The Port is in the process of developing a new off-dock container support facility (“Facility”) on three Port-owned parcels (total of 24.5 acres, east of Thorne Road/north of Maxwell Way) in the Tideflats (“Site”).
Off-dock container facilities are a critical infrastructure need that help decrease supply chain congestion by improving container port operations and efficiencies that, in turn, ease impacts on the rest of the supply chain (i.e., ship, terminal, rail, road congestion). Off-dock facilities free up on-dock space by providing an area away from the dock for uses like the storage, staging, preparing, and processing of containers and chassis.
The new Facility will not only help relieve supply chain congestion but also decrease air emissions (from ships, trucks, rail and yard equipment) and improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of goods in and out of the Port.
The Port constructed the Lower Wapato Creek habitat site as advance mitigation for development projects, like the off-dock container support facility. The Lower Wapato Creek site preserved over 110 native trees, including large cottonwoods, and will be planted with a diverse array of approximately 150,000 trees, shrubs, and emergent/ground cover plants, in addition to a mix of over 40 species of native grasses.
Supply Chain Congestion Issues
Due to unprecedented high demand for retail imports since mid-2020, the entire supply chain has been stressed or disrupted and Puget Sound gateway ports have been operating near capacity making them less efficient and thus using more labor and fuel to process less cargo. At the height of the last seasonal cargo surge, one terminal ran as high as 102% capacity utilization, highly constraining cargo movement at that facility. Supply chain disruptions not only result in product shortages in stores, but are also a contributing factor to inflation.
Supply chain disruptions and backlogs have caused ripple effects throughout the system that include excessive truck queuing and idling, cargo ships waiting at anchor or offshore for available terminal berths, train backlogs, delayed cargo deliveries, and slowed or halted North American manufacturing. It also results in unprocessed empty containers and chassis remaining unavailable for regional agricultural export use.
On-dock space at the Port’s marine shipping terminals is at maximum capacity and on-dock expansion of existing international terminals is not possible. Terminal expansion is also confined by adjacent properties that are being used for Port logistics or by transportation networks (i.e., roads and rail).
Air Emission Benefits and Habitat Mitigation
- The Facility will have positive impacts on air quality and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from terminal operations by: reducing the wait time for ships to come into the dock; burning less fuel in yard equipment by reducing the number of times a container is moved on the dock; reducing the number of and time trucks sit idling while waiting to get in/out of the terminals; and minimizing train backlogs.
- The Site is a combination of fully and partially graveled lots containing 4.42 acres of isolated Category III Wetlands that will be filled as part of this project. The Port will replace the wetland area with mitigation credits from its Lower Wapato Creek habitat site. This site involves the restoration of a 20 acre tidally influenced estuary and fish bearing stream and preserved over 100 native trees, including large cottonwoods, and will be planted with a diverse array of approx. 150,000 trees, shrubs, and emergent/ground cover plants, in addition to a mix of over 40 species of native grasses.
- The project site is on three Port-owned parcels (total of 24.5 acres) east of Thorne Road/north of Maxwell Way in the Tideflats.
- Due to a shortage of available land in the Tideflats it was determined that the proposed Site is the only viable location for the facility. The site criteria included approx. 25 contiguous acres; a location within one mile of the Husky and Washington United Terminals entry gate; and excluding property already in use for Port logistics, major infrastructure/manufacturing, or as mitigation sites.
Site Alternatives Analysis
As part of the permitting process an Alternatives Analysis was conducted. The alternatives analysis includes the project’s purpose and need, and design criteria for siting the facility.
A State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Environmental Checklist was prepared, and a determination of non-significance was issued on June 15, 2018 for the GCP Improvement Program, which includes the three Thorne Road parcels that are the focus of the Off-Dock Container Support Facility proposal.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) awarded funds to the Port under the Port Infrastructure Development Program to be used for improvements to Port properties. The use of these funds requires National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, which will be provided through the Environmental Assessment (EA) process. MARAD will serve as the lead federal agency for this NEPA EA. An EA public scoping comment period was open from July 1 to July 30, 2022. An Environmental Assessment was completed and a Finding of No Significant Impact was issued by the MARAD in January 2023.
Applications for environmental permits were submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State Department of Ecology, and City of Tacoma in late 2021. The application and supporting documents are provided below.
- The Port is currently going through all required regulatory and permitting processes.
- It is anticipated the project will go out to bid in the first quarter of 2023.
- It is anticipated the facility will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2024.