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THE PORT OF BELLINGHAM, WASH.
PORT AND HARBOR CONDITIONS
Bellingham, a port of customs entry having a population of 30,823, is situated upon the northeastern shore of Bellingham Bay, an arm of Puget Sound, about 18 miles south of the boundary between the United States and Canada, and approximately 77 nautical miles north of Seattle and 106 nautical miles from Cape Flattery.
The port of Bellingham has an important ranking in overseas and domestic commerce. The principal commodities handled are lumber and lumber products, wood pulp, and canned salmon. Practically all of the canned salmon is received from Alaska, warehoused, and later transshipped.
The outer harbor.-Bellingham Bay from William Point to the northern shore is about 12 miles long and 3 miles wide. The depths over the greater portion of the bay vary from 36 to 90 feet. There are two large indentations of the bay in its eastern shore in addition to Bellingham Harbor, namely, Samish Bay and Chuckanut Bay. The former lies in the southeastern part of Bellingham Bay, has extensive areas of tidal flats, and is of no commercial importance. Chuckanut Bay, north of Samish Bay, is a cove about 2 miles long which affords shelter for small vessels.
Bellingham Bay is approached from the south through Bellingham Channel and Rosario Strait, the latter leading from the north into the eastern reaches of the Strait of Juan de Fuca at a point about 35 miles east of Race Rocks. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is described on page 1. Rosario Strait is about 20 miles in length and varies in width from 5 miles at the southern entrance to 1% miles about midway through the channel. The water is deep as a rule, but there are several dangerous obstructions to navigation, the most important of which are marked. The strait is in constant use by vessels bound to Bellingham and Anacortes, or to the various ports in the San Juan Islands. Owing to the velocity of currents therein, vessels bound for British Columbian or Alaskan ports also use it frequently in preference to passages further westward.
Bellingham Channel, used most generally by vessels bound for Bellingham from the south, leads eastward from Rosario Strait, between Cypress and Sinclair Islands on the west and between Guemes and Vendovi Islands on the east, passing around the southern end of Lummi and Eliza Islands. The depths vary from 17 to 60 fathoms in midchannel.
From the northward, Bellingham is approached generally by deepdraft vessels through a channel leading from Rosario Strait between Lummi and Sinclair Islands. The width of this channel varies from three-fourths to 1% miles and the depth from 25 to 50 fathoms. There are few obstructions to navigation therein. Bellingham may also be approached from the north through Hale Passage lying between Lummi Islands and the mainland directly west of Bellingham. This passage is about 6 miles long and has an average width of three-fourths of a mile, with a depth ranging from 20 fathoms near the eastern end to 15 feet on the bar at the western end of the channel. On account of the bar, only smaller boats use Hale Passage.
The inner harbor.-Bellingham Harbor is about 4 miles wide from east to west and about 4 miles long from north to south. The south half has depths of from 10 to 15 fathoms, but entrance to the city of Bellingham is obstructed by tidal flats extending from the harbor line to low water, a distance of about 2,400 feet. The system of harbor lines adopted provides for the excavation of three waterways over these flats, namely Whatcom Creek, I and J Streets, and Squalicum Creek Waterways.
Whatcom Creek Waterway, through which Whatcom Creek draining Whatcom Lake enters Bellingham Bay, is the only channel which has been completely developed. The principal terminal improvements on Bellingham Harbor are located on the north and south sides of this channel and on the South Bellingham water front south of the channel. The waterway is 3,800 feet long, 336.2 feet wide, and has a depth ranging from 18 to 26 feet.' The depth of water at the wharves on the South Bellingham water front varies from 18 feet to 34 feet.
Squalicum Creek Waterway, situated about 6,000 feet northwest of Whatcom Creek Waterway, is 3,800 feet long from deep water to its head and 590.8 feet wide. It is only partially developed. The terminal improvements are on the north side and consists of a wharf built out to the pierhead line and a pier built with a breakwater that extends from the north side to the middle of the waterway to form a haven for small boats. The controlling depth in the haven is 14% feet and in the approaches to it 14 feet at mean lower low water. Extensive tide-flats occupy the entire northerly part of the bay. The only developments on them are the two waterways described.
The mean range of tides in Bellingham Harbor is 5.3 feet and the range between mean lower low water and mean higher high water 8.5 feet. The extreme range of tide within the harbor is 16.5 feet.
The tidal currents in Rosario Strait attain velocities of from 3 to 7 knots. Between Cypress, Guemes, and Sinclair Islands the velocity of the current is nearly as great as in Rosario Strait, but between Sinclair and Vendovi Islands it is much less. In Bellingham Bay and Harbor, tidal currents have little velocity and are not sufficient to interfere with navigation; their general direction is north and south.
There are no designated anchorages in Bellingham Harbor, nor are there any mooring buoys. Anchorage locations lie generally outside of the 35-foot curve, but vessels are not allowed to anchor in such a manner as to interfere with the approach or departure of other vessels to or from the wharves. Anchorage areas are generally well sheltered.
Open season for navigation.-Bellingham Harbor and the approaches thereto are open for navigation throughout the year.
Prevailing winds. The prevailing winds during the months from November to February, inclusive, are from the southeast. They veer around to the west in March and to the southwest in April, maintaining that prevalent direction until the 1st of August, when they gradually resume their westerly direction.
Ice.—No ice forms on Bellingham Harbor or Bay or on the approaches thereto from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to obstruct navigation.
Fogs.--Fogs may be expected at any time during the year in Puget Sound and connecting waters. Their density is greatest, however, during the months of October, November, and December.
Precipitation.—Bellingham and the vicinity experiences two distinct seasons during the year, the rainy season lasting from September to May. The dry season extends over the remaining months of the year. The mean annual precipitation in Bellingham for a period of 31 years, during which records were kept by the United States Weather Bureau, was 31.63 inches, the greatest amount of rainfall4.73 inches-occurring in December and the smallest amount—0.82 inch-occurring in July.
Temperature.—The mean annual temperature in the vicinity of Bellingham is 50.3° F. During a period of 27 years the mean maximum temperature was 58.3° F., and the mean minimum temperature 42.3° F.
The following information regarding climatic conditions in the vicinity of Bellingham has been furnished by the Weather Bureau, United States Department of Agriculture.
Average maximum temperature, degrees Fahrenheit, for 27 years
51.6 58.0 63. 2 67.8 71.8 | 71.5 66.4 59.1 51.7 47.2
BRIDGES There are no bridges in Bellingham harbor which cross navigable waters.
HARBOR IMPROVEMENTS Bellingham Harbor has been improved under projects adopted by the River and Harbor Acts of June 25, 1910, and July 3, 1930. The 1910 act provided for the dredging of a waterway across the flats to the mouth of Whatcom Creek 5,100 feet long and 363.2 feet wide, having a depth of 26 feet for the outer 3,800 feet and 18 feet for the inner 1,300 feet. The act of 1930 provided for the dredging of an entrance channel in Squalicum Creek Waterway, 200 feet wide and 26 feet deep, from deep water in Bellingham Bay to the main pierhead line. Depths refer to the plane of mean lower low water. This project was completed in 1931. Shoals were removed from the inner portion of Whatcom Creek Waterway in 1918, 1920, 1924, 1931, and 1933.
The existing project was modified by the River and Harbor Act of August 26, 1937, and provides for the maintenance of the inner portion of Squalicum Creek Waterway and of the rubble stone breakwater along the southerly side. This has been constructed by local interests to a crest height of 14 feet.
HARBER IMPROVEMENTS BY LOCAL INTERESTS
The act of Congress authorizing the development of the present project for Whatcom Creek Waterway required that local interests provide all necessary bulkheads and groins and pay for all necessary filling in connection with the improvement. These conditions were fully complied with. In addition to the work above mentioned the city of Bellingham has excavated a basin at the outer end of Whatcom Creek Waterway 1,000 feet long, 330 feet wide, and 35 feet deep at mean lower low water, and the port commission has dredged an area in front of its terminal 600 feet long, 210 feet wide, to a depth of 35 feet below mean lower low water.
Local interests were required to dredge and maintain a turning basin in Squalicum Creek Waterway and the channel comprising the southerly half thereof to a depth of 26 feet at mean lower low water and to construct a suitable public terminal there. This has been completed. The spoil from the dredging of Squalicum Creek was used to reclaim some 30 acres of adjacent tide lands, and in addition to the terminal required for public use the port commission has constructed a pier which extends along the northerly side of the waterway, thence at right angles 150 feet shoreward along the axial line, thus partly enclosing the basin for a fishing boat haven. The port commission, with the aid of Federal relief funds, has constructed a rubble stone breakwater along the southerly side of the waterway.
The terminal improvements in Bellingham Harbor consist primarily of the docks that serve as industrial accessories to manufacturing plants producing lumber and its products, wood pulp, and the warehousing and shipment of canned fish. With the exception of a pier
. located about 1% miles north of the Whatcom Creek Waterway and used by the Olympic Portland Cement Co. for the shipment of its products, all development has taken place on Whatcom Creek and Squalicum Creek Waterways and on the South Bellingham water front. The most important commercial wharf used for public transportation is the port of Bellingham terminal, now owned and operated by the port commission and located at the mouth of Whatcom Creek Waterway. This wharf, supplemented by the other commercial wharves and the facilities at private industrial docks used for handling lumber and other products, is apparently sufficient to meet the existing demands of Bellingham's water-borne commerce.
The only important terminal improvements now being contemplated are those comprised in a plan of harbor development, which is under consideration by the port commission, which includes a coal dock.
OWNERSHIP OF WATER FRONT
Tidal areas in Bellingham Harbor below the line of ordinary high tide have been sold by the State. Water front property in or near the city, with the exception of the port of Bellingham terminal and the Quackenbush wharf, is owned entirely by private interests. The property last mentioned is owned by the city of Bellingham. There are no railroad-owned piers or wharves in Bellingham Harbor.
The port of Bellingham owns over 200 acres of tidelands lying between the property of the Bloedel-Donovan Lumber Mills and the pier of the Olympic Portland Cement Co. The State area, located between the inner and outer harbor lines, is leased by the State to owners of abutting tideland lots.