Port leaders hear lively debate on warehouse

Vote was postponed, but that didn’t stop folks from sharing concerns on environment, jobs

rboone@theolympian.comJune 10, 2014 

The meat of Monday’s Port of Olympia Commission meeting may have been removed, but that didn’t deter several who still shared their opinions about the prospect of a second warehouse on the port’s marine terminal.

The port commission was set to vote on whether to award a bid for construction of the warehouse — to be filled with ceramic proppants, or “fracking sand,” that the port imports — when the port decided Friday afternoon to postpone that decision, saying it wants more time for port staff and legal counsel to review citizen concerns.

Those citizen concerns, wanting the warehouse and a related marine terminal project to be included within a single environmental review process, were delivered in a letter to the port Wednesday.

Still, about 50 people — either who didn’t get the message or who wanted to testify anyway — showed up Monday at The Olympia Center.

More than 30 people spoke during the two-hour public comment period, including one woman who dressed up as Lady Liberty and two other women who sang a song together at the podium. Most spoke out against the need for a second warehouse, raising concerns about fracking’s impact on the environment or the larger problem of climate change.

Bourtai Hargrove of Olympia warned the commission about sea-level rise. “It means goodbye Miami, goodbye southern Florida, goodbye Bangladesh, goodbye parts of Seattle and goodbye to all of downtown Olympia,” she said. “Yes, it means goodbye to the port and the farmers market.”

Zoltan Grossman, professor of geography at The Evergreen State College, also warned the commission not to tie the port’s financial well-being to the boom-and-bust cycles of oil production in North Dakota. The port currently imports fracking sand and then ships it by rail to North Dakota.

“The Bakken oil boom is showing signs of an imminent bust,” he said.

But Debby Pattin of Olympia said that stopping shipments of fracking at the port won’t end fracking — it would only steer that business to another port, which means a loss of family-wage jobs and revenue. She urged those in the audience to elect state and federal legislators who will vote for environmentally friendly legislation.

“I’m glad you all want to save the world, but don’t get rid of my job,” added Richard Korn, a longshore worker with Local 47.

After the public comment period, Korn said he now is working full-time, sometimes six days a week. His wage varies, he said, but now he’s making $35 per hour. He makes enough that his wife can stay home with his four children, Korn said.

The port says it needs a second marine terminal warehouse because the existing warehouse is at capacity with fracking sand, steel coils and other cargo.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the port would vote on awarding the bid.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com @rolf_boone

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service