Commissioners ponder future of Pasco Marine Terminal

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldApril 17, 2014 

Pasco Port

The Port of Pasco's former marine terminal property east of the cable bridge near the Columbia River

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

A retirement center and a brewery with a pub are among what Port of Pasco commissioners hope to see someday at the Pasco Marine Terminal.

The 13-year, $10.2 million cleanup of petroleum on about a quarter of the 55 acres east of the cable bridge is nearing its end, with one last technology being tested to try to remove some lingering contamination.

So port officials are working with consultant Maul Foster Alongi on ideas for developing the site on a prime piece of riverfront property.

Crowley Maritime, the parent company of the main petroleum company that once used the terminal, is leading the cleanup effort, with the port that owns the land reviewing and approving the work.

Cleanup at the former Columbia River terminal where petroleum products were unloaded and stored for about 50 years has aimed to clean the site enough for industrial uses.

But port officials hope to do more there.

Light industrial uses that also have a retail element, such as a food processor with a shop offering its products, or a restaurant, are possibilities.

Jim Darling, vice president of Maul Foster Alongi, said examples are wineries or a microbrewery with brewing and a restaurant.

And if the Port of Kennewick and city of Kennewick's effort to start a boutique wine village on Columbia Drive is successful, port Commissioner Jean Ryckman said, that might create demand for land just across the river at the former marine terminal.

But overall, the Tri-Cities is oversupplied with office space and has a high vacancy rate of about 12 percent for industrial space, said Anne Fifield, of Blue Mountain Economics, a subcontractor to ECONorthwest.

While the vacancy rate for retail shops, at 6 percent, is healthy, it's those that get built frequently.

"The site is very challenged for just about any use," Fifield said.

However, she noted the primary advantage is the great view.

A mix of light industrial and retail and restaurant is something the market may support, said Gary Ballew, the port's director of economic development and marketing.

It could fit the need the Tri-Cities has for industrial space in the 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot range, said Sam Good, the port's director of properties and development.

There also is a need in Pasco for a senior living facility that serves active seniors, those who need some assistance and those who need assisted living, Ballew said.

Those facilities tend to have mixed uses such as a hair salon or convenience store because many residents don't drive.

Franklin County tends to lose its retirees to Benton County because it simply doesn't have the needed services, said port Commission President Jim Klindworth.

The consultants will examine what can be part of the redevelopment based on what the Department of Ecology will allow, the cleanup results and what the market supports. The current planning effort is being paid for with a $200,000 state grant, said Randy Hayden, the port's executive director.

Having nonindustrial uses would require changing the cleanup agreement with the state, but that's possible, Darling said.

Getting a contaminated site "clean" is a misnomer, Darling said. It's more about getting the site to the point where it is safe enough for the expected use. The cleanup needs to be better when more contact with people is expected, such as housing.

There already are some areas that are clean enough to be used for most development, said Madicq Novak, an environmental scientist with Maul Foster Alongi.

Ecology department officials would like one more type of cleanup technology tried, Hayden said. The department is reviewing a work plan for the proposal to inject biological material to speed up the natural degradation of the chemicals.

Officials plan to test the relatively inexpensive technology for six months at one of the remaining problem areas.

If that is not effective, Hayden said port officials believe the state will allow cleanup to wrap up. Otherwise, cleanup could last a few more years.

Of the $10.2 million spent on cleanup efforts, Crowley Maritime has paid $4.6 million, the state has covered almost $3 million and the port has paid $2.6 million with all but $300,000 coming from settlements with other companies potentially liable for the contamination.

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-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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