Port of Vancouver touts plan to transform Terminal 1

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Port of Vancouver CEO Julianna Marler lauded recent accomplishments and highlighted upcoming redevelopment of the port’s property west of the Interstate 5 Bridge during her “Port Report” Thursday.

“The port is working to redevelop our 10 acres of waterfront property into a community asset featuring a public marketplace, retail and office space, a new hotel, renovated piers, riverbank and trail, public places to gather, public art and much more,” Marler told about 100 people at WareHouse ’23.

Marler said the port’s work at Terminal 1 will include extending the popular Waterfront Renaissance Trail.

“We will continue to reach out to those interested in our Terminal 1 development, including potential vendors for the public marketplace, the arts community and the growing river cruise industry,” she said.

Jerry Oliver, president of the port’s three-member board of commissioners, also singled out the upcoming work at Terminal 1, which he said will transform the site.

“We’re not sure, at least I’m not exactly sure, what that’s going to look like,” he said. “But I’m here to tell you, with a salesman’s enthusiasm, it’s going to look great.”

Oliver, who was first elected in 2007, is wrapping up his second six-year term on the port commission and is not seeking re-election. Two candidates, Jack Burkman and Dan Barnes, have filed for the nonpartisan position.

“These 12 years,” Oliver said, “have been the most gratifying of my 60-plus-year business career.”

Thursday’s hourlong event was punctuated by short videos highlighting upcoming redevelopment of Terminal 1 and less weighty subjects, such as the port’s handling of grains needed to brew beer.

Absent from Thursday’s event was any reference to the nasty fight over building the nation’s largest crude-by-rail oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver, which Gov. Jay Inslee rejected in January 2018. Environmental activists continue to press port commissioners to enact a policy pledging not to build any bulk fossil fuel terminals at the port, something that also was not mentioned Thursday.

Instead, Marler devoted her speech to the port’s continued growth and economic contributions. The port primarily exports cargo, with about 84 percent leaving the U.S. and 16 percent coming in from other countries, she said.

During 2018, the port moved a record 8.1 million metric tons of grains, automobiles, steel and other cargo across its docks, an increase of 8 percent from the previous year, Marler said. Also in 2018, 391 vessels berthed at the port, a decrease of one vessel from 2017, she said.

“We’ve seen this number inch down over the last several years,” she said. “The Columbia River channel deepening project took the navigation channel from 39 to 43 feet, which means vessels can load more cargo (and) draft deeper. More cargo per vessel means more efficient operations and fewer annual vessel calls, even as our tonnage has gone up.”

Rail traffic continues to increase with the port having a second record year in a row, she said, with 67,734 rail cars in 2018 “carrying everything from grain and autos to wind blades and bentonite clay.”

For more than 15 years, the port has handled heavy wind blades and turbines, primarily because of its investment in two heavy lift cranes, Marler said.

“I am very pleased to announce that in late June, the port will receive the largest shipment of Vestas wind blades ever arriving in the U.S. and potentially globally on a single vessel,” she said to applause.

Marler mentioned the importance of international trade and referred to Washington as the “most trade-dependent state in the United States,” but she steered clear of any personal views about ongoing battles over tariffs and related issues.

Marler, however, did say the port was strongly supportive of replacing the I-5 Bridge.

“We have the only bridge that can stop traffic on the interstate corridor from Mexico to Canada for something as simple as a bridge lift for a sailboat,” she said. “This is an economic issue for our community, region and the entire West Coast.”

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