A meeting of the Fishermen's Terminal Advisory Council at the Port of Seattle slated for next Thursday is expected to become a bit of a stew. The topic will be the port's plan to renovate the terminal's big net sheds; the subtopic is whether the port will eventually yield to developers at the historic fish base on the Ship Canal. Some see a constant creep towards a high-end marina surrounded by condos, eventually driving the North Pacific fishing fleet from its 95-year home. It's a concern shared even by port commissioner Lloyd Hara. In a December e-mail to fellow commissioners, he predicted such a fate for both Fishermen's Terminal and Terminal 48 downtown, which is also being eyed by high-rise developers: "Mark my words, it will happen in our lifetime," he wrote.
Hara today says he stands by his prediction, adding he's concerned whether the port will "fully support" the industry, given past plans to redevelop the 370-slip Interbay site. Five years ago, port officials approved the "temporary" (now permanent) berthing of recreational boats alongside the fishing craft, and studied the sale of upper shorelines for more commercial and possible residential development.
Port spokesperson Charla Skaggs insists they have "a steadfast commitment to the fleet."
Still, Hara and other port commissioners are thumbing through an 11-page white paper sent to them by fisherman and college prof Pete Knutson. To him, it all seems a relentless march toward eviction and, eventually, the rise of Fishermen's Mall. Changes include a recent seven percent increase in monthly moorage fees, renovation of the terminal's vast net-storage sheds that he thinks could pave the way for real estate development, and a forthcoming tax on dockside fish sales. "Developers continue to drive this plan with port senior staff," he says. "They cultivate the staff to think of development years down the road, and then they systematically go about creating the conditions for that."
The port says Knutson, a fisher 38 years, is making too much of normal "progress." But history tells him, Knutson says, fishers are best off being vigilant. "They say they love us, but two years ago they planned to kick out all the live-aboards," he says, referring to a 2006 port proposal that came in the wake of several accidental drownings at the terminal. "We fought back, and only then did they drop it."