Seattle Courant

Fishermen Feel Squeeze From Seattle Port Authority

By Bryan Buckalew
February 5, 2009 01:02PM

Pete watched a navy blue Port of Seattle Jeep Cherokee roll slowly past. "It amounts to a de-facto eviction," he said. "They (the Port of Seattle) want to run Fishermen's Terminal like they're running a mall, and it's not appropriate."

He was talking about the Port's recent proposal to renovate the terminal's antiquated net sheds. The Port says the sheds are dangerous. The gear lofts fishermen have built over the years block the sprinkler systems, the Port says.

The fishermen however, Knutson most vocal among them, disagree.

"None of the newer sheds have sprinkler systems," Knutson said. He sees the Port's plan instead as an attempt to put the squeeze on fishermen who inhabit a prime piece of Seattle real estate.

By taking the gear lofts out of the net sheds, the Port will be making the sheds unusable for many fishermen - a "de facto" eviction, Knutson said. Vacant net sheds could trigger the terminal redevelopment mentioned in the Heartland Study, a 2001 look at converting terminal land into office and warehouse space.

The Port is trying to push the family fishing fleet out of Fishermen's Terminal just like they have everywhere else, Pete said.

Knutson paused to greet a customer. She'd driven from Kirkland to buy some of Pete's fish. "It's just extraordinary. My husband says it's the best he's ever had."

Knutson hopped down onto the Njord and rifled through one of two household-size deep freezers on deck. Coho and Sockeye fillets clinked together with a sound like dried pieces of cordwood.

In addition to planned renovations to the net sheds, the Port of Seattle also plans to levy a $25 fee on fishermen who sell smoked salmon, salmon jerky and other processed products from their boats. Knutson thinks this part of the proposal is aimed at punishing him directly.

They already made him take down his farmer's market canopy. "They told me it looked like a flea market."

The woman left and two Russians pulled up. They wanted to know if Pete had any crab. He didn't, but they bought some pink salmon anyway. As they paid, one tried to pet Sadie. She snapped at him. Pete seemed to be the only person she liked.

She's friendly, Knutson said. But she doesn't like to be messed with sometimes.

The Russians left, and Pete sat back down on the dock. Sadie nosed around his boots, and he pointed to a security camera three light poles down. The Port installed it, he said, to keep an eye on him. Pete's mane of curly gray hair wavered in the light wind.

In March the Port will decide what to do with the net sheds. In the meantime, they can be sure that Knutson will be keeping an eye on them.

--

Read what the folks over at the Port of Seattle have to say.