10-year deal ensures jobs for Whatcom Co. workers

FERNDALE — A new, decade-long electric power supply deal is ensuring jobs for hundreds of aluminum smelter workers in Whatcom County.

The Bonneville Power Administration and Alcoa Intalco Works signed the contract on Friday. The Bellingham Herald reported that the deal ends years of job uncertainty for 625 Alcoa workers.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Gov. Chris Gregoire and U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene were on hand as the agreement was signed at the smelter’s assembly hall west of Ferndale.

Power supply disruptions led to the shutdown of most of the other aluminum smelters in the region over the past decade, and it idled Intalco for a time. Alcoa officials repeatedly warned that the smelter would have to close permanently without a contract guaranteeing long-term access to BPA’s supply of relatively low-cost hydropower.

In recent years, Intalco has been operating with shorter-term power contracts that left workers fearful of what might happen next.

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