Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Port of Everett christens new Norton cargo terminal

The $40 million terminal took two years to complete and doubles the port’s storage capacity.

EVERETT — It’s not a parking lot, it’s a marine cargo terminal!

On Thursday, port and local officials celebrated the completion of the Port of Everett’s Norton Terminal at 2600 Federal Avenue on Everett’s waterfront.

The $40 million project was completed on time and in two years, port CEO Lisa Lefeber told a crowd of about 50 people who gathered at the new shipping terminal Thursday to mark the event and snip a long blue ribbon.

No ships will pull up to the terminal.

The Norton Terminal is a 40-acre holding facility for those bus- and double-decker-size cargo containers. Its opening doubles the port’s cargo storage capacity — a good thing, since cargo ships that berth at the seaport can offload up to 200 containers at a time, said Walter Seidl, the port’s marine terminals director.

Viewed from West Marine View Drive and above, the shipping terminal resembles a vast empty parking lot.

But that will change Friday when the port “federalizes” the cargo terminal and hands it over to federal port authorities to manage. The containers will begin to arrive soon after.

Like the seaport’s Pacific and South terminals to the south, the Norton Terminal will become a secure facility — you’ll need special clearance to venture inside.

Once the changeover occurs, the real work begins.

Two cargo container movers, machines weighing 80 tons a piece, will begin hauling and stacking containers at the site. They’re heavy lifters that can deadlift and tote up to 45 tons each. A cargo container, also known as a “can,” typically weighs anywhere from 18 to 40 tons, Seidl said.

The terminal’s surface also sets it apart from a parking lot. The asphalt is 9 inches deep.

At that depth, the yard can support thousands of containers, stacked four and five cans high. Plus, the thick asphalt layer also doubles as an environmental cap, keeping any low-level contaminants from percolating to the surface.

A typical asphalt parking lot is just a couple of inches deep.

“They don’t build facilities like this in the United States very easily or very often,” Lefeber told the crowd. “This is the first all new cargo terminal opening on the West Coast since 2009.”

“This site sat vacant for about 10 years. This new cargo terminal is going to stabilize the supply chain and continue to provide good, family wage jobs,” Lefeber said. “Projects like this usually take 10 years. We completed this in two years.”

The terminal is located between the port’s working waterfront, known as the seaport, and Naval Station Everett. Its asphalt cap stretches across the site of a former paper and pulp mill that operated for nearly 100 years under various owners. The mill closed in 2011, leaving about 700 people without jobs.

Lefeber estimated that the Norton Terminal, combined with the recent modernization of the South Terminal, will create about 1,000 jobs and generate $14.5 million in additional state and local tax revenues.

It’s sorely needed, Lefeber said.

First off, 90% of the world’s goods — imports and exports — travel by ship, she said.

In 2021, the volume of cargo handled by the Port of Everett jumped 400%, a surge brought on in part by supply chain disruptions that gridlocked ports, vessels and U.S. seaports. The port was able to pick up the slack and alleviate some of the maritime traffic jams elsewhere on the West Coast.

Much of the project’s $40 million cost went toward cleaning up debris and contaminants deposited by a century of mill work.

Most of the money to cover the cost came from a $17.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration and a $7.65 million grant from the state Department of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program.

The funds allowed the port to remove 250,000 tons of contaminated soil and debris, the equivalent of 14,000 dump trucks, and replace it with 14,000 trucks full of “clean sand,” Lefeber said.

The former Kimberly-Clark mill site sat empty for 10 years.

The project’s completion represents the final physical cleanup at the site.

Port officials knew about the underground debris, seismic hazards and other problems with the site.

The city of Everett previously sued Kimberly-Clark, alleging the company failed to meet permit requirements when it demolished buildings at the site in 2012 and 2013, leaving most of the rubble exposed instead of covering it with topsoil and grass to contain the pollution.

In the years that followed, several tentative deals that would have put the land in private hands fell apart. Questions over the remaining cleanup — including who would pay for it — were among the sticking points.

The port took a “calculated risk” when it purchased the site from Kimberly-Clark in November 2019, under the threat of condemnation, to expedite the cleanup and bring the property back into use, port officials have said.

In exchange for assuming all of Kimberly-Clark’s environmental liabilities, the port got a discount: It paid $33 million and got a $17 million credit to address pollution on the part of the site that’s submerged in water. That project will be completed at a later date, Lefeber said.

Under the terms of the sale, Kimberly-Clark agreed to make major progress on the upland cleanup by decommissioning shoreline pipes, removing roughly 12,000 tons of contaminated soil and hauling away some 200,000 tons of crushed material left from the mill’s demolition. The company completed those efforts by the end of 2020, as promised.

“The Norton Terminal will restore jobs, support commerce, and keep our region competitive,” port commissioner David Simpson said.

The recent modernization of the South Terminal, allowing it to serve larger ships and the Norton Terminal, “are game changers for the working waterfront,” Lefeber said.

The new terminal also helped the port earn a strategic seaport designation. The classification “allows us to support our armed forces with the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense in the event of a major military mobilization,” Lefeber said. “We are now one of only 18 seaports in the entire United States that is capable of serving this purpose.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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