U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen visits Edmonds, meets with city and port officials

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen listens to Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, flanked by (from left) Deputy Human Services Director Shannon Burley, Acting Economic Development and Community Services Director Doug Merriman and Acting Public Works Director Rob English.

Second District Congressman Rick Larsen brought early spring weather with him as he came to Edmonds for a Wednesday two-pronged event comprising a meeting with Mayor Mike Nelson and city officials to review the city’s COVID response, and a briefing from the Port of Edmonds on the upcoming improvements to port facilities.

With the final passage of congresional redistricting by the state Legislature earlier this month, Edmonds is now part of the 2nd Congressional District. It had previously been included in the 7th, and the winner of this November’s Congressional race will officially represent Edmonds in the U. S. House of Representatives when the next congress is seated. To date Democrat Jason Call (D) and Republican Carrie Kennedy (R) have filed to challenge Larsen, also a Democrat, for the seat.)

Larsen’s first stop was Edmonds City Hall, where the mayor and city staff provided an overview of how pandemic relief funds included in the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan have benefited the city. Edmonds received approximately $1.2 million from the CARES Act and $11.9 million from the American Rescue Plan to support small businesses and nonprofits, provide housing relief, support job retraining, build green infrastructure and cover city expenses related to the pandemic.

“We were aggressive about getting out the grants, and our downtown businesses are still here,” explained the mayor, adding that “our pre- and post-COVID sales tax revenues bear this out – right now we are exceeding our 2019 numbers.”

Larsen also asked about the city’s response to pandemic impacts on areas outside the Edmonds Bowl and city staffing.

“While we did have to freeze some positions and limit our seasonal help, we’re really proud to have had no layoffs due to COVID,” the mayor responded. Deputy Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Deputy Director Shannon Burley added that the city is now poised to bring seasonal help back on.

Regarding areas outside the Bowl, Acting Public Works Director Rob English provided an overview of the current and planned work on Highway 99, including rebuilding streetscapes, providing a landscape buffer, and stormwater improvements.

Nelson concluded by highlighting plans to enlarge the Uptown Market, and provided a rundown of the new satellite city hall in the Safeway/TJ Maxx strip mall at 238th Street Southwest and Highway 99. The mayor pointed out that this new location will bring city services to where they are needed, offering a community court, a place to pay utility bills, and a permanent home for the new police department public engagement officer.

Rep. Rick Larsen (center) hears from Edmonds Port Commissioner Jay Grant, who provided background on port activities.

Next stop was the Port of Edmonds, where Larsen was briefed on the role and history of the port, and progress on the North Portwalk and Seawall Improvement Project (see the full PowerPoint briefing here).

Created by popular vote in 1948, the Port of Edmonds employs 27 full-time workers and is involved in four lines of business: marine services, commercial real estate, environment and public access. The marina, in operation since 1961, offers 887 boat slips and manages more than 100,000 square feet of rentable space.  Current tenants include Anthony’s and Arnie’s restaurants, Jacobsen Marine, the Edmonds Yacht Club and the Harbor Square Athletic Club.

Port Executive Director Bob McChesney, right, points out the steel strapping installed on the soon-to-be demolished Port Administration Building that was put in place to stabilize the structure after it sustained structural damage in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

“We’re all about public access,” Port Executive Director Bob McChesney stressed during Larsen’s visit. “We’re a full-service marina with a public sling launch, guest moorage, a fuel dock and a host of other amenities.”

McChesney went on to emphasize the importance of the port’s environmental programs.

“The environment is what we do every day,” he said. “This includes stormwater management, water quality, green port initiatives, and a pest management plan – and we’re very careful to avoid using chemicals that might migrate into the Sound and the Edmonds Marsh.”

Bob McChesney and Rick Larsen at the north end of the 900-foot portwalk that will be replaced as part of the Portwalk/Seawall improvement project.

Continuing the theme of public access, McChesney provided an overview to Larsen of the Portwalk and Seawall Improvement Project. Time, tide and weather have taken a toll on these facilities, leaving many key structures beyond repair. In addition to addressing this, the project proposes adding a host of new amenities aimed at enhancing access and usability for the thousands who visit and use port facilities — for everything from walking the marina to music concerts to dining.

Initial plans call for demolishing the outdated and deteriorating port administration building and replacing it with a new 12,000-square-foot structure located across the street. The new building will be both salmon-safe and LEED certified, with rooftop solar panels and other green-building features. Already funded by the port, the new building has been designed, permitting is almost complete, and port officials hope to be able to put it out to bid next month. Removal of the old building will create the necessary room on the water side of Admiral Way for wider walkways, a public plaza, art installations and other amenities that are envisioned in the portwalk/seawall project.

Port officials and U.S. Rep. Larsen pause for a photo while on an inspection tour of the marina facilities that would be upgraded as part of the Portwalk/Seawall improvement project. From left: Marina Director Brandon Baker, Executive Director Bob McChesney, Commissioner Jim Orvis, Maintenance Director Brian Menard, Finance Manager Tina Drennan, Larsen, Commissioner Jay Grant.

“The wooden portwalk is badly deteriorated, is about at the end of its useful life, and needs to be totally reconstructed,” McChesney explained.  “The timber bulkhead pilings below the walkway are showing severe decay, and we estimate about five more years before they are in danger of failure.”

Plans call for replacing the deteriorated wooden walking surface with a concrete walkway featuring close-set embedded glass blocks. These glass blocks will allow light to reach the intertidal area beneath, giving a boost to the host of intertidal organisms that inhabit this zone.

“This will have a high aesthetic value, will be long-lasting and will be an asset to the community and visitors for years to come,” he added.

Many parts of the underlying seawall are in an advanced state of deterioration, and according to Port officials will be in danger of failure within five years.

Still in the permitting stage, the $20 million project must pass through a series of hoops before construction can begin. In addition to normal building permits, these include special shoreline permits, clearances to work in intertidal zones, and the need work around critical “fish windows,” to name a few.

And then there’s the money issue.

“Unlike the new port administration building, which is fully funded, we don’t have sufficient money currently on hand to pay for this project in its entirety,” added McChesney, “so we’re looking for funding assistance.”

Larsen said that his office could help by offering to help the port identify funding sources. He also pointed to the pending approval of a federal appropriations bill (“knock on wood by March 11”) including certain earmarks that could help in this regard. And Larsen raised the possibility of working in advance of the next appropriations bill to include similar earmarks. In addition, the port could receive assistance from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which calls for a $17 billion investment to address nationwide repair and maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions near ports and drive electrification and other low-carbon technologies.

The meeting concluded with a walk along the marina, during which port officials provided Larsen with a first-hand view of the deteriorated wooden walkways, bulkhead configuration, and the location of planned improvements.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. What’s wrong with this picture? Why aren’t our Council Members with the Mayor when he and his staff met with Congressman Larsen? Were they invited? We can’t present a unified front to someone who can help us?

    I’m not sure who is advising our Mayor, but they are doing a poor job – in my opinion.

    On the other hand, look at the Port of Edmonds representation. Unified front. Solid leadership.

  2. Jim, your comment is so appropriate. The Port’s Power Point presentation in the link above was very well done and comprehensive. Made the City group look pathetic!

  3. Some of our Council members may have been working at their day jobs. It’s a part-time position you know.

    We can be thankful that the Port is run by a professional director who answers to Commissioners who are voted for out of three geographical districts and two at large positions. Could be a possible great model for a future Edmond’s city government configuration of Strong Council, Weak Mayor. Can you imagine how it would be if the Port was owned and run by the city, with the Strong Mayor calling all the shots down there? Our early city leaders were men of great vision and wisdom. I actually knew a couple of them personally.

  4. Rick Larsen was definitely the upgrade over Pramila Jayapal. Larson’s congressional district is a more diverse constituency and so requires the inclusion of a wider range of the spectrum than Jayapal’s one-size-fits-all far leftist ideology. Good to see him reaching out to local jurisdictions, especially the the well managed Port of Edmonds.

  5. We should all appreciate Rick Larsen engaging with Edmonds. While he is not our Rep he knows our issues and does what he can to help us. Looks like he will do what he can to help us get grant money for our needs. I would bet he was helpful when Edmonds was seeking grant funding for emergency access to the waterfront. Senator Cantwell has spoken about the dangers of “at grade” crossings and likely will help if she can help get grant money to help solve that emergency access issue. We are fortunate to have Cantwell and Larsen lead us a hand with funding issues.

    While we have decided against the “Connector” as designed the emergency access remains a problem to be solved.

    1. Currently, Edmonds is part of the 7th Congressional District, which is part of Seattle, the current Representative is held by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D). At the next election, this will change to the 2nd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Rick Larsen (D).

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