TERMINAL 5 PROJECT: How public hearing #1 unfolded tonight

(T-5, empty since summer 2014, in center of 2015 photo by Peter West Carey)

We went to tonight’s Terminal 5 Improvements Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement public hearing in Georgetown mostly to find out the format so you know what to expect at the one in West Seattle on Thursday night.

So you can plan, here’s the format:

5-6 pm, open house
6 pm, presentation, including project background and information on the environmental-review process
6:30 pm, opportunity for attendees to ask “clarifying questions”
6:45 pm until 8 pm (depending on how many speakers), public hearing
8-8:30 pm, open house

Spanish and Vietnamese interpreters were available.

After a welcome by Port Commissioner Fred Felleman, an overview of the “project purpose” was offered, showing that while the current T-5 (which has been closed to cargo for two years now) is set for 136′ maximum ship width, the largest ships out there now go to 193′, and that’s why they need to make it “big-ship ready.”


The project is sponsored by the Port of Seattle and the Northwest Seaport Alliance – its partnership with Tacoma – but Seattle is the lead agency and responsible for the environmental review, which it originally wasn’t going to do – then, after considerable citizen urging, it changed its mind, saying it had discovered that the project was likely to be big enough to mandate one anyway.

As you’ll see in the DEIS, three alternatives are reviewed:

They are “no action,” and what might be termed medium and major changes. The last one, Alternative 3, has drawn the most scrutiny because it would include “upland improvements” closer to nearby residential areas, including more train track, “densification” of container stacking requiring rail-mounted cranes, and up to 12 cranes in all (T-5 was running previously with six).

The port expects “no significant air-quality impacts” in terms of operation, but some short-term effects during constructions. If shore power is used by the ships that call, greenhouse-gas emissions could be less than 10,000 tons a year, considered “not significant” under state rules. Other “potential mitigation” for emissions would include newer, cleaner trucks, an electricity supply that’s mostly from non-fossil-fuel sources, and a truck-traffic management system that would spread arrivals through the day, meaning less of what’s seen sometimes now, long lines of trucks outside gates, idling as they wait.

Construction noise effects wouldn’t be major, the port contends, but operational noise could have challenges including safety alarms and more train horns, unless alternate systems are explored. Using shore power – something nearby residents are campaigning heavily for – would reduce noise, too.

Transportation effects would include a delay at the 5-way intersection, and an increase in trains – up to 24 trains per week if Alternative 3 was chosen – here’s two slides we photographed and tweeted:

After the presentation came a chance for “clarifying questions.” One of those inquired if the port has studied traffic effects on the eastbound upper West Seattle Bridge. The port’s contention was that “almost no trucks take the upper-level bridge.” (Resident Patricia Davis, a leader of the petition drive that sought the environmental review, took issue with that.)

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold brought up the shore-power issue and asked if the port has a percentage of anticipated use that it’s using to “model” some of its projections. Paul Meyer, the Port employee who was point person on the report, said, “By 2040, we figure up to 70 percent.”

Resident Jim Wojciechowski asked why the port hadn’t analyzed low-frequency noise associated with vessels; Meyer said that’s a “great comment” that should be made as part of the process. (So later, he did.)

Then, the official comment period (orally, anyway – the open-house section also offered chances for written commenting). Four people spoke, including Davis and Wojciechowski . If representing an organization, you get four minutes; individuals get three.

Davis, urging people to visit terminal5group.com, stressed, “Air pollution is important because it is a killer. … What concerns me so far in the draft EIS is that there’s too much terminology that is a shell game. … I as a community member would like to know that shore power is a real thing. … Terminal 5 is right below high-density residential zoning. Terminal 18 isn’t … Terminal 46 (isn’t) … (and both have) rail. … Can we be competitive? Sure. But can we also protect our environment?” She wants to see round-the-clock air monitoring.

Next, James Rasmussen from the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition said he wants to be sure the cleanups already done and in progress in the river region and port are taken into account. He also advocated forcefully for Georgetown and South Park, raising issues including the train noise, for which mitigation was only mentioned in West Seattle, while the trains, he pointed out, run down East Marginal Way, especially in very early-morning hours. And: “The most important thing not considered in EIS is impact on the community with diesel particulates – you’re running more trucks through these neighborhoods. … You’re increasing truck traffic *by a huge amount* through these neighborhoods, and that will be affecting these neighborhoods immensely … Asthma rates are through the roof in these communities. I want the Port to be successful, but not at the cost of the communities of Georgetown and South Park.”

Then Wojciechowski, who said he didn’t intend to speak until Thursday “but got drawn into making a comment.” Re: the low-frequency analysis, he says it was brought up but … they’ll be impacted. They’ll be coming after you if no shore power. Volume 1 of the DEIS had “weak language, no commitment to shore power, just saying ‘if they choose to’ … You tell them they have to.” He also had advice for fellow commenters – don’t just speak, also WRITE your comment.

Deputy CEO Beckett offered a couple points in defense, saying that this process doesn’t allow for “final full commitments” to things like shore power. And he said the port already is part of an area in which “low sulfur diesel fuel” is required, and contended that the port was on the “cutting edge” for that.

WHAT’S NEXT: Will the port consider extending the comment period, given that there was just four weeks for review of a 1,000-plus-page document? It’s “considering” that, is the only commitment that was made. First, they’re urging people to comment ASAP, via e-mail at SEPA.p@portseattle.org, and at Thursday’s hearing (5-8 pm at the Alki Masonic Center in The Junction, 40th/Edmunds) for starters. All comments will be responded to and will be part of the final EIS, “tentatively set for late summer,” which would be followed by “permits and authorizations” for the quarter-billion-dollar project.

20 Replies to "TERMINAL 5 PROJECT: How public hearing #1 unfolded tonight"

  • Chemist June 7, 2016 (10:17 pm)

    “almost no trucks take the upper-level bridge.”

    I once thought that too… then there were all those backups during the ILWU slowdown.


  • noisy neighborhood June 7, 2016 (11:03 pm)

    I am concerned about more noise and bigger boats and air pollution. Concerned for our orca pod neighbors and for anyone that lives up by Providence Mount St Vincent. On a foggy day the air pollution gets trapped on that hillside and it smells quite toxic already. The Orcas, and other sea life that use  Elliott Bay are affected by the big boat traffic, possible dredging to deepen boat channels, and noise pollution under water. I don’t like this plan and hope that others that do not like it will voice their opinions at another public hearing.

  • pat davis June 7, 2016 (11:10 pm)

    It is impossible that going from 6 cranes to 12 cranes, and 1,800 truck trips per DAY  has no significant impact on air quality!  Want the facts about air quality at Terminal 5?  Then please sign our petition to get on site 24/7 air quality monitoring at Terminal 5 and in impacted neighborhoods (that are upwind of the pollution taking place)  Puget Sound Clean Air Agency already has the equipment, staff, and enforcement capacity to put air quality monitoring quickly into place. Please sign our petition seeking that at  www.terminal5group.com   Thank you! (tell your friends and neighbors as well, please)  Patricia Davis, North Admiral

  • Jeannie June 7, 2016 (11:17 pm)

    Signed! Thank you for the petition.

  • d mead June 8, 2016 (5:01 am)

    Is this even needed? Once the new Panama Canal opens, ship traffic to the West coast is likely to decrease as the larger ships with East coast freight will bypass the West coast shipyards…

  • Clean Air June 8, 2016 (5:58 am)

    @Pat Davis

    Shouldn’t we be happy that the 12 cranes would be rail-mounted and electric (i.e., not fueled by diesel) for the most aggressive alternative? It seems that 12 zero emission cranes are cleaner than 6 old diesel cranes.

    • pat davis June 8, 2016 (9:21 am)

      Yes,  potential electric cranes is a great improvement to the old diesel ones….obviously.  Keep in mind that the old diesel ones wouldn’t be used anyway.  Also know that the Port is no longer going to own the cranes, but it will be the responsibility of the terminal operator (who will need to purchase the cranes)  As an fyi:  Terminal 46 (Total Terminals) purchased the (newest) large white cranes last fall and the Port (our public dollars)  sold them at a LOSS OF  $9,943,000  dollars.  Yes  over 9 MILLION  $$$$$$ dollar loss (and the newest cranes)  Probably good that people know that.  Might also like to know that the Port voluntarily created a LOSS  OF  $17,730,000 …yes, over 17 MILLION  DOLLARS ! by selling a portion of the acquirement to King County at a substantial loss (Eastside Rail Corridor) Why not at cost?   As you can see the Port literally throws away MILLIONS  of our dollars but claims they can’t protect our air and noise levels because the need to be competitive.  Well, don’t throw away 26 MILLION  DOLLARS ( and those are just the recent losses.  We need green Ports – NOW!

  • JIm June 8, 2016 (6:52 am)

    Chemist – The Port is using semantics to distract.  The trucks certainly do clog the West Seattle FWY and Spokane St.  And that clog backs traffic onto the high span and Fauntleroy.  But you don’t see those trucks actually on the “high bridge”.

  • JIm June 8, 2016 (6:58 am)

    For those of you that are concerned about this project (and you should all be), you need to come to Thursday’s public meeting.  Your elected representatives are paying attention.  And then put your concerns in writing during this comment period.  Once the permits are issued, it’s out of your hands.

    (5-8 pm at the Alki Masonic Center in The Junction, 40th/Edmunds)

  • Neighbor June 8, 2016 (7:48 am)

    Noise pollution! The BNSF engineers treat their trains horns as a competition through all hours of the night lately, and this will make it worse. They mention some mitigation efforts, but unless they work to install road crossing barriers the horns are going to eliminate the ability to ever sleep with an open window.

  • pat davis June 8, 2016 (9:14 am)

    Basically the Port did not pay much attention to what concerns were brought up at the scoping meeting. We also have a  HUGE  problem with train noise – especially at night- and trains are unregulated.  Option 3 includes MORE  TRAINS  and even closer to our residential area.    There as been consistent, angry, repetitive complaints about train noise from a wide spectrum of our community.  It remains unsolved in the DEIS.  Air quality protection remains a huge problem as well.      

     Please sign the petition for air & noise protection:  www.terminal5group.com

    Also can you email comments to:  SEPA.p@portseattle.org  (note the dot after SEPA) 

    Be certain to keep a copy of your email comments and to include your name/address

    Attend the meeting  THIS   Thursday  6/9/16   Masonic Center, 4736 – 40th SW 5 – 8 pm

    The health of our children and community needs your participation. Please !

    • TylerL June 8, 2016 (5:31 pm)

      One point of clarification on the quote from Ms. Davis: Terminal 46 does NOT have rail access (nor do T30 or T25). Terminal 18 on Harbor Island does, but has nowhere near the capacity or potential of the rail system at Terminal 5. 

  • JIm June 8, 2016 (10:12 am)

    Clean Air – Those 6 orange cranes that have been down there at T5  for decades are electric.

  • anita June 8, 2016 (10:13 am)

    the port was here before all you were.  it is the reason seattle became a city.  green is good and we should push that.  but it is the largest economic engin in our entire region.  we need REAL JOBS here.  some people have to work.  

    • sleepernw June 8, 2016 (11:47 am)

      You realize there will be less jobs than before at T5… Automation is coming please look at long beach port – the Port of Seattle is.

  • JIm June 8, 2016 (10:45 am)

     “green is good and we should push that”

    That is what is happening.

  • HotCoffee June 8, 2016 (11:28 am)

    Lots of things were here before we were – that’s a spurious argument. Our past is not our future. The city has grown around T-5 and changed the dynamic permanently. We need to invest in forward-looking, modern and scalable industries for the future that have positive impacts on our threatened environment. More trucks, more trains, more noise, more smog … these are not the answers. 

    • sleepernw June 8, 2016 (11:49 am)

      T-5 is being set up for the eventual closure of T46 in future … in the long term it will be awash.  Which stinks ’cause I live in the upper East Admiral area

  • wetone June 8, 2016 (4:41 pm)

    Has anyone asked the port how they plan on getting all the new train traffic across the Duwamish river ?  Current train bridge used today was built in the 1920’s. I’m sure it will need replaced soon, who’s paying  and what will be the cost ?   

  • JIm June 8, 2016 (7:57 pm)

    Come to the meeting and ask them.

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