Waterfront Transfer Expected in the Fall

By Sara Bruestle, April 17, 2013, Mukilteo Beacon

After more than 20 years of waiting, the U.S. Air Force is expected to transfer the Mukilteo Tank Farm by the end of the summer to the Port of Everett and NOAA for redevelopment.

Port officials estimate that the decades-long process of transferring the Air Force’s 20-acre property will be completed by September.

“We are making serious progress,” said John Mohr, executive director of the port. “We’ve started the negotiations for a seamless transition. That’s the ultimate goal.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is awaiting transfer of 1.1 acres of the property so that it can design and construct a new facility there. The land is leased to NOAA for the Mukilteo Field Station.

The city, Port of Everett and state also anticipate the transfer of the other 18.8 acres so that the construction of a ferry terminal, a transit station, a waterfront promenade and other redevelopment projects can start.

The Mukilteo Multimodal Project planned on the northern Mukilteo-Everett waterfront includes the relocation of the ferry terminal one-third of a mile east of its current location at an estimated cost of $120-$130 million. Washington State Ferries has identified $91 million for the project so far.

Both local and state officials were optimistic during a joint meeting April 9 with Mukilteo City Council and the Port of Everett that the project is on track – and that the waiting will soon be over.

“We’ve been coping with the tank farm right in our front yard for decades,” Council President Randy Lord said. “We’ve lost access to our waterfront over the years. Mukilteo is very anxious to get that back and preserve that for our citizens.”

Officials expect the WSF and Air Force to finalize state and national environmental studies required for the transfer by August or September. The port and WSF are in negotiations with the Air Force pending final approval of the studies, Mohr said.

If all goes well, construction of the relocated terminal is slated for 2016. Ferries chief David Moseley said he believes that WSF will be able to identify the other $58 million in funds needed within two years.

“I think we’re going to be successful in identifying additional state and federal funds before we start construction,” Moseley said.

Mayor Joe Marine and several councilmembers echoed his optimism and offered the city’s continued support through the process.

“We’re used to doing things that would never happen, like a community center that would never happen, so we continue to push this forward,” Marine said.

“We’re with you to the end. We’ll work on the money to get it moved over.”

State efforts to transfer the property started in 1995, and by 1998 the Mukilteo Multimodal Project had been added to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

In 2000, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Air Force to transfer the tank farm to the Port of Everett. In 2001, the legislation was changed to convey 1.1 acres to NOAA.

The Air Force issued a draft Environmental Assessment to study the impacts of transferring the land in 2009. The EA was revised in 2010 and again in 2012 in response to comments from stakeholders, including concerns from the port.

After issuing a draft EIS in 2012 to study impacts of relocating the ferry, and incorporating comments, the WSF selected its preferred alternative that May to move the terminal to the tank farm.

WSF plans to release its final EIS in the coming months and a final decision by fall of this year. Release of the Air Force’s final EA will follow.

Once the property transfers to the Port of Everett, the port will then transfer that part of the property needed for the ferry terminal to WSF, Mohr said. Other land transfers may also occur, he said.

Other multimodal plans on the waterfront include a second platform for the Mukilteo Sounder Station, a Community Transit station, a pedestrian-bike bridge, a new First Street connection, a parking garage, as well as possible boat launch relocation, fishing pier relocation and interim commuter parking during redevelopment.

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