Purchase of the Property Another historic step taken by the Port of Bellingham in its efforts to clean up, restore, and protect the environmental balance of the Bellingham waterfront was the acquisition of the 137-acre Georgia Pacific (GP) property on January 20, 2005. The port agreed to take on specific aspects of the necessary environmental cleanup.
Site Contamination Georgia Pacific released mercury into Bellingham Bay during the operation of its chlor-alkali plant between 1965 and 1971. Moreover, the industrial fill-land upon which Georgia Pacific still sits is contaminated with petroleum compounds, mercury, metals, and caustic soda. The port had received numerous requests from the community to take public ownership of the site to begin cleanup. As Port Commissioner Scott Walker put it, the deal ultimately gave the public more control over “the future of the Bellingham waterfront.”
Cleanup Procedures The project calls for the removal of 530,000 cubic yards of contaminated material from the Whatcom Creek Waterway and the 37-acre GP Aerated Stabilization Basin (ASB), the creation of two miles of enhanced near-shore habitats, and the transformation of the ASB into a Clean Ocean Marina, complete with new salmon habitats, fish passageways, and nearly a mile of public access around the breakwater.
Project Benefits & Time Frame In the heart of downtown Bellingham, this project will create a people-friendly access to the waterfront, while offering housing, small business, and new park opportunities. The $44 million project, with half the cost promised by the state, is estimated to take a total of eight years. Development is being carefully planned with citizen input.