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 didn’t 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.