Public-works budget passes Legislature, funds important Whatcom County projects

OLYMPIA – A public-works construction budget that pays for projects in Whatcom County and across the state cleared the Legislature Thursday and is headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Big-ticket items include funding for Bellingham-waterfront cleanup that will enable redevelopment along Bellingham Bay, and new buildings for Whatcom Community College and the Northwest Washington Fair. Other projects funded by the state capital budget include realignment of Pepin Creek in Lynden, dredging on Squalicum Waterway, and environmental cleanup and stormwater projects countywide.

“This budget is a big win for the people of Whatcom County,” Ericksen said. “It will put cleanup back on track, build a new library and academic center for Whatcom Community College, and provide new exhibition and meeting space at the fairgrounds. The capital budget is important to the entire state, and I’m glad we finally got it through.”

Approval of the budget was delayed last session by the Legislature’s wrangle over household wells. That obstacle was removed Thursday when Republicans and Democrats reached compromise. The deal paved the way for quick approval of the public works bill.

The Whatcom County projects are part of a $4 billion plan for state capital spending through June 30, 2019. The capital budget pays for durable assets like schools, parks and public infrastructure, and is considered separately from the state’s operating budget. It is financed primarily with long-term bonds.

Major items for Whatcom County include:

New buildings

  • Whatcom Community College Learning Commons — $34 million. The new building will house the school library, a computer lab and other academic functions.
  • Northwest Washington Fair — $1.5 million. The state will pay part of the cost of a new exhibit building that also will provide meeting space.
  • Sylvia Center for the Arts–$334,000. A state Building for the Arts grant will help finish the downtown-Bellingham performing arts center.

Major public works

  • Pepin Creek realignment — $3 million. The state will pay part of the cost of realigning Pepin Creek in Lynden, relocating roadside ditches and building a new channel.
  • Jordan Creek/Slater Road bridge — $5 million. The state will provide a loan to the city of Bellingham for a new bridge to replace a culvert that provides a barrier to fish passage.
  • Squalicum Waterway dredging — $750,000. The state will pay part of the cost of maintenance dredging on Squalicum Waterway in Bellingham, where sedimentation poses a navigation hazard to commercial shipping.

 

Environmental cleanup and stormwater

The budget funds environmental cleanup and stormwater projects in Whatcom County. The biggest projects are:

  • Bellingham waterfront— $6 million. Waterfront cleanup projects will enable redevelopment of former industrial sites along Bellingham Bay.
  • Swift Creek— $4 million. Reconstruction of the channel would improve water flow, reduce concentrations of naturally occurring asbestos.
  • Blaine Marina Tank Farm— $900,000. Contaminated soil and old fuel infrastructure would be removed.