ILWACO — The Ilwaco City Council voted unanimously at a meeting Sept. 22 to apply for up to $1 million in state economic development money that, if awarded, will provide a big chunk of funding for a proposed public cold storage facility near the Port of Ilwaco.

The cold storage facility plans represent a public-private partnership between the port and Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co., which also has another Pacific County processing location in South Bend and is owned by Alber Seafoods of San Francisco. Developers say the facility would be a boon to Ilwaco’s economy, generating an estimated 100 new jobs and providing much-needed cold storage space not only to Jessie’s but also to area fishermen and seafood processing operations.

In years like this one, when albacore tuna are plentiful, cold storage would permit processors to better time sales to maximize income.

The state Economic Opportunity Grant (through the Community Development Block Grant program) is available to cities and towns with fewer than 50,000 people. The City of Ilwaco is eligible to receive a grant and could then pass the money on to the port, which is eligible to be a sub-recipient of the grant.

Project developers say they already have the ear of Kaaren Roe, program manager with CDBG. She told them she believes the cold storage facility is a good fit for the program, said Ed Backus, the project developer employed by Jessie’s.

Backus and Richard Carroll, vice president of business development at Jessie’s, estimate a project cost of approximately $12 million, most of which they plan to get through state loans and grant funds, bonds and other private debts. They plan to build an approximately 70,000 square-foot LEED-certified (or “green”) facility.

The city council held a public hearing before voting in favor of applying for the grant. The council members present — Mayor Mike Cassinelli, David Jensen, Gary Forner, Fred Marshall and Jon Chambreau — had few questions about the project or the grant Sept. 22. There were no questions or comments from the public.

At a meeting on Sept. 8, Jensen had asked about the zoning where the facility would be built. The port and Jessie’s plan to use property currently being used as a boatyard located across from the port and behind the main parking lot on Howerton Ave. The property is zoned light-industrial, according to current zoning maps on display at Ilwaco City Hall.

Jensen also pointed out that the facility would block out some residents’ waterfront views.

At the same meeting, council members Vinessa Karnofski and Chambreau asked Backus and Carroll what risks or cons were associated with building a cold storage facility in Ilwaco. According to the meeting minutes, “the response to that question was that the biggest risk was to do nothing.”

But managers at Ilwaco’s Waste Water Treatment Facility have brought up other concerns. They responded to odor complaints from a number of Ilwaco residents recently, according to an August/September report.

The managers “deduced it was not coming from the (treatment facility), but [was] being created by Jessie’s Fish Company using the [treatment facility] outfall line running to Bakers Bay.”

“It was extremely white and heavy with solids,” the report continued. “The issue it was creating was from the solids settling in the local bay mud causing decay and making a heavy septic odor. The odor was found from the hospital to Cooks Hill and the port with everyone in-between.”

The odor persisted through Sept. 12, according to the report.

“Our concerns come with the news of Ilwaco Fish’s expansion for more processing causing more pungent odors,” the report stated.

In a phone interview Sept. 23, Carroll said it is still not clear the odors came from Jessie’s.

“We’ve looked into it and we’re still looking into it,” he said. It has been almost three weeks since the company processed whiting so he thinks it is unlikely Jessie’s is the source of the odors. Whenever there is a tidal flat area in sunshine, there are going to be odors from the organic material sitting there, he added.

At the Sept. 8 meeting, an Ilwaco resident asked how the port and Jessie’s would deal with the noise and smell that come from the company’s facility when they are processing and then add cold storage operations.

Carroll told her new machinery would take care of the noise and building a new facility would require extending waste water controls.

On Sept. 23, Carroll expanded on this, saying that building the cold storage facility would mean modifying Jessie’s existing waste water treatment permit and bringing it up to current standards.

“This plant would involve significant upgrades in all of our waste water treatment,” he said. “Additional screening, primary treatment, secondary treatment in addition to an extension of the (outfall line). … That’s one of the advantages of going with a new facility from an environmental impact standpoint.”

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