Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tacoma Port Invests in Stormwater System at Log Facility

Booming business at a Port of Tacoma log-processing facility has spurred the port's governing board to invest a total of $460,000 to upgrade stormwater retention and treatment facilities at the West Hylebos location.

The investment is intended to help the busy 17-acre log facility, which sat idle just two years ago, to meet state and federal stormwater regulations. The funds will be spent to install new pre-treatment facilities at the log plant and provide new connections to the City of Tacoma wastewater treatment plant.

The port originally appropriated $145,000 in August, 2010, for the stormwater upgrades and on June 16 approved another $315,000 to continue work on the stormwater system.

The log facility prepares raw logs intended for export to Pacific Rim countries, where booming economies and the rebuilding in Japan are creating a huge demand for lumber. Prior to loading on ocean-going vessels for transport, the Washington forests logs are sorted and debarked at the log facility.

The Port of Tacoma re-entered the bulk log shipping business in the fall of 2009 by leasing half the West Hylebos log facility to Holbrook and half to Forest Marketing Enterprises (Formark).

Both companies were given access to the de-barker on site and also to the wharf for loading out vessels. Both lease terms were month to month.

In the spring of 2010, Holbrook was able to attract additional business in the form of TPT Group Limited, who brought significant volume to the facility via their customer, Hancock Forest Management.

At the conclusion of 2010, Formark had moved approximately 29 million board feet of logs, and Holbrook/TPT had moved approximately 40 million board feet. This year, port officials expect the facility to roughly double the amount of logs handled in 2010.

According to the port, issues arose rather quickly at the site regarding storm water runoff exceeding standards set by the state Department of Ecology.

Analysis of stormwater samples taken in the third and fourth quarters of 2010, and the first quarter of 2011, indicate that the log facility water discharges exceeded the established pollutant benchmarks for zinc, copper, turbidity, chemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids. These levels require corrective action and operations at the site are currently in a Level 3 corrective action, which calls for treatment to be implemented. The deadline for implementing a treatment system is September 30, 2011. Port staff began planning for the Level 3 implementation of treatment during the 2010 first quarter budget update.

Also, the Port of Tacoma holds the storm water permit at the site due to multiple tenants occupying the same storm water system. In all other facilities operated by port tenants, the tenant holds the permit.

Since it is not possible to transfer a permit to two parties, the port issued termination notices to both Formark and Holbrook on March 1st, 2011 with a 90-day notice, beginning the process of negotiating for a single tenant to hold the lease for the entire property.

The port intends to transfer the permit to a single tenant as soon as a more robust storm water treatment system is in place.

On Thursday, the port board approved a motion allowing the port CEO to negotiate a two-year lease with Holbrook/TPT, making the firm the single leaseholder on the site. The lease terms would also have three one-year extensions.