West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
On a morning when rain was busily washing the air clean, the Port of Seattle hosted an event in West Seattle to talk about progress in reducing air pollutants related to maritime industry.
The occasion: The newest report from the Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum, described in the announcement as “a committee of seven ports, six government agencies, and three industrial partners” (most listed here). They first started tracking maritime-related emissions in 2005, and the report shows some major decreases.
To showcase the newest results of the every-five-years study – the Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory – the port invited media to the Terminal 5 administration building to hear from reps of many participating organizations and to see examples of what’s being used to take less of a toll on the local air.
Those examples included semi-trucks powered with alternative fuel (top photo) and jars showing the dark heavy-oil fuel that’s declining in use, next to lighter fuel whose use is on the rise:
Opening the event, Seattle Port Commission president Courtney Gregoire described the report as “good news.”
She says it’s a “voluntary effort” that launched more than a decade ago. It “informs our strategy about future investments” among other things, and she says it is a reminder that “climate change is real.” This is the third inventory since 2005. The international standard for fuel has factored into it.
This is the first one that has tracked “black carbon” though it doesn’t remain in the atmosphere for long. And she says it shows good news though what they’re serving has grown, including the Seattle cruise boom. “It comes with a cost,” of course, she notes.
You might have noticed two sizable ships in at West Seattle’s Terminal 5. Turns out both are there after trouble at sea. The 961-foot container ship MOL Prestige arrived about two weeks ago after an engine-room fire off the British Columbia coast. And over the weekend, the 653-foot bulk carrier Federal Iris arrived after losing power off the Oregon coast. Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw confirmed to WSB that both are being handled by Foss Maritime, “under a license agreement with the NW Seaport Alliance.” The Prestige, he says, “is still undergoing inspections, and is expected to depart around March 15th,” while the Iris is also being inspected and likely to leave by the end of this week – both departure dates, McGraw cautions, are estimates.
What you see on the barge in our photo above are hundreds of creosote-treated pilings removed from the north end of the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 in West Seattle. We reported back in October that the removal was about to begin, as explained in this document. This morning, the port invited news media to T-5 for an update.
So far, the port says, 2,300 pilings have been removed; back in 2000, the port had an estimated 18,000 of them, and with this and other removal operations, they are down to 8,000. As the port news release explains:
Creosote-treated pilings and timbers were used for more than 100 years throughout Puget Sound, as fundamental structural elements in marine cargo and transportation infrastructure. Present-day marine facility piers and docks have replaced creosote construction with inert steel and concrete pilings, and in many cases fender systems requiring no piling have been installed.
The show-and-tell today also included an underwater camera nicknamed Ringo, used in the removal operation:
This part of the cleanup operation also involves restoration of more than four acres of habitat. The importance of the continuing restoration and cleanup was underscored by James Rasmussen of the nonprofit Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition:
Port commissioner Fred Felleman, who has a decades-long background in marine conservation, spoke as well:
And state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz was there.
The $6.8 million pilings-removal project has a state angle, as noted in our October report – this part of the cleanup was related to the termination of a state lease more than a decade ago.
Our October report also included details on exactly how the pilings were to be removed. They are to be barged up the Duwamish River to the Waste Management facility, from which they will be sent to the Columbia Ridge landfill in Oregon for permanent disposal.
(2015 photo of Terminal 5, by Long Bach Nguyen)
Still no new tenant for West Seattle’s Terminal 5, but another permit has been granted for its potential expansion/redevelopment. The Port of Seattle sent word today that it’s received the “shoreline substantial development permit” for the project – you can see the permit document here.
As for what’s happening currently at T-5 – which continues to see some activity, three and a half years after its official closure as a cargo terminal – the port confirms that Foss Maritime continues to lease space. You’ve probably noticed the heavy-lift ship Ocean Jazz there in recent weeks; port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells us it’s been there awaiting its next assignment, and is expected to head back to sea soon. It’s part of the Military Sealift Command, as are other vessels that have berthed there.
UPDATED 1:51 PM: Just approved as the new Port of Seattle executive director, during today’s ongoing Port Commission meeting (here’s the live stream): Retired Rear Admiral Stephen P. Metruck. He retired from the U.S. Coast Guard last year after 34 years. His background includes three years as the USCG’s captain of Sector Seattle, 2005-2008. The executive director position is the top appointed leadership position at the Port, renamed after the departure of former CEO Ted Fick. The commission vote was unanimous.
ADDED 1:58 PM: Metruck will start work February 1st and be paid $350,000 a year, according to the official port news release we’ve just obtained: Read More
That’s HMCS Yellowknife, one of two Royal Canadian Navy coastal-defense vessels that you’ll see at West Seattle’s Terminal 5 through the weekend, according to Peter McGraw of the Port of Seattle:
Flexi Floats will be installed today, after which the vessels will be rafted alongside one-another, in the northern half of the wharf, just north of the geared ship OCEAN JAZZ, LOA 530′, and south of the Crowley barge DBL 289, which is 289 feet long.
South of the OCEAN JAZZ is the Foss barge SEATTLE with LOA 300′. The barges are awaiting their next dispatch and will not load or discharge cargo.
Both of the Canadian vessels are passing south Whidbey Island right now, according to MarineTraffic.com. Speaking of military vessels – water-watchers can expect to see the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) passing West Seattle southbound on Sunday morning, headed back to Bremerton post-deployment.
5:04 PM: A $6.8 million Port of Seattle project to remove 2,000 creosote pilings from the north end of Terminal 5 is about to start. Port commissioner John Creighton mentioned it in his “State of the Port” speech to the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce last month, and port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB it’s about to begin:
he Port of Seattle will remove more than 2,000 creosote treated piles and 5,000 sq. ft. of overwater coverage from Elliott Bay, off the north end of Terminal 5, beginning this week.
The port has worked with the EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington State departments of Ecology and Natural Resources and the Muckleshoot and Duwamish Tribes to plan and execute removal of the piles/overwater cover. The work is being done in advance of a Superfund cleanup project being undertaken by the Lockheed Martin Company in the same area.
Removal of the piles is required as part of a lease termination agreement with the Department of Natural Resources.
Through 2016 the port has removed 11,420 creosote treated piles and is on track to remove 80 percent of all creosote treated piles from port-owned facilities by 2026.
The Terminal 5 pile removal project is expected to be completed by the end of March, 2018.
There’s more backstory in this document from a Port Commission meeting back in June, and we have followup questions out about exactly how the pilings will be removed and disposed of.
ADDED TUESDAY MORNING: Port spokesperson McGraw has answered those questions with information from the contractor’s Demolition Work Plan – read on for the details: Read More
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
This year’s keynoter was port commmissioner John Creighton, speaking solo before taking questions. He is running for re-election in November after 12 years on the commission.
Sound Transit 3, approved by voters last November, was the topic that started his speech, as he noted that the commission unanimously approved a resolution to support it. “The more people you get out of cars and into transit, the better for freight mobility,” he explained. (But, he joked, his enthusiasm was a bit dampened when he got his car-tab bill last week “and it went up $500.”) He noted that since “part of the alignment goes through port property,” they’ll be “watching it closely.”
He also mentioned the port’s recent $10 million contribution to the Lander Street Bridge project, and what it’s given to other parts of the corridor. “We’re trying to be more comprehensive in our dealings with the city and planning with the city.” He believes the relationship “will help the region going forward.”
Then on to Terminal 5, the still-shuttered-and-awaiting-modernization West Seattle port property next to the park:
(Slide deck shown for T-5 update at this week’s meeting)
No tenant yet for Terminal 5 in West Seattle – but port commissioners took steps this week to get closer to readiness for the modernization project they’ll launch if and when one is signed.
One intriguing question was debated toward meeting’s end – Could, and should, the port pursue a “railroad quiet zone” even before, or without, signing a tenant? Specifically, commissioner Fred Felleman wondered whether it would be the right thing to do for the community.
Currently, the “quiet zone” is a condition that will have to be met for the modernized T-5, but train horns long have been a vexing issue for nearby residents, particularly on Pigeon Point. (Here’s one story we published in 2008, which also includes a summary of what a “quiet zone” entails.)
Before voting on what port staff called an “important milestone” in getting ready for T-5 modernization, three years after the terminal was closed, they got a briefing on where things stand.
(2015 photo of T-5 by Long Bach Nguyen)
They were told that an area resident’s appeal of the “shoreline substantial development” permit was settled a week and a half ago. The appeal, staff said, was mostly focused on concerns about construction noise, especially pile driving. The settlement includes a promise not to pile-drive on Sundays and federal holidays.
The building permit could be “essentially ready to go” in as little as a month and a half, as the result of other agreements approved by commissioners, with other parties including two tribes. If the tribes have no further issues, the Army Corps of Engineers could issue a permit within about a month.
Commissioners wondered whether the permits might be getting issued too soon, considering there’s no tenant, and asked how long they would be good for. Reply: Seven years in all – they would have three years to start the construction, then three years to complete it with up to a year’s extension.
As for the “quiet zone,” that process is starting early, port staff said, because “to be blunt, we have to deal with Burlington Northern, and they are very safety conscious.” While the port is agreeing to cover the $5 million cost, it was explained that the permits would be sought by SDOT, while the railroad “helps design and will actually implement it.”
So, the question then came up, would the “quiet zone” be built if there’s no T-5 tenant?
No, was the reply, “because it’s a condition” of the T-5 project. “We’re not building anything without a tenant.” But – it was clarified at that point – it COULD be built without a tenant. And that’s when Felleman suggested considering whether there might be “community benefit” no matter what.
After the commissioners voted to approve everything brought before them regarding T-5 – see the agenda items, with documents linked, here – they got budget updates, including a mention that interim uses of T-5, including military ships that have spent time there in the past few months (the Military Sealift Command ship Sgt. Matej Kocak and the recently seen Missile Defense Agency radar ship SS Pacific Tracker), have brought in about $1 million. The decommissioning of cranes at T-5, meantime, has been delayed. Next year’s budget timetable was mentioned – a public hearing on the Seattle-specific budget is planned November 14th, wth adoption November 28th.
(We monitored this meeting, held at Sea-Tac Airport, via its livestream on Tuesday. The archived video is not yet available online.)
TERMINAL 5 MODERNIZATION: While port reps have said recently that there’s no tenant yet for an expanded Terminal 5 in West Seattle, tomorrow’s NWSA meeting includes authorization for actions related to the “modernization” project, which could be authorized for construction as soon as November if there’s a tenant commitment by then. The items on tomorrow’s agenda include raising the spending authorization to $25.4 million, with authorization/funding of $5.2 million for “planning, design, and construction of a railroad quiet zone” near T-5. The agenda item also includes agreements with the city for closing West Marginal Way SW north of Spokane in the future, and an Air Quality Management Program, as well as agreements with two tribes. Here’s the slide deck:
Other documents are downloadable from the agenda.
PORT TRUCK BACKUP RELIEF: The commissioners will be asked to authorize spending up to $2 million to “expand gate hours at … international terminals during the 2017 peak season,” which, according to the agenda memo, starts in August and continues through December. NWSA/port reps talked about the backups at last week’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting (WSB coverage here).
MEETING INFO: The aforementioned items are on the part of tomorrow’s agenda that is scheduled to start at 11:30 am Tuesday at the Sea-Tac Airport Conference Center, with a public-comment period before the action items.
(2015 photo by Don Brubeck)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When port-bound trucks clog routes leading to shipping terminals, who’s ultimately accountable for clearing them, and preventing future problems?
That was part of what was explored in depth during port reps’ visit last night to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, which also reviewed key points made by participants in its June workshop about light-rail routing.
PORT TRUCKS: As they had done at this month’s Southwest District Council meeting, operations executive Zachary Thomas from the Northwest Seaport Alliance and Port of Seattle communicator Mick Shultz talked, and answered questions, about the truck traffic.
Thomas explained again about how the shifting alliances in the shipping business had led to the “additional volume (for) some terminals” and less for others. The “general shift of volume from Tacoma to Seattle” led to a 40 percent increase in volume at Terminal 18 on the east side of Harbor Island at one point this spring, Thomas said, noting that similar changes were happening around the world at the same time, “massive changes” that meant “for the first two to four weeks of the new alliance(s) … the vessels were just all over the place.” (Terminal 46, further north, didn’t see any change, though.)
At the time of that volume increase, “you would have seen a lot of trucks, no doubt about it.” The terminal operator, SSA, did take action in response to what was going on, Thomas said – though not enough to prevent backups. So that led to some grilling on who could have and should have done more.
(Photo from 2015 pre-parade float procession out of West Seattle)
We’ve been mentioning all week that the northbound Alaskan Way Viaduct will be closed for a while Saturday evening for the return of the Seafair Torchlight Run, before the downtown parade (which is NOT on The Viaduct). There’s one other way you might be affected – though we don’t have official comment from Seafair, “no parking” signs along both sides of Harbor Avenue SW indicate that the parade floats will again be traveling to/from, and stored at, Terminal 5 before Saturday night’s parade, as has been done in in past years. South of the Harbor Ave. gate to the port facility, the signs on the south/eastbound side prohibit parking 2 am-10 am Saturday morning, while north/westbound signs prohibit parking 7 pm Saturday night-2 am Sunday morning. The past few years, the floats have headed out around 8 am Saturday, but pending an official response from Seafair, we don’t yet know this year’s schedule.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:19 PM SATURDAY: Remember six years ago, when the bulbous SBX was a floating fixture here for a few months? Tonight, another missile-defense radar vessel is visiting West Seattle – the SS Pacific Tracker. It and the SBX are both featured in this 2014 roundup of “The Wild Radar Ships That Make Missile Defense Possible.” Thanks to Paul Nicholson for today’s tip and photo; the Northwest Seaport Alliance schedule shows the Pacific Tracker scheduled to be in port in Seattle until Monday; MarineTraffic.com shows it berthed right now at Terminal 5. MT also shows it came here from Honolulu; it and another missile-defense ship were reported to be there last month “after participating in a first-of-its-kind test intercept of an intercontinental ballistic missile target high over the Pacific on May 30.”
MONDAY UPDATE: Port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells us it’ll be here about a week: “It’s taking on some provisions for the crew, fuel and water. It may have some light maintenance performed, as well.”
(Photo by Scott Sweeney, from WSB coverage of January 2015 truck-traffic backup on westbound bridge)
According to the port, its terminal operators say they are ready to handle it – but just in case, here’s what you might call an advance traffic alert, from a flyer sent this morning by the Port of Seattle, on behalf of its joint venture with the Port of Tacoma:
The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) expects to see changes in truck volumes at several of its container terminals in the coming months. These changes may affect local traffic.
What is expected?
The NWSA expects a reduction in truck volumes at Washington United Terminals in Tacoma. At the same time, the NWSA is expecting a significant growth in truck volumes at Terminal 18 in Seattle and a modest increase at Husky Terminal in Tacoma. These shifts in truck volumes are expected to occur later this month and peak in early- to mid-May.
Why is this happening?
Over the last several years, ocean carriers have formed alliances to better utilize their collective
assets to manage costs in light of weak market conditions. In April, the members of these alliances are set to reshuffle, creating three major alliances engaged in the trans-Pacific trade instead of the previous four.
The new alliance configurations mean changes at which terminals the different carriers and their alliances call. This will likely mean corresponding changes in truck traffic at these various terminals.
What is the NWSA doing about this?
The NWSA is working closely with terminal operators to ensure they do everything practical to manage their operations to minimize truck backups at their gates. Terminal operators assure the NWSA that they are prepared to handle these changes.
NWSA staff continue to encourage our tenants to consider a variety of options at their disposal including, but not limited to, extended gate hours, appointment systems and other operational tools.
Over the long-term, the NWSA continues to explore opportunities for gate redesigns, expanded truck staging facilities and off-dock container yards that could help. These infrastructure investments are expensive and will take time to fund and develop.
Terminal 18 is on the east side of Harbor Island, as shown on this map of Port of Seattle terminals.
The city’s latest Land Use Information Bulletin brings notice of one more approval for the port’s Terminal 5 modernization project – this time, from the state Department of Ecology, allowing installation of a sheet pile wall as part of the project. This comes two weeks after key city approvals for the project, and it means the clock is ticking for anyone interested in appealing these approvals – the latest notice says you have until May 4th, and explains how. The port, meantime, has not yet finalized how it will fund the project, but is expected to make that decision later this year.
12:48 PM: From today’s city-circulated Land Use Information Bulletin, a notice of approvals for the proposed expansion of Terminal 5 in West Seattle: It’s the “conditional grant(ing) of permission for “Shoreline Substantial Development” to both expand the terminal and do the dredging necessary for the project – you can read the full decision here. Other approvals are needed – and we have an inquiry out to the port to ask about the project’s overall status; in the meantime, as the notice says, “This decision is appealable to the Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board until at least 4/24/2017,” and this page explains how. The last public discussion of the project was at a City Council meeting in January; at that time, the projected completion date was described as 2020.
2:59 PM: Here’s the statement so far from the Port. We’re still trying to get information on what remains for a final go-ahead:
Today the City of Seattle published the Master Use Permit (MUP) Analysis and Decision with Draft Conditions for the Terminal 5 Improvements Project proposed by the Port of Seattle and the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA). Publication of the MUP Analysis and Decision is an important but routine step for large, public capital projects like Terminal 5.
The Port and NWSA have worked with the City to utilize best practices to mitigate and track air quality and noise issues related to renewed operations at T-5, including a commitment to provide shorepower for ships calling at Terminal 5. Best practices will also be incorporated around gate management, truck parking and signal optimization on Spokane Street that will manage and reduce congestion, along with air and noise concerns. Further, the Port and the NWSA are committed to being good neighbors by minimizing train horn noise with a “quiet zone.”
The Port and NWSA are moving forward with the Terminal 5 project in order to enhance and maintain the competitiveness of our trade gateway, providing economic benefits including jobs, market access for exports grown and made in the region, and imports beneficial to the regional and national economy.
ADDED MONDAY NIGHT: The answer to our followup question about what’s still ahead, from port spokesperson Peter McGraw: “We will complete the acquisition of building permits and Army Corps permit. We will be looking to fund the project later this year.”
Thanks to Maggie for the tip: The long-laid-up cargo ship that was the latest Matson vessel to carry the name Lurline is off on its final voyage. From downtown, overlooking foggy Elliott Bay (photo at right), she spotted it being towed this morning from West Seattle’s Terminal 5, where it had arrived six weeks ago, as reported here, and we subsequently confirmed with the Port of Seattle that it had departed. It’s off to be scrapped. This report from last year says Matson has new vessels on order, including one that will be the sixth to carry the name Lurline.
3:28 PM: The Port of Seattle has announced that CEO Ted Fick has resigned:
The Port of Seattle Commissioners accepted the resignation of CEO Ted Fick today in public session. The special meeting was called for this specific action.
“We accept the resignation of Ted Fick, and acknowledge his desire to return to the private sector,” said Commission President Tom Albro. “We are currently working through the details of his departure and will defer further comment until those details are resolved.”
Chief Operating Officer Dave Soike will serve as interim CEO. Soike has over 35 years of experience at many levels and lines of business at the Port of Seattle. A public process for a replacement will begin later this year.
This comes one week after he was reported to have gone on paid leave. Fick, hired a little over two years ago, was “the Port’s first CEO from the private sector,” according to his now-taken-down bio page on the port’s website.
ADDED 4 PM: The port announcement now includes a link to Fick’s resignation letter.
11:57 AM: Just wrapped up at the still-underway Seattle Council morning-briefing meeting, a Q/A with John Wolfe, CEO of the Northwest Seaport Alliance (the joint enterprise of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma). The planned modernization of Terminal 5 in West Seattle came up several times. First, after Wolfe talked about the shipping industry currently being in a “crisis mode,” he was asked why the port/NWSA is proceeding with a nine-digit investment in T-5 when its prospective customers are in so much trouble. He replied that the shipping industry is cyclical and they’re expecting it to recover. He also mentioned the current predominance of alliances, and how what are currently four industry alliances are morphing to three. Questions included when the T-5 project is expected to be done – “mid-2020.” What about shore power? “The good news is that the industry is wanting to do the right thing – cleaner fuels and the ability to plug into shore power,” Wolfe replied. He added that they believe allowing shippers to voluntarily pursue such initiatives is better than “requirements.” Monitoring environmental factors is crucial, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold interjected at that point.
Eventually, Wolfe said, they expect container traffic to be split 50-50 between Seattle and Tacoma. And in discussing competition with British Columbia ports, he talked about the federal Harbor Maintenance Tax adding $125 to each container’s cost for shippers here, and how the absence of that is an advantage for north-of-the-border shippers.
1:17 PM: Just added the meeting video from Seattle Channel, above this line. The NWSA briefing starts at 1 hour, 38 minutes into the meeting.
1:41 PM: Just noticed via MarineTraffic.com that the Military Sealift Command ship USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak has arrived at Terminal 5. The Port of Seattle told WSB on January 5th that it was due to stop at T-5 January 9-15, so we’ve been watching for it. The 821-foot Kocak is a “surge sealift ship,” as explained here. As previously reported, another Military Sealift Command ship, USNS Bob Hope, might berth here later this year – we haven’t heard yet whether the proposal by the port and Foss Maritime was accepted.
4:17 PM: Alki photographer David Hutchinson just sent photos of the Kocak’s arrival (thank you!) – added above.
The Port of Seattle doesn’t know yet whether the proposal to berth USNS Bob Hope at Terminal 5 in West Seattle will be accepted. But another Military Sealift Command ship is on the way for a short stay, according to port spokesperson Peter McGraw:
He says USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak is scheduled to arrive at T-5 next Monday and stay for about a week. It’s a “dry cargo-carrying surge sealift ship,” slightly smaller than the Bob Hope – 821 feet. According to MarineTraffic.com, it’s currently docked in Tacoma. The ship is named for a World War I U.S. Marine Corps hero. It made headlines two years ago for running aground off Okinawa. During its temporary T-5 stop, it will join the soon-to-be-scrapped Matson Lurline.
12:14 PM: The Port of Seattle says the long-idle Matson cargo ship Lurline will soon be at West Seattle’s Terminal 5 – as one of its last stops. The 1973-built, 826-foot roll-on-roll-off vessel has been laid up for years, currently at Terminal 25, and now it’s set to be scrapped. But first, port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB, it’ll be towed to T-5 today. The Lurline will remain at T-5 several weeks, McGraw says, before it’s towed away to “a scrap yard in the Gulf.” We’ll update later when the ship shows up here.
1:20 PM: The Lurline has just arrived at T-5. Photo added above.
Last Thursday, we published the Northwest Seaport Alliance (ports of Seattle and Tacoma) announcement of a special meeting to authorize pursuit of an interim proposal for West Seattle’s Terminal 5 – serving as the berth for the Military Sealift Command‘s USNS Bob Hope. The meeting was held first thing Monday morning; we weren’t able to cover it in person but have just listened to the audio on the NWSA website. The meeting lasted less than half an hour, and no one from the public showed up to comment; when a question about public reaction came up, most of what was mentioned had to do with the comments on the WSB story. One commissioner wondered about security for the 950-foot-long Bob Hope; a staffer said the basic T-5 security plan “wouldn’t be affected that much,” though there would be a “restricted area” around the ship itself. After the discussion, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve having the NWSA join Foss Maritime in offering a proposal to get the ship here. The memo accompanying the Monday agenda this contract could bring the NWSA a little over half a million dollars a year. It would also extend Foss’s use of T-5, otherwise set to expire in early February.