Friday, July 23, 2010

Bellingham Port Approves New Version of Dredging Plan

Commissioners for the Washington state Port of Bellingham have developed a complex plan to dispose of lightly contaminated dredge material near the Bellingham Shipping Terminal in an existing wastewater lagoon as part of a larger port effort to clean up Bellingham Bay.

Under the new version of the $90 million plan, the port – in conjunction with state toxic substance regulators – would dredge heavily contaminated material left behind in the 37-acre lagoon by Georgia-Pacific Corp. The paper manufacturer turned over the adjacent 137-acre waterfront property to the port in 2005 under the condition that the port clean up any contamination left behind, including in the wastewater lagoon.

Once cleared of the heavily contaminated material, several feet of clean sediment from the bottom of the lagoon would be removed and temporarily stored.

Lightly contaminated dredge material from in front of the Bellingham Shipping Terminal would then be deposited in the lagoon and covered over by the previously stored clean sediment from the lagoon. The port claims this would seal the lightly contaminated dredge material and still provide enough draft clearance for the development of a planned 400-slip marina in the lagoon.

The port originally planned to truck the lightly contaminated sediment from near the shipping terminal to eastern Washington landfill locations, but the cost of trucking the material has risen dramatically and would now add more than $17 million to the total project.

The revised plan still needs to go through a series of reviews and approvals but port officials hope to have the dredging project underway by 2012.