port:
DPDâs attempt to reinterpret an issued permit after-the-fact has serious far reaching implications on the viability and reliability of the myriad and numerous permits granted to and relied upon by the T-5 Intervenors. For example, any one of the T-5 Intervenors could potentially receive a Notice of Violation at a momentâs notice upon DPDâs reinterpretation of their permits in response to intense political pressure. Or fishing vessels or freight barges could be barred from calling into and docking or mooring for off-season storage and maintenance at Port facilities because DPD changed its mind regarding those operations for similar perceived political reasons at issue in the Appeal. Such a reinterpretation that effectively ejects vessels from their regular operation will undoubtedly and indirectly affect Vigorâs, SSA Terminals, LLCâs and Ballard Oilâs ability to service the array of shipbuilding, repairing, fueling and loading needs of such vessels and operators throughout the region. Neither T-5 Intervenorsâ nor anyone doing business in Seattle for that matterâ can afford to have the terms of their permits and entitlements redefined after issuance. While the Appellants are focused on the Permit and Interpretation at issue in this Appeal, the T-5 Intervenors are focused on the sanctity and security of the permits and entitlements that are part of the bedrock of the maritime industrial community in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
The Hearing Examiner now will decide whether to allow this group to intervene. Its filing came days after a decision granting environmental groups’ motion to intervene on the city’s side.
We’re now in what had been reported as Shell’s window for heading north to drill offshore in the Arctic; as of this writing, the Polar Pioneer is still at Terminal 5, and the drillship Noble Discoverer is still in Everett, but one support vessel is reported to be on its way to Alaska. That’s the first of several related developments, including events in West Seattle today/tonight:
ARCTIC CHALLENGER HEADS NORTH: This barge, intended to help in case of a spill, had been in Bellingham but is now on the way to Dutch Harbor, AK, reports Alaska’s KTUU, quoting a Shell spokesperson.
SPILL-RESPONSE PLANS UPHELD: As reported Thursday by SeattlePI.com, three federal judges upheld an approval of Shell’s spill-response plans.
SIX LABOR GROUPS SIGN ‘SHELL NO’ LETTER: This announcement lists OPEIU 8, SEIU 6, UAW Local 4121, UFCW 21, UFW, and Pride at Work/King County Chapter as signatories to a new letter opposing Shell‘s presence at Terminal 5, although, as a preface acknowledges, “We recognize that other labor unions have a position of support for this Oil Rig here.” The preface continues, “We respect their decision, but we feel compelled to speak today given the stakes of climate change and the immediate and long term effects that this has on all people in the US and around the world.”
NEXT WEST SEATTLE PROTEST: According to this frequently updated webpage, picketing is planned at/near the five-ways intersection west of the low bridge this afternoon (Friday, June 12th), 4-6 pm.
FLOTILLA HQ AT DON ARMENI: Organizers are continuing to plan for a “rapid-response” kayak-flotilla protest once they get word the Polar Pioneer is readying to leave. They’re using Don Armeni Boat Ramp as home base and have also set up text messaging to alert potential participants when it’s time.
FRIDAY NIGHT CONCERT ON THE BARGE: A lineup of DJs and musicians are being promoted on social media as #BringTheBoom – Party Protest on the Sound tonight on the barge off Don Armeni, 4-9 pm.
2:41 PM: Seattle Port Commissioners‘ meeting ended early and abruptly this afternoon after protesters in the chambers started chanting “MUR-DE-RERS.” Because of midday breaking news, we couldn’t leave the desk to go downtown, so we were monitoring via the video feed – which was cut shortly after the chanting began. The commission had not yet gotten to general public comments but had instead gone through its “consent agenda” and a variety of briefings on items unrelated to Terminal 5/Foss/Shell. The only reporter we’ve found tweeting from Port HQ on the downtown waterfront, Sydney Brownstone of The Stranger, reports that police cleared the chambers; she has tweeted a photo showing officers, some with bicycles, on the Port HQ front steps, blocking its doors.
ADDED 3:35 PM: Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB that one person was arrested for trespassing and says one officer was assaulted. And he confirms the meeting was adjourned (and will not resume today).
(UPDATED 2:16 PM with additional new information regarding appeal of city ‘interpretation’ re: Polar Pioneer mooring)
(May 15th photo of Polar Pioneer at T-5, by Long Bach Nguyen)
ORIGINAL 12:46 PM REPORT: Just in from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division:
King Countyâs Industrial Waste Program today denied a permit application for discharge of wastewater from the Alaska Venture Shell Facility at Terminal 5 into the Countyâs regional sewer system.
âEveryone has to follow the rules, even multinational corporations,â said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
The protests are over for now, but the bureaucratic and legal fight over Shell drilling rigs mooring at the Port of Seattle‘s Terminal 5 is not. The latest move, five days after the arrival of the Polar Pioneer drilling platform, is in the document above that we just obtained from the city Department of Planning and Development – its “notice of violation” issued to the Port of Seattle, interim leaseholder Foss Maritime, and “occupant” Shell Oil, contending that the current “use (is) not established by permit.” The notice gives the entities until June 4th to correct the alleged violation by either moving the Polar Pioneer and the Shell icecutter/tug Aiviq from T-5, or get a new permit allowing them.
(Friday photo by Paul Weatherman: Aiviq and Polar Pioneer @ T-5)
You’ll recall that this started with a city “interpretation” saying that the established permitted use of Terminal 5 does not allow for this; both the Port and Foss have filed appeals to that contention – the one filed at the end of last week by the Port calls it “irrational” and suggests that, taken to its logical conclusion, it would bar a variety of other types of vessels from using Port docks. (No date yet on the Hearing Examiner’s calendar for the appeal hearing.) We’ll be seeking comment from all three recipients.
1:57 PM: The anti-Shell protest at Terminal 5 is wrapping up; demonstrators are walking back toward the low bridge to cross it on the way back to this morning’s starting point.
Demonstration update: Demonstration has moved to Terminal 5 access ramp. Lower Spokane St Swing Bridge now closed to accommodate march.
— seattledot (@seattledot) May 18, 2015
2:14 PM: The SDOT camera overlooking the low bridge showed the group as it crossed a few minutes ago:
TV helicopters are back overhead to capture the scene, but aren’t likely to stay nearly as long, since it’s not newscast time, unlike this morning.
2:47 PM: The bridge is open again and demonstrators are back at the starting point. We covered the morning march in our daily traffic watch; here are a few more photos from the day and video from the T-5 arrival:
As our images show, Seattle Police had a sizable presence at many spots along the way and near the demonstration; there’s been no word of any arrests. This was the line at the T-5 entrance just before the march arrived:
And here’s our video of their arrival:
This was the last of the major demonstrations/rallies announced before the Polar Pioneer‘s arrival last Thursday. At last report, it’s still scheduled to be joined at T-5 by Shell’s other drilling vessel, the drillship Noble Discoverer, which is docked in Everett. The city’s contention that the Port needs a different permit to host oil rigs, which has been formally appealed by both interim-leaseholder Foss Maritime and the port itself, remains unresolved.
(UPDATED 9:54 PM with added photos – scroll down)
2:02 PM: That’s just one section of the anti-Arctic-offshore-drilling “flotilla” that’s amassed in Elliott Bay this afternoon. Even if you haven’t been down by the water, you’ve probably noticed the helicopter flyover, circling North Admiral to the bay and back. Hundreds of people with kayaks and canoes started arriving before 9 am, organizing in groups along the Harbor Avenue shore; the traffic peaked a couple hours ago but will pick up again when this is over in late afternoon. An onshore program is scheduled at Jack Block Park, where this portable video sign has been showing a live feed of the kayakers, as well as this logo:
A barge off Seacrest, dubbed “The People’s Platform,” is expected to be showing “projections” in the evening. Here’s an aerial we just received from local photographer/pilot Long Bach Nguyen:
Meantime, on sea and land, police have been very conspicuously in view, from this bicycle pedal-by …
… to a patrol boat on the water and two mast-equipped command vehicles parked with an overview of JB Park and Terminal 5:
Two command vehicles visible from the Jack Block Park road pic.twitter.com/HJBteN8nK6
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 16, 2015
T-5 is where the drill platform Polar Pioneer has been docked since Thursday, but no word of any arrests or clashes. The date for today’s protest, as well as a demonstration on land Monday, was announced weeks ago, even before it was known when the PP would arrive; the drillship Noble Discoverer, which Shell also expects to use in the Arctic, remained docked in Everett at last report.
2:10 PM: Our crew at Jack Block says the flotilla participants are paddling by now, getting closer to the Polar Pioneer:
From our partners at The Seattle Times, via Twitter:
— Seattle Times Photo (@SeaTimesPhoto) May 16, 2015
2:56 PM: Our crew says the flotilla is heading back out of the Duwamish River (Terminal 5 is at its mouth) and toward Jack Block Park.
3:25 PM: What was supposed to be a program of speakers at Jack Block scheduled for around 2 pm hasn’t started yet. So if you’re trying to keep track of when the outbound traffic might start in the area – all bets are off.
4:43 PM: Big outbound traffic as of about 4 pm, us included. More photos later.
ADDED 9:54 PM: As promised – more photos of the sights from and near Jack Block Park over the course of the day, now that we’ve had time to go through what we have – starting with Native canoes that joined the flotilla:
Part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s presence:
One person we recognized in the flotilla – Sustainable West Seattle co-founder Bill Reiswig:
One other view, for geographic context – Long B. Nguyen shot this in the early going today – it shows where Polar Pioneer is, in relation to Jack Block Park (Seacrest is not far off the right edge of the image, which you can click for a larger view):
While this has been promoted as a three-day “Festival of Resistance,” we don’t know of anything tomorrow; Monday morning is the on-land demonstration near the low bridge, scheduled to start around 7 am – so it could affect the morning commute – our most recent mention is here.
“Irrational” is one word the Port of Seattle is using to describe the city Department of Planning and Development interpretation suggesting Shell oil rigs can’t use Terminal 5 without a new permit. That’s part of what the port argues in its official appeal of the interpretation, which we found in the city Hearing Examiner‘s files, hours after it was posted there late Friday:
And it came three days after a 5-hour Port Commission meeting ended with two motions passed, the second of which directed port staff to file an appeal (WSB coverage here). The port tenant that’s hosting Shell, Foss Maritime, has already filed its appeal, as first reported here hours after that meeting. The verbiage in the port’s document is notably sharper, especially in its opening assertion that “the effect of the interpretation, if affirmed on appeal, will be to make unlawful the moorage of many different kinds of vessels, including … tugboats … marine-construction vessels … cruise vessels … icebreakers … ships of state … research vessels … diving vessels … oil-spill-response vessels … seismic vessels … Seattle Fire Department fireboats.”
The appeal later also suggests that since the port is a steward of its marine environment and that hosting many different types of vessels is a key component of that, the appeal could be environmentally damaging and therefore is subject to review under the State Environmental Policy Act. Appeals typically will go before the Hearing Examiner, but usually not for a few months until their filing; we’re not seeing a date on the docket yet. Meantime, the city told WSB on Wednesday that the appeal process wouldn’t keep it from citing the port if it chose to.
(Photo by Paul Weatherman)
The Shell drill rig Polar Pioneer has been at Terminal 5 in West Seattle for a day. What had been announced as a “Festival of Resistance” long before its arrival date was known is about to begin. Last night, “kayaktivists” trained in West Seattle waters one last time before the planned protests:
(WSB photo, Thursday night)
Here’s the timeline they have circulated:
10 am-4:30 pm
Main event: Protest on the water – described by organizers as “Seattle residents, national environmental organizations and local grassroots groups will join a peaceful kayak flotilla in Elliot Bay to protest Shellâs Arctic drilling plans and its contribution to climate change.” Seacrest is listed as the main location for gathering, with later events at Jack Block Park per this timeline:
10 AM – Kayak Check-In and registration begins
11-12:30 Launch Boats
1 PM – On-water procession begins
2 PM – On-stage program begins at Jack Block Park: 2130 Harbor Ave SW
3:30 PM – On-stage program ends and all vessels return to launch sites.
Organizers say larger boats and canoes will launch from Don Armeni Boat Ramp, so that will be busy as well. The canoes will be part of an Idle No More Native-organized companion demonstration; its timeline is in this Facebook event.
(WSB photo, Thursday night)
While this has been billed as a three-day “Festival of Resistance,” no specific events are announced so far for Sunday – good thing, considering the West Seattle 5K takes up the morning and Alki Avenue will be closed to vehicles.
7 am- ?
Protesters plan to gather by the fishing pier off the east end of the low bridge, and walk from there to “march to Shell’s rigs and nonviolently shut down operations for the day.” We asked the Port of Seattle earlier in the week about any changes it expected for the day. They told us today they had sent this notice to their tenants:
Please be informed that a protest is planned for 7am, Monday May 18, starting near the Spokane St. Fishing Bridge. Their intent, based on the event description, is to block access to our terminals. Both our police and SPD expect a large contingent of protestors. Impacts are expected to be significant. Please plan your morning accordingly. If you experience any problems, or feel you are in danger, please call 911. We are urging protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully, safely and legally in areas adjacent to our terminals.
Terminal 18’s operator, meantime, has decided to close for the day; SSA sent this notice out, according to the port:
TERMINAL 18 & MATSON – CLOSED ON MONDAY, MAY 18
We have been notified by local authorities that there will be significant protest activity in the area on Monday, May 18, 2015 related to Shell Oil Company and their activities at Terminal 5 in Seattle.
The Shell protesters have indicated that they intend to occupy Harbor Island as part of the protest. For the safety of our employees and all others who conduct business at T18 the decision has been made to close on Monday, May 18. We will reopen on Tuesday, May 19 at 0700.
We asked Seattle Police on Thursday if they had anything they want people to know regarding Saturday and Monday. Short answer, no, though they had a big briefing on Thursday morning. They intend to maintain their jurisdictions, SPD told us, and that includes the US Coast Guard enforcing “safety zones” on the water. We will of course be covering this as it happens, so if you’re not participating or spectating, at least check in to see what’s up down by the water.
(Added: Photo by Admiral 935, looking north on California SW as PP passed)
1:29 PM: We’re launching as-it-happens coverage now that the Polar Pioneer is close to Seattle – destination: West Seattle’s Terminal 5 – and media as well as spectators are getting in place. We’re starting at Seacrest, where TV crews are converging, as well as some drilling opponents who say they plan to “unwelcome” PP; they’ve put up red “warning” flags on the pier and some kayakers are in the water.
Also spotted: City Councilmember Mike O’Brien:
Meantime, after slowing to a near-stop for a while across the Sound from Shoreline, Polar Pioneer and its accompanying vessels are on the move again. Updates to come.
1:39 PM: Texter says it’s in view in the distance from Alki Point. We’re setting up near Anchor/Luna Park to see it when it rounds the bend. Photos? firstname.lastname@example.org – thanks!
Coming into view by West Point pic.twitter.com/5N19bncQeM
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 14, 2015
1:47 PM: Visible now coming up to West Point. (Added)
(Photo by Gary Jones, taken from Alki Point as Polar Pioneer passed West Point)
Kayakers head out past Duwamish Head pic.twitter.com/8nSImk4N58
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 14, 2015
Kayakers are off Duwamish Head. As mentioned in our earlier coverage when it left Port Angeles around 1:30 am, the rig has four Foss vessels with it – Andrew Foss, Garth Foss, Lindsey Foss, and Pacific Star – and, since then, has added three Coast Guard vessels.
2 PM: A police boat has taken up position near the navigation marker off Duwamish Head. The kayakers are still floating just offshore. (added) The police boat came over for a closer look at them:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 14, 2015
2:25 PM: It’s in Elliott Bay now, traveling at 7 knots, 13 hours after leaving Port Angeles. Meantime, that’s NOT a TV helicopter circling over us on the Duwamish Head shore, that’s Guardian One.
3:01 PM: We’ve been on Twitter (and live on Periscope) for the past half-hour as the Polar Pioneer passed Duwamish Head. Lots of spectators.
Helicopters overhead, kayakers, Coast Guard, other vessels on the water.
3:16 PM: Co-publisher Patrick Sand has headed east/southeast to Don Armeni, where a protest sign is about to be hoisted or floated. He sent this photo:
(added) Here’s what it looked like – yes, it was tethered:
(added) Chief Seattle’s great-great-grand niece, Duwamish Tribe chair Cecile Hansen, watched with her daughter from Jack Block Park. Thanks to Ann Anderson for this photo:
Ann also shared this one, in which you can see a tribal canoe out with the group on the water:
Speaking of sending photos, thanks to everyone who’s done that – just starting to check them. Polar Pioneer remains stopped in the bay.
— Justin Hirsch (@justindhirsch) May 14, 2015
3:44 PM: It’s on the move again, heading south, toward the port. We’ll see if it goes all the way to T-5, where, as we reported yesterday, the city says it would be in violation of the Port’s permit and could be cited.
— Kevin Freitas (@kevinfreitas) May 14, 2015
4:36 PM: Kevin‘s tweeted photo shows the Polar Pioneer as it rounded the bend and headed into the mouth of the Duwamish River, where it’s arrived at T-5:
— Joe Conley (@Kawnliee) May 15, 2015
We’re back at HQ right now getting ready for some evening coverage (unrelated) and will be adding more photos.
(Thanks to Scott for this view from Riverside, looking toward the “low bridge”)
5:08 PM: For some, seeing it might be their first word about all this – we were reminded of that by a phone call. Same way that the shutdown of T-5 last summer surprised some who didn’t make the connection until they saw the vast, empty stretch. But no, it’s NOT here to drill in local waters. It’s scheduled to stay here for a matter of weeks before leaving for the offshore Arctic drilling for which Shell recently won a key federal approval. But first – opponents are continuing with their plans for a “festival of resistance” this Thursday through Saturday. We talked today with Seattle Police to ask about their plans; they acknowledged a briefing this morning but said that on the water it’s Coast Guard jurisdiction, on port land it’s Port Police jurisdiction – they’re just standing by to see if anything happens outside those two areas. We are awaiting the port’s answer to our questions about whether they are planning any different access policies at Jack Block, for example. Meantime – it’s been three months since the Port’s CEO announced the signing of the lease with Foss, which said it in turn had a deal to bring the Shell vessels here.
ADDED EARLY FRIDAY: David Hutchinson photographed the Polar Pioneer, docked, with the latest “kayaktivist training” class, which had headed out from Seacrest earlier in the evening.
That was billed as the last training class before Saturday’s long-scheduled on-the-water protest. More on that later today.
(SCROLL DOWN for updates)
(Thanks again to Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce for permission to publish webcam images these past few weeks)
2:19 AM: As expected, the Shell oil drilling platform Polar Pioneer has left Port Angeles, headed for West Seattle’s Terminal 5, despite the city interpretation that it shouldn’t be docked there under terms of the Port of Seattle‘s current permit (previous update here). We noticed it on the move just after 1:30 am, via MarineTraffic.com, and just after 2 am, as shown in the screengrab above (in which PP is in the distance at right, the ferry Coho docked at left), the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce webcam showed it heading eastward. Accompanying it right now, all at about 6 knots, are four Foss vessels (fleet info here): 106-foot Andrew Foss, 155-foot Garth Foss, 155-foot Lindsey Foss, and 98-foot Pacific Star. We’ll be updating as they approach. This chart we found puts T-5 about 70 nautical miles from Port Angeles.
SIDE NOTE: Almost exactly four years ago, all eyes were on another platform arriving in West Seattle waters, the SBX (Sea-Based X-Band Radar), which came in under its own power late May 10th, 2011, for work at Vigor. Polar Pioneer is considerably taller – 25 percent taller, we noted here last month.
7:33 AM: The Polar Pioneer and accompanying vessels are about to pass Port Townsend, at about 3.5 knots. That’s about halfway between here and where they started six hours ago.
9:09 AM: Thanks to Jason Mihok for sending the photo above, as the vessels passed PT. MarineTraffic.com now shows the USCG vessel Osprey right behind them.
NOON: Now three Coast Guard vessels are following the Polar Pioneer and the four Foss tugs; they’re now in the Kingston vicinity, per MT.