Port of Tacoma Expansion
Coming off a year when the Port of Tacoma's container traffic grew just 1 percent, the port's plan to acquire more land for marine cargo terminals could seem askew.
But Asia's booming exports will continue to need a way to get to market, and it's only a matter of time before the Southern California ports receiving much of the increased traffic now will hit their capacity. When they do, shippers will start looking up the coast. The Northwest ports well prepared for growth could reap a windfall.
Port officials figure that diversion of cargo could be five years off. The time to prepare is now.
That's the idea behind the Port of Tacoma's announced plan to buy 130 acres along the Blair Waterway. Port officials have long intended to develop the waterway for marine terminals. They see the projected boom in container shipping traffic on the horizon as an impetus to act.
They are not alone. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians recently cemented a deal with SSA Marine to develop a 180-acre container terminal on the waterway's eastern shore. With the proposed port expansion, nearly the entire peninsula would be secured for marine commerce.
Unfortunately, the proposed port expansion also means upheaval for 22 Tideflats property owners, who face no choice but to sell their land to the port. Port commissioners are set to vote Tuesday to give port staff the authority to condemn the properties if purchase negotiations don't succeed.
If life were perfect, all the land owners would be willing sellers and the port wouldn't have to use its hammer to force sales. But the power of eminent domain exists for just these kind of situations -- when essential public projects outweigh the interests of individual property owners.
Everything possible should be done to find suitable locations in Tacoma for the affected businesses to relocate. That's the fair thing to do. It also is vital to ensuring that those businesses don't dry up and along with them, the jobs and tax revenue that they provide.
The port is working with the City of Tacoma and the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County to help the property owners and businesses find new space. Port officials also say they won't resort to condemnation at a particular site unless a potential port tenant has expressed definite interest in developing it.
The Port of Tacoma is a major driver of the South Sound economy; if its ability to grow were stymied, so too would be a major source of revenues and high-wage jobs. The boom in container traffic has to go somewhere. The port's expansion plan is a responsible and far-sighted move that would help position it and this region to cash in on global trade.
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