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Port of Seattle Considers Controversial Project

Sam Eaton

A proposal to modify Seattle’s Fishermen's Terminal so that pleasure boats can moor there is drawing renewed criticism. The Port of Seattle plans to hold public hearings on the issue next month. And as KUOW’s Sam Eaton reports… port officials are making efforts now to build support for the controversial project.

PORT OF SEATTLE OFFICIALS SPONSORED A MEDIA TOUR OF FISHERMEN’S TERMINAL YESTERDAY, POINTING OUT THE AGING DOCKS AND CRANES. GENERAL MANAGER JIM SERRILL LED THE GROUP… (walking SFX) This is the South Wall. It’s a 1914 structure that… SERRILL EXPLAINS THAT MUCH OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE HAS WEATHERED NEARLY A CENTURY OF HEAVY USE AND IS NOW IN DIRE NEED A 35-MILLION DOLLAR UPGRADE. THE ONLY PROBLEM, ACCORDING TO PORT OFFICIALS, IS THAT WITH INCREASING VACANCY AND LOW MOORAGE RATES FOR FISHERMEN, THE PORT CAN’T GENERATE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY FOR IT. CLARE NORDQUIST IS PRESIDENT OF THE PORT COMMISSION. AS HE LOOKS OUT AT ALL THE EMPTY SLIPS AND FOR SALE SIGNS ON THE FISHING BOATS HE SAYS THE ONLY WAY TO BRING IN MORE MONEY IS TO BUILD RECREATIONAL MOORAGE. If you simply leave these boats here eventually they’ll just decay and be gone and is that stewardship of the facility, we don’t think so. We want to support the active fleet, we really do and rather than putting the burden on them financially we’re trying to place it somewhere else to support them. It’s a subsidy in a different way. EVEN SO THE PROPOSAL ISN’T SITTING WELL WITH MANY OF THE LOCAL FISHERMEN. PETER KNUTSON MOORS HIS 38-FOOT GILLNETTER ON DOCK 7 WHEN HE’S NOT OUT FISHING. (moving around in cabin) It’s been a couple weeks since I fished this boat so. This is my Puget Sound boat, I’ve got another one up in Ketchikan… AS HE MOVES AROUND HIS CRAMPED CABIN CLEARING TOOLS FOR A PLACE TO SIT, HE INSISTS THAT THE STRUGGLING FISHING INDUSTRY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PORT’S PROPROSED CHANGES. We are not dying a natural death down here, if there’s a death that’s going to occur at Fishermen’s Terminal it’s because of conscious neglect by the Port of Seattle, it’s because there are very powerful people that stand to make a lot of money redeveloping and building large buildings and harvesting the real-estate potential of Fishermen’s Terminal. This whole controversy down here is about real-estate. KNUTSON SEES THE PORT’S MOVE TO BRING IN PLEASURE BOATS AS THE FIRST STEP IN REMAKING FISHERMEN’S TERMINAL INTO AN UPSCALE OFFICE COMPLEX AND MARINA. THE RESULT, HE FEARS, WOULD MEAN THE LOSS OF THOUSANDS OF JOBS GENERATED BY THE FISHING INDUSTRY AS WELL AS THE END FOR ONE OF SEATTLE’S HISTORIC LANDMARKS. AT FISHERMEN’S TERMINAL, I’M SAM EATON, KUOW, 94.9, PUBLIC RADIO.