SEATTLE — Port of Seattle commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allow pleasure boats to lease slips at Fishermen’s Terminal — a break from nearly a century of tradition and a move adamantly opposed by fishermen.
The terminal, established by the port in 1913 to consolidate and serve the Seattle-based commercial fishing fleet, is the last commercial-only facility on the West Coast.
Officials at the port, which is in the midst of a $35 million overhaul of the 371-slip terminal, said it only makes sense to lease some of the 114 empty slips to recreational vessels.
Fishing boats will always have priority, and leases for "rec boats" would require them to leave if a commercial vessel needs the space.
Port Commissioner Clare Nordquist — succeeded as the panel’s chairman and president by Bob Edwards at Tuesday’s meeting — said he’d have no problem ordering a yacht to make way for a fishing boat, a scenario greeted with skepticism by fishermen.
The fishermen conceded that depleted Northwest salmon stocks and market pressure from farmed salmon have some of them on the ropes. But they have said some slips are vacant because boats are out working, and that some vessels relocated because of deteriorating conditions at the terminal, where a few structures date to World War I and most docks were built in the 1940s.
They are worried that the port’s long-term agenda is upscale development — with condos and office complexes — of the 26-acre waterfront property north of downtown.
The yacht-moorage issue is "a red herring," contended activist fisherman Pete Knutson. "It takes eyes away from the prize, which is development of that property."
The port denied condos will ever be allowed.
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