Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot

The Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot is a team effort of 12 government entities, led by us, to clean up contamination, prevent pollution, and restore habitat in and around Bellingham Bay. We formed the Pilot Team in 1996 to develop a new, global approach to cleaning up sites. The team put this approach into a comprehensive strategy document that now governs how it approaches cleanup work. The Pilot Team is co-managed by Ecology and Port of Bellingham, with Ecology as the lead.

In October 2000, we issued the Pilot Team's guiding document, the Bellingham Bay comprehensive strategy and final environmental impact statement.

The Pilot Team is carrying out the strategy for 12 priority sites around the bay. The sites are mostly the legacy of industrial practices that preceded modern environmental laws. Soil, sediment, and groundwater were contaminated by operations at the former Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mill, municipal landfills, wood treatment plants, shipyards, and a coal gasification plant.

The former Georgia-Pacific properties make up the bulk of the pilot project area. The Georgia-Pacific West and Whatcom Waterway sites are more than 250 acres and are all or in part a result of past Georgia-Pacific operations.

The first cleanup site to be completed under the pilot program is the Holly Street Landfill site in 2005. Eldridge Landfill followed in 2012. All other sites are in progress as of 2017.

Contaminated marine sediments in urban areas of Puget Sound, including Bellingham Bay, can pose a threat to marine life and public health. Cleanup of contaminated sediments has proven to be a difficult task, complicated by high costs, limited disposal site options, concerns about environmental liability, source control issues, habitat alterations, and regulatory and land owner constraints. To address the need for sediment cleanup and overcome some of the existing roadblocks to expedited actions, the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot (Pilot) was established.

The Pilot brings together a cooperative partnership of agencies and tribes, local government, and businesses known collectively as the Pilot Team, to develop an approach for source control, sediment cleanup and associated habitat restoration in Bellingham Bay. As part of the approach, the Pilot Team has developed a comprehensive strategy that considers contaminated sediments, sources of pollution, habitat restoration, in-water, and shoreline land use from a baywide perspective. The strategy integrates this information to identify priorities for the near-term and to provide long-term guidance to decision-makers.

The Pilot Team first crafted a mission statement for the project as well as a number of objectives — environmental, process, partnering, and policy — to ensure achievement of the overall mission statement. The mission statement is: "To use a new cooperative approach to expedite source control, sediment cleanup, and associated habitat restoration in Bellingham Bay."

Based upon this initial work, four fundamental project elements were defined — sediment cleanup and source control, sediment disposal siting, habitat, and land use. This was followed by the creation of seven baywide pilot goals that reflect the collective interests of the Pilot Team and the desired outcome of the project.

The Pilot Team compiled, collected, and analyzed information for each project element separately and applied the baywide goals to identify priorities. The information and priorities for sediment cleanup and source control, sediment disposal siting, habitat, and land use were then combined to create the comprehensive strategy.