At the site of a former Kimberly-Clark paper and pulp mill, a side loader dumps dirt as crews work on Tuesday in Everett. The Port of Everett has won nearly $18 million in federal funding to help pay for the construction of a cargo terminal on the land. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

At the site of a former Kimberly-Clark paper and pulp mill, a side loader dumps dirt as crews work on Tuesday in Everett. The Port of Everett has won nearly $18 million in federal funding to help pay for the construction of a cargo terminal on the land. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Port again wins millions in grant money for mill site revamp

The Port of Everett successfully reapplied for federal funding after losing $15.5 million last year.

EVERETT — A major effort to bring jobs back to a prime waterfront property is back on track after the project’s financing plan hit a snag earlier this year.

The Port of Everett has won nearly $18 million in federal funding to help pay for the construction of a new cargo terminal on the roughly 60-acre site, which once was the home of a Kimberly-Clark paper and pulp mill, officials announced on Tuesday.

The project was selected in 2019 for a similar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, but the agency rescinded the offer in May, citing changes to the scope that went beyond what the port outlined in its initial application for the funding.

So, late last spring, the port submitted an updated request for grant funding to the U.S. DOT.

The latest award is a big victory for port officials, who feared that losing the federal government’s financial support could set back the timeline on completing the new terminal. The project is expected to attract more business to the waterfront as the port forges ahead with other improvements, from commercial and residential development to bolstered infrastructure that will allow its docks to accommodate heavier cargo and bigger ships.

“It’s a huge win for our community,” said Port CEO Lisa Lefeber. “It really is the missing piece of the puzzle for our waterfront.”

Before construction begins, contractors for Kimberly-Clark must decommission shoreline pipes, remove an estimated 12,000 tons of contaminated soil, and haul away 180,000 to 200,000 tons of crushed material left over from the mill’s demolition. The cleanup, which began in May, remains on schedule to be done by the end of 2020 — the company’s deadline for completing the work under a pact with the port.

The port also must finalize an agreement with the federal government to receive the grant from BUILD, a program known by the acronym for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development.

Port officials now expect work on the new terminal to ramp up in mid- to late-2021 and be completed in late 2022, Lefeber said.

Once redeveloped, the site will support 800 to 1,200 jobs, Lefeber said. The only piece of the old mill complex that’s still standing, a nearly 400,000-square-foot vacant warehouse, will support cargo operations and provide space for other industry-related activities, such as maritime manufacturing.

The additional cargo capacity will also allow the port to meet the upland space requirements to become part of a federally-designated network of strategic seaports, meant to ensure that the military has access to the maritime assets it needs to be ready for any national emergency or surge in deployments. While the Port of Everett handles some military cargo, the state of Washington’s only strategic seaport is now in Tacoma, Lefeber said.

“This is great news for businesses and workers who depend on the Port of Everett to connect local goods and services with global markets,” Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Everett and senior member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a press release. “I will continue to champion federal investment in Northwest Washington to build and sustain local projects, put people to work and boost long-term economic recovery.”

The port is bracing for revenues to plummet in 2021 and 2022, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and a decline in aerospace shipments.

But Port officials recently received more encouraging news when work again began on an unfinished seaside apartment building that was destroyed by a four-alarm fire in July.

Crews just started removing debris and breaking up the damaged foundation at the site of the south building of Waterfront Place Apartments, Lefeber said.

Shortly after the fire, construction resumed on the north building of the complex, which did not sustain any serious structural damage during the blaze. That building is still slated to open in 2021 with 135 units, port officials have said.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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