RECOUNTING THE HISTORY of 88-year-old Fishermen's Terminal, Pete Knutson paused at the year 1940 and gazed out at the audience at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard. "That was the same year Hitler invaded Norway, by the way," the veteran gillnetter said into the microphone.
The sudden laughter eased tensions among the sea of ruddy-faced Scandahoovian fishers who oppose the Port's plans to send yachts to invade their historic urban boat harbor. But, despite some wishy-washy public posturing, officials admit that recreational boats will indeed be moored next to fishing boats, starting in 2002.
Thus last week's forum sponsored by Allied Arts and the League of Women Voters was a stimulating but ultimately futile event. The Port still plans to change the labor-oriented culture of the terminal, which many fishers liken to the onetime proposal to mall the Pike Place Market. The Port Commission should rubber-stamp the decision next month (see "Fishermen terminal?" SW, April 26, 2001).
The Port's Steve Sewell reiterated that point when asked to delay the decision to allow for more discussion. "We plan to move ahead," he told the audience flatly. He reassured detractors that this is a temporary measure to fill vacant moorages and raise money for terminal repairs. How temporary? "Five years . . . at least," he said.
Fishers such as platoon leader Knutson see it as the beginning of the end of the 371-slip fishing- and working-boat harbor. They predict the terminal uplands will eventually be developed into condos as well (which Sewell denied for the record). The Port says it faces $25 million in terminal repairs due to its failure to keep the place ship-shape. Officials claim they're simply following the lead of a citizens' advisory panel. But panel member Dennis Peterson says, "The advisory committee to a man doesn't want to see pleasure boats or recreation boats at Fishermen's Terminal."
City Council member Peter Steinbrueck, whose brother is a gillnetter, once worked as a marine carpenter at the terminal and opposes the change. "It's a shame to kill the goose that laid the golden egg just because of deferred maintenance," he said. Steinbrueck also has a hard time getting over the Port's credo—as stated by Sewell—to just break even: "We aren't in business to make money," Sewell said.
If so, replied Steinbrueck, "Then why is there a need for a $37 million [Port] tax subsidy?"
An important question, but asked too late, perhaps, to stave off Fishermen's Terminal and Yacht Club.