Port of Seattle says deeper cuts may be needed next year

by Tim Flanagan on May 26, 2009

Take a look at your tide table and you’ll see some very low tides this month, about it and even more in June. Turns out this is a problem for the Washington State Ferry Division’s Port Townsend-Keystone run. Here’s a link to the schedule of tide/ebb current cancellations. Be sure to check it out if you’re planning to travel on any of these days:

May 2009

Mon 5/25
Tue 5/26
Wed 5/27

June 2009

Thu 6/04
Fri 6/05
Sat 6/06
Sun 6/07
Sat 6/20
Sun 6/21
Mon 6/22
Tue 6/23
Wed 6/24
Thu 6/25

IrwinJ has this post over at the Hood Canal Bridge Blog:

While most people were playing during the holiday weekend, store
Hood Canal Bridge construction crews were working hard. I had move fast all day to keep up. The crews teased me about my new “employee wellness program” as I trooped up and down stairs, out and back the bridge twice to see both roadway span sets and clear down 3/4 of a mile to the center of the bridge. My only break time was “riding” the draw span out as the team pressed the east and west ends together for the first time.

The last hike from the draw span was certainly worth the effort. I stood under the new east truss and looked down the bridge – a bridge without big gaps – stretching from Kitsap to Jefferson County.

The bridge can support worker foot traffic (a few short hops still required), but it is not ready for the public to use by foot or by car. But, accomplishing several milestones this weekend did move the scheduled bridge reopening closer by three days, possibly as early as June 5.

The Puget Sound Business Journal has the story, cialis by

Responding to pressure from Puget Sound ports and ship owners, web
the Washington Board of Pilotage Commissioners has denied a request for a 6 percent rate increase from Puget Sound pilots.

This is the first time in the past five years that a rate increase request has been denied the pilots, anorexia
who guide large vessels into ports throughout Puget Sound.

The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents ocean carriers, asked for a 6 percent pilot rate decrease this year, said Peggy Larson, administrator of the pilotage commissioners. Last year the association asked for a 10.3 percent decrease.

Even with the rate increase denial, the pilots should make about $368,000 for 2009, according to projections supplied by Larson. The commission, which operates under the state Department of Transportation, is a nine-person board that sets pilot rates and denied the request May 19.

[Read more…]

Three Sheets Northwest has the slimy story. The photo is by Don Russell.

Algae blooms often look like spilled paint. Taken at a Western Washington lake, side effects
this photo is a good example of what a toxic blue-green algae bloom looks like.

The blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures the region enjoyed over the long weekend aren’t just making lawns and gardens grow—they’re also contributing to algae blooms.

An algae bloom is the visible appearance of millions of tiny plant-like organisms in the water. It can look like spilled oil, paint or sewage.

Blooms are common during sunny weather and some produce toxins that can make people sick, particularly young children and elderly people. Pets can die after drinking water with a toxic algae bloom.

Other types of blooms might not be toxic but can pose environmental concerns. When algae die, they sink and decay, stripping oxygen from the water that aquatic life depends on for survival.

[Read more…]

The Cunningham Report has the story:

Some of the 47 employees at the Port of Tacoma who are facing layoffs made it clear last week that they are not going to give up their jobs without being heard. An estimated 40 to 50 employees packed the port commission meeting on Thursday, adiposity
two days after final layoff notices were issued. Their mere presence was an unusual occurrence, caries
as few speakers ever attend the twice monthly meetings. Many of the employees were from the port’s maintenance division, which is represented by ILWU Local 22.

“I work on broken stuff for a living,” said one employee. “You have to work on a broken crane whether it lifts one container or a million. I haven’t seen the amount of work go down in the two years I have been here.” Several of the speakers expressed concerns about the five department heads and other upper-level employees who are slated to lose their jobs.

“I am very concerned about the people selected,” said one employee. “Some of them are very key people who have gotten us where we are today. To lose those assets could put us in a detrimental position in the future.”

Most speakers also questioned why furloughs were not considered as an alternative to layoffs, and why other options – such as job sharing or “summers off” – were not discussed.

One employee reported that a “letter of no confidence” was being circulated among employees in regards to Executive Director Tim Farrell. That letter was reportedly being circulated among both union and non-union employees.

Yet Farrell stood by his decision, saying that the port’s “actual need is going down in terms of the staff that we have.” He indicated that the port’s cargo volumes had dropped to 2002 levels and that the layoffs would reduce the staff to 2002 levels, as well.

A report presented at the meeting did not give the commissioners much hope for a quick recovery from the current slump in volumes.

During the first quarter of this year, total container counts in Tacoma were down 14.7 percent and intermodal lifts at port-operated rail yards were down 33.5 percent. Breakbulk tonnage was down 50 percent; grain was down 24 percent, and auto units were down 40 percent.

Port officials project that 2009 container counts will drop to 1.49 million TEUs – the lowest level in seven years. Due to the recession and increased competition from the port of Prince Rupert and East Coast ports, Tacoma officials do not expect container counts to return to their peak 2005-2006 levels for another nine years.

Nevertheless, Farrell did offer some concessions. Initially, laid-off employees at the level of director or higher would have been required to sign an agreement that would restrict them from working for certain competitive ports for one year, because of their access to sensitive and confidential information. Farrell said the time frame for the “no compete” agreement would be reduced to five months.

Two weeks ago commissioners were told that laid-off employees would not be able to return to their former positions for two years – even if port officials determine that they need to refill a slot. Last week, Farrell said the port “has reserved the right to waive the provisions” regarding the 24-month limitation.

The Cunningham Report has the story:

Even though Port of Seattle officials expect to reduce their operating expenses by more than $16 million this year due to steep cuts in travel and training budgets and furloughs for all employees, online the cost savings realized in 2009 may not be sustainable in the long term.

Port commissioners were told last week that cuts into port functions may be needed during 2010 to offset further declines in seaport and airport revenues as well as unavoidable increases in maintenance and health care costs.

During the first of eight budget meetings scheduled between now and the end of the year, port financial folks recommended that the port adopt a modified “zero-based budgeting” process. In the upcoming months, port officials will review department functions, determine which functions are critical and which can be reduced or eliminated altogether.

Executive Director Tay Yoshitani warned that since the port does “not have a lot of people sitting around and doing nothing,” commissioners will “have to accept that the level of service is going to be impacted.”

Although one Commissioner Gael Tarleton suggested that furloughs cannot be sustained permanently, no one talked about a reduction in actual positions – whether voluntary or involuntary. Those decisions will presumably be made between now and the end of the year.

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