Seattle Courant

The Port of Seattle Wants to Clean Up Messy Net Sheds at Fishermen's Terminal

By Bryan Buckalew
February 18, 2009 06:02PM

"It's unfortunate that it's the mantra that’s been latched on to," Peter McGraw, Port of Seattle Media Relations Officer, said. The Port of Seattle is "wholly and totally committed to having the Pacific Fleet in Fishermen's Terminal. Fishermen's Terminal provides so many jobs, so much revenue."

The Port has invested $60 million in the past 10 years to improve Fishermen's Terminal, McGraw continued. Docks have been replaced. Lights have been installed. Security cameras have been put up. And the moorage rates fishermen are charged are well below market average.

According to the Port, the public market it compares its rates to include the ports in Anacortes, Bellingham (Blaine and Squalicum), Everett and Port Townsend. The moorage available at those ports, in total, is about 87 percent of what is available at Fishermen's Terminal, and the cost is, on average, $6.72 per linear foot for fishing vessels between 30 and 79 feet. The Port of Seattle charges $5.41 per linear foot for the same size boat.

It would be "fiscally irresponsible" to move the Pacific Fleet out of the terminal, McGraw said. "It is an economic engine, and one of our best assets." At the same time, he said, routine upkeep is essential to maintaining "our working waterfront."

And part of that upkeep, according to the Port, is cleaning up the terminal's net sheds.

Built largely during a time when fishermen used cotton nets that needed to be hung up to dry between seasons, the 30-foot-tall lockers are now home to lofts built by fishermen in order to accommodate more gear since new, synthetic nets no longer need to be hung up to dry. The increase in items stored, however, overburdens the standards the original structures were designed for, the Port says.

Now, like suburban garages, the sheds have, over the years, accumulated piles and piles of "stuff." The Port has documented cases of people storing cars in the sheds, sleeping in the sheds and, in general, using the city property for personal rather than professional use.

We realize we are out of compliance on some issues, McGraw said, and the Port is working with the fishermen to come up with a solution.

The logistics of a prospective clean out of the net sheds are still murky. Cleaning out the storage sheds will possibly precede locker by locker, one at a time, McGraw said. He proposed the Port provide a secure place for fishermen to load and store their gear while the Port makes the sheds compliant.

We are "working with their schedules to determine the best way to move forward," he said. "We want to work with the community as much as possible." But McGraw said, "We have to upgrade."

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Read what fisherman Pete Knutson has to say on this issue.