Cleanups move ahead at polluted Anacortes waterfront sites - Salish Current
November 7, 2023
Cleanups move ahead at polluted Anacortes waterfront sites
Richard Arlin Walker

The La Merced, placed as a breakwater at Guemes Channel Marina in 1966, is more breakwater than schooner today. A recent photo shows the accelerating deterioration of the former four-master, which was built in 1917. (Richard Walker / Salish Current © 2023)

November 7, 2023
Cleanups move ahead at polluted Anacortes waterfront sites
Richard Arlin Walker

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Canneries, fuel storage, log yards and mills — landmark sites that were once the economic lifeblood of the Anacortes waterfront — are being cleaned up to make way for new economic development and a healthier marine environment. 

Several significant cleanups underway now and in 2024 will bolster the health of the nearshore environment and improve public accessibility to the waterfront in Anacortes.

The state Department of Ecology lists 24 sites that have been cleaned up in the last 20 years in Anacortes by removing fuel tanks, contaminated soil, creosote-treated pilings and dilapidated overwater structures.

Still to come are the transformation of the former Lovric’s Sea Craft Shipyard, the removal of a derelict cannery and dock nearby, cleanup of the T Avenue log pond and monitoring of Quiet Cove.

Stabbert, Ecology sign agreement

Stabbert Maritime purchased Lovric’s Sea Craft Shipyard and Marina on Feb. 4 (“Era ends with sale of Lovrić’s Sea-Craft of Anacortes,” Salish Current, Feb. 28, 2023) and immediately began upgrading the industrial maritime site, whose shipyard dates to 1965 and two cannery-era buildings date to 1900–1910. 

The site, now known as Stabbert Marine and Industrial (the marina is now Guemes Channel Marina), employs 16 or 17 employees, said shipyard superintendent Eli Neider.

Stabbert is working on a redevelopment plan for the site. According to the city, the company is open to granting an easement across the property to extend the Guemes Channel Trail along the waterfront. 

“Because Stabbert owns a long stretch of property along the waterfront, acquiring this trail easement will be a major step in the trail project,” Anacortes Mayor Matt Miller reported in his 2024 budget message. “Permit applications for early phases of Stabbert’s redevelopment of the site may be received as soon as 2024.”

More than 200 dumpsters full of scrap metal and refuse and 22 truckloads of soil have been trucked off since February, Neider said in an Oct. 26 interview. Rusted and broken-down vehicles have been removed. All but two abandoned or derelict vessels are gone. 

Among the vessels now gone: Western Challenger, a 129-foot fishing vessel built in 1942 as a minesweeper, whose tonnage certification was mired in litigation, has moved on; and the St. Peter, a 50-foot fishing boat, was sold and is in Alaska waters. The Paula S, a 69-year-old former Navy tug laid up since 2017, was scrapped.

A map from Ecology’s “What’s in my Neighborhood: Toxics Cleanup” shows the status of sites around Anacortes.

Ecology communications manager Cheryl Bishop said Stabbert and Ecology expect to sign an agreed order formalizing a cleanup plan for the overall site, which in 2019 was determined by the agency to require cleanup. Tests by Ecology determined metals, solvents and other contaminants in marine soils were above cleanup levels set by the state.

Stabbert, which owns a shipyard in Seattle, inherited liability for the cleanup when it purchased the property. Company president Dan Stabbert said in February that the opportunity to own waterfront commercial property in Anacortes made the investment worth it. 

“We have a small facility in Seattle and our goal is to expand that into this area,” he said. “This has some good deep-water moorage and we’re hoping to support the maritime industry here like we do in Seattle, and this gives us some more options.”

 Ecology and Stabbert began negotiating the agreed order in September. Bishop said the state’s Model Toxics Cleanup Act governs the cleanup process. The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the cleanup plan. 

Neider said of the cleanup, “We are trying to be good stewards of the environment. Our long-term goal is to remove all of the creosote piles and clean up all the things that are in the water. It’s an ongoing process.”

He said business is going well, but added, “It’s a slow start. It’s hard to run revenue projects while working on the infrastructure. The first few years here are going to be heavy on the infrastructure and not so much on the revenue. Revenue will meet expectations once the infrastructure is up to snuff.”

Removing one of the ‘Filthy Four’

Removal of the Triton America pier and overwater structures — deemed by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to be one of Washington state’s “Filthy Four” sites — is expected to begin in spring 2024.

The former cannery at 1904 7th Street is one of a few cannery buildings remaining from Anacortes’s fishing heyday, when salmon was king and schooners returned from Alaska with holds full of cod. According to the Anacortes Museum, the Sanitary Fish Company operated at the location from 1914–1931, followed by the Anacortes Canning Company (1931–1955); Nakat Packing Corp. (1955–1974); Ebb Tide Processing, Inc., (1974–1988); and Shannon Point Seafoods and Nelbro Packing from 1988–2002. 

From the 1990s on, the site has had a troubled environmental record.

devastating fire in 1994 forced the evacuation of homes within a one-mile radius, as burning ammonia and refrigerant filled the air with acrid smoke.

Samsung America, a subsidiary of the electronics company and owner of Shannon Point Seafoods, removed petroleum-contaminated soil in 2001 as part of a voluntary cleanup agreement with Ecology.

Alexander McLaren, a Tacoma lawyer who bought the site in 2001 from Samsung America, was fined by the Department of Labor in 2004 for numerous safety violations related to work being performed there to refurbish and reconfigure vessels. McLaren sold the property in 2014 to Triton America, which owns Bayview Composites, a Skagit County-based manufacturer of parts for aerospace and wind energy. The company had been considering expanding into boat building, and has since expanded into the manufacture of light aircraft 

Over the years, the buildings have been unoccupied and the site has become derelict. A roof has collapsed. Windows are broken. Graffiti inside a building is visible from the front gate. Debris has fallen into the water, according to DNR. The creosote used to treat the pilings burned during the 1994 fire, contributing to the toxic smoke and possibly weakening the structure.

SB 5433, co-sponsored by state Sens. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes) and Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) and signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Jay Inslee, provides $19.57 million for removal of the Triton America dock, the former Dickman Lumber Mill in Tacoma, the former High Tides Seafood Pier in Neah Bay and Ray’s Boathouse Pier in Ballard.

“There is a growing problem where aquatic or over-water structures become derelict or fall into disrepair,” SB 5433 states. “These derelict aquatic structures are public nuisances and safety hazards as they can pose risks to navigation, harm nearshore habitat for threatened and endangered species, detract from the aesthetics of Washington’s waterfronts, and threaten the environment with the potential release of hazardous materials.”

DNR spokesman Joe Smillie said the state is footing the cost of the Triton America dock removal in order to expedite the cleanup and restoration of the shoreline and habitat, and that Triton America would have no claims to the site afterward and that it would revert to public use. 

Monitoring Quiet Cove

The Port of Anacortes will continue cleanup work in 2024 at Quiet Cove and at a former log haulout site on Guemes Channel. 

Quiet Cove, a 0.8-acre area between 2nd and 3rd Streets at the end of O Avenue, was the site of a bulk fuel terminal and storage facility for 70 years until 2013, and after that a storage yard and warehouse for boats, RVs and marine services. The Port of Anacortes purchased the site in July 2013 and by 2020 completed a cleanup after demolishing and removing structures and paved surfaces, and excavating and removing petroleum-contaminated soils. 

The Port of Anacortes is developing a plan for the cleanup of a former log hauling site at the end of T Avenue. (Photo courtesy Port of Anacortes)

The beach at Quiet Cove is now clean and open to the public, said Brenda Treadwell, Port of Anacortes planning and environmental director. “It’s a nice beach,” she said. Next year crews be sampling work for a short time and nonintrusively.

The log haulout site at the end of T Avenue and west of the Port of Anacortes’ Pier 2 Marine Terminal was used from the mid-1960s to 2004. Wood debris left behind from log storage and handling must be removed because wood waste leaches or degrades into compounds such as phenols, benzoic acid and benzyl alcohol that can be toxic to aquatic life, according Ecology. The port and Ecology expect to complete a draft cleanup action plan in 2024.

Since 2008, the Port and Ecology have completed more than $66 million in cleanup at Cap Sante Marina, Dakota Creek Industries, the former Scott Paper Mill site, the former Shell Tank Farm site and Quiet Cove. (“Pollution cleaned up, Anacortes shoreline preps for development” Salish Current, Jan. 31, 2023)

Contaminated soils, wood wastes, derelict structures and creosoted pilings have been removed under the Model Toxics Control Act, or MTCA, which governs the cleanup process. Under MTCA, environmental cleanups are funded by a statewide tax on hazardous substances and by penalties levied on the polluters. The port also secured funding from the polluters’ insurance companies.

Eelgrass and forage fish have returned to formerly polluted nearshores, as at Seafarers Memorial Park, and beaches such as Quiet Cove have returned to public access. 

Other cleanups planned in 2024:

  • Final cleanup of the former March Point Landfill, located on the Padilla Bay waterfront on March Point Road in easternmost Anacortes. The cleanup costs will be shared by the parties deemed responsible by Ecology — Shell Oil Company, Texaco, Inc., and Skagit County. The site will be excavated and capped with a geotextile membrane and three feet of clay, gravel and soil, according to the cleanup action plan. The site will be graded to allow for stormwater runoff and a system will be installed to collect and vent landfill gas. Habitat will be restored along the shoreline. 
  • Replacement of creosote-treated pilings at Fidalgo Bay Marina by the City of Anacortes. The City leases the aquatic lands from DNR and subleases approximately five acres to the Fidalgo Bay Marina Association. The project “meets our DNR lease requirements and supports environmental stewardship goals,” Miller wrote in his budget message.

— Reported by Richard Arlin Walker

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