By John Gillie, February 11, 2014, The News Tribune
Port of Tacoma staff members are evaluating proposals from three companies that want to lease a strategically located site on the Tacoma Tideflats.
That site, for decades the site of a Kaiser Aluminum smelter, was recently slated to become a $150 million bulk liquids distribution terminal for Targa Sound Terminals.
But Targa backed out of the deal after a seven-month due diligence period last fall leaving the port seeking another client.
Targa withdrew from the project after it lost a potential customer for its oil and petroleum products business.
Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina said staff members will soon begin negotiating with the prospective lessees. The port isn’t disclosing the identity of those companies.
Port commission members are being kept updated on the progress of the leasing effort. Once those proposals are more carefully evaluated and terms negotiated, the port staff will make recommendations to the port commission for approval of a lease. That step could happen as soon as next month, but no definite deadline has been established, she said.
The port bought the former smelter after it closed down because of labor difficulties and rising power costs more than a dozen years ago. The port demolished the plant and cleaned up the site.
That site sits near the south ends of the Blair and Hylebos waterways with access to a waterfront loading terminal on the Blair. The land is west of State Route 509 and between Alexander Avenue and Taylor Way.
Mattina declined to say what uses the three interested parties have proposed for the 60-acre property. The port’s request for proposals specifically prohibited proposals for using the Kaiser site for a coal terminal.
Coal exporters are looking for West Coast sites from which they can ship coal brought to the Northwest in unit trains from Wyoming and Montana. Strong opposition has developed to two proposals for Washington coal terminals, one on the Columbia River and the other in northern Puget Sound.
Meanwhile, as the port is sorting out which proposal to embrace for the Tideflats property, the port is not finding interest so brisk for another parcel, its 745-acre Maytown property in Thurston County.
“We’ve had inquiries and conversations, but no bids,” said Mattina.
Like the Kaiser site, the port got the Maytown land back last fall. Maytown Sand and Gravel Co., which had fallen behind in its payments for the land, voluntarily surrendered the property to the port.
The port had bought the Maytown property originally as the potential site of a major rail marshaling yard and logistics park, but local environmental groups concerned that the land’s natural attributes would be despoiled by industrial activity, mounted opposition against it.
The plan ultimately lost the backing of Thurston County officials, and the port put it up for sale.
Maytown Sand & Gravel claimed that delays in getting permission to begin mining sand and gravel on the land drained it of capital. The port and Maytown have sued Thurston County over those delays. The case goes to trial this spring in Lewis County.
The port in the meantime is mining the site for gravel.