By Dave Somers, Ray Stephanson, Les Reardanz and Patrick Pierce
It is well-known now that the Legislature adjourned this year without passing a capital budget for the first time in Washington state’s history.
Many people are very familiar with the potential impacts on education and social services. What is less obvious is the impact the lack of a capital budget will have on environmental cleanup in the state, including our own Port Gardner Bay in Everett.
Since 2007, the Port of Everett has worked diligently in partnership with the state Department of Ecology and our private partners to clean up 212 acres of historic contamination in our waterways. With no capital budget, this means no money is currently budgeted for the Port’s Mill A Cleanup for 2017-19.
The Port of Everett has long served as the economic engine for our community, leveraging the deep harbor of the Everett waterfront into jobs and opportunity for generations of families. And that work continues as the Port completes environmental restoration all across the harbor— returning contaminated sites to productive use and clearing the way for economic growth, public access and a healthier harbor.
The Port of Everett has a proven track record of cleaning up its waterfront sites under the Puget Sound Initiative, while also incorporating infrastructure investments to put the properties back into productive use. In the past decade, the Port has aggressively pursued these cleanups, and now 71 percent of our upland properties are remediated. These cleanups have facilitated the revitalization of the waterfront with the Fisherman’s Harbor development underway with residences, a hotel and restaurants. They have also allowed our business development team to recruit several new tenants to our Riverside Business Park, which will support upward of 800 jobs in the region.
But we aren’t done yet. Our largest cleanup — the Weyerhaeuser Mill A Cleanup — is right in front of us with a start date planned for 2020. With no capital budget, our Mill A cleanup did not receive funding for the 2017-19 biennium. This is a great concern to our county and city, as the Port estimates it needs about $35 million in matching state funds to implement its legal requirement to clean up the Mill A site in the 2019-21 budget. The capital budget impasse makes it difficult for our state partners to meet their share of the cleanup obligation. The cleanup is a precursor to future economic development at the Seaport.
Mill A was a former Weyerhaeuser Mill that operated on the Everett waterfront for nearly a century. While Weyerhaeuser has been a great partner in remediation of this contamination, the state’s share is also needed. The Mill A site is located in the heart of the Port’s international seaport, which supports the No. 1 customs export district in Washington state at $29.3 billion annually in exports in 2016. It also supports more than 35,000 jobs in the region, with 60 percent of jobs within Snohomish County tied to international trade. The statewide percentage tied to trade is 40 percent.
In addition to this key project, there are other urgent needs that are going unmet because of the failure of the legislative process, including capital projects to help us better address our communities’ mental health, substance abuse and homelessness challenges. The state’s partnership is critical in advancing these projects to make progress on these issues.
We urge legislators to include environmental cleanups for priority bays, such as Port Gardner Bay’s Mill A Cleanup, in a 2017-19 capital budget, and pass a capital budget that is good for our kids, health, environment and the economy.
Dave Somers is Snohomish County executive. Ray Stephanson is mayor of Everett. Les Reardanz is the CEO of the Port of Everett and Patrick Pierce is president of Economic Alliance of Snohomish County.