Senate public-works budget funds important Whatcom County projects

  • Bellingham waterfront, Swift Creek cleanups funded
  • New buildings for Whatcom Community College, NW Washington Fair
  • House proposal due soon

OLYMPIA – A capital budget plan approved last week by the Washington Senate provides funding for key Whatcom County projects, including Bellingham-waterfront cleanups that will make redevelopment of the area possible and new buildings for Whatcom Community College and the Northwest Washington fair.

Other projects are aimed at improving the local economy and environment – including realignment of Pepin Creek in Lynden, dredging on Squalicum Waterway, and a total $20.5 million for environmental cleanup and stormwater projects countywide.

“These are big wins for the people of Whatcom County,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. “We get cleanup projects back on track, we improve the fairgrounds, and we get a new library and academic center at Whatcom Community College. Because these projects were included in the Senate capital budget, we have a good chance of seeing them in the final budget agreement.”

The local projects are part of the Senate’s $4 billion proposal for state capital spending over the next two years. The capital budget pays for assets like schools, parks and public infrastructure, and is considered separately from the state’s operating budget. It is financed largely with long-term bonds. The budget passed the Senate 49-0. The state House is expected shortly to release a proposal of its own.

Here’s what the Senate budget provides for the biggest local priorities in Whatcom County:

New buildings

  • Whatcom Community College Learning Commons — $34 million. The new building would house the school library, a computer lab and other academic functions.
  • Northwest Washington Fair — $1.2 million. The state would pay part of the cost of a new exhibit building that also will provide meeting space.

 

Major public works

  • Pepin Creek realignment — $4 million. The state would 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 would 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 would 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 Senate budget provides $20.5 million for environmental cleanup and stormwater projects in Whatcom County. The biggest projects are:

  • Bellingham waterfront— $8.5 million. Cleanups at the Georgia Pacific and R.G. Haley industrial sites would make it possible to redevelop former industrial sites along Bellingham Bay.
  • Swift Creek— $5.5 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.
  • Bellingham-area water quality improvement projects— $3.7 million. Projects include new filtration systems for water treatment and stormwater, drainage systems on Meridian Street, and other projects designed to reduce phosphorus and improve water quality around Lake Whatcom and Bellingham Bay.