It’s now been seven years since the Kimberly-Clark pulp and tissue mill on Everett’s waterfront closed, with the loss of some 700 family-wage jobs.
Aside from one building, what’s left after the loss of the last mill in the one-time City of Smokestacks is now mostly a barren expanse of crushed debris, following the destruction of mill facilities and an initial cleanup in 2013 of contaminated soil and water. Significant clean-up of the site remains, nudged along by a lawsuit by the city of Everett and mandated and monitored by the state, with Kimberly Clark on the hook for its costs.
But as empty as the site looks, it’s filled with potential to support maritime-related industries and trades with well-paid jobs that could number greater than what was lost when the mill closed. It holds so much potential that more than one buyer has approached the former mill site’s owner about its purchase; one from private industry, the other public.
A partnership of maritime companies — Pacific Stevedoring and Glacier Fish Co. — wants to buy 58 acres of the 66-acre site for its headquarters and operations; moving from Seattle to what it calls “a new home for the Pacific Northwest seafood industry,” including a cold-storage warehouse, working wharf, seafood processing facilities and office space, promising some 1,200 jobs.
At the same time, the Port of Everett has been working on plans of its own, focused on maritime freight, cargo and export activities and shipyard repair facilities for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, also with the potential to deliver a significant number of family-wage jobs.
Neither is yielding to the other.
In fact, the private interests recently announced a deal to purchase the property from Kimberly-Clark, an announcement that followed just days after the port said it was considering the use of eminent domain to purchase the site and had scheduled a June 4 public meeting on the issue.
With jobs and the future vitality of Everett’s working waterfront on the line, the question comes down to who best to lead the redevelopment of the former mill site. Both public and private proposals appear to have the financial ability to carry out their plans and deliver on their promises of jobs and economic vitality.
Among the Glacier-Pacific project’s advantages:
The partners say that once clean-up of the site is substantially under way, they are ready to being construction, more quickly returning jobs to the waterfront. The private project also presents opportunities not just for its immediate operation, but to attract other export and import activity.
The proposal presents relatively low impact to the environment; processing would be of frozen fish, already cleaned at sea aboard Glacier’s catch-and-process ships, requiring less wastewater treatment.
Most notably, private ownership of the site would also return a major source of property tax revenue to local government that public ownership by the port would preclude.
Among the Port’s advantages:
The Port project for cargo handing envisions handling a broader range of trades and industries with potential to serve the larger region, including the manufacturing centers at Paine Field and the new Marysville Arlington Manufacturing Industrial Center. It also could increase the use of the “maritime highway” between Tacoma, Seattle and Everett that can remove freight traffic from I-5, decreasing congestion and wear and tear.
Port control of the site also would allow it to provide for possible expansion and better provision for the security needs of Naval Station Everett as well as the potential to return a shipyard that could serve naval vessels and help establish Everett as the homeport for a Coast Guard cutter and other vessels here.
Everett is currently without a commercial shipyard able to perform maintenance, the lack of which may have played into the Navy’s recent decision to move the destroyer, the USS Shoup, first based here in 2002, to San Diego.
Port ownership of the land also means that a local government — with greater provision for public oversight — will have control of the waterfront property, a deep-water port that the state classifies as having “statewide significance.” Such opportunities to increase public ownership of waterfront are rare.
An additional consideration for Port of Everett taxpayers is the port’s plans to use condemnation to acquire the property.
No government agency should take the responsibilities of condemnation through eminent domain lightly. Although the process requires payment of fair market value, it can be a divisive process that uses the considerable leverage of “the public good” to push a reluctant buyer into a sale. That process works when, for example, it helps a school district acquire property at a fair price for a new school; it’s less successful when it “takes” property for a development that has not been well vetted or shown to benefit the public.
The good news here is that either project can be expected to deliver the economic development and jobs that are envisioned.
Weighing all factors, public ownership and oversight of the waterfront property tips the balance in the Port of Everett’s favor.
But the best outcome — regardless of the eventual owner — would be a true public-private partnership that brings together both proponents to work out a plan that delivers as many of the goals of each as possible.
The Port of Everett’s Board of Commissioners will discuss a proposal to purchase the former Kimberly Clark mill site by using eminent domain at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Waterfront Center, 1205 Craftsman Way, Everett, in the second-floor Blue Heron Room.