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City signs agreement with port and fish processor

From the Oct. 9 print edition

By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, October 15, 2020

The city of Warrenton, Port of Astoria, and the Scoular company signed a joint development agreement this week that spells out what each will do to get a fishmeal processing plant up and running at the Airport Industrial Park.

The company plans to have its proposed 14,400-square-foot plant ready for the 2021 fishing season, which begins in April.

The plant would use the cast-offs from other seafood processing plants and turn them into fish meal for the aquaculture and fishing industries, said Tom Wortmann, construction manager for Scoular.

“We’ve been working with Da Yang and Bornstein Seafood for decades, so we’re familiar with two of the main fisheries in the area,” Wortmann told Warrenton city commissioners Monday night.

The 127-year-old employee-owned Scoular company is based in Omaha, Neb., and valued at $4.6 billion dollars. It has 1,200 employees and also is involved in grain handling for farmers and companies throughout the Midwest.

Warrenton leaders were enthusiastic about the project, but concerned about added stress on the city’s sewer treatment facility, which is nearly at capacity.

Each year, failures in the airport’s and Coast Guard’s drainage systems send 4 to 6 million gallons of stormwater -- which normally wouldn’t require treatment -- into the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

City officials have said their treatment plant can’t accommodate the company until the infiltration problem is resolved.

The port had promised to fix problems on its properties in an agreement it made with the city in 2005. But the port’s financial woes had left the promise unfulfilled. When Scoular entered the picture, it brought urgency.

“We understand this is an important project for the community,” City Manager Linda Engbretson said. “We’re continuing to work on our capacity problems. … Really, our concern was, with this project, and all of those that are out there, whether we’re going to be able to have capacity.”

The agreement approved Monday by city commissioners and Tuesday by port commissioners requires:

** Scoular to pay a monthly sewer rate equivalent to that paid by 200 households – about $12,000 per month.

** Scoular to pay approximately $250,000 in developer fees to the city.

** Scoular to limit to specific amounts and makeup what it discharges into the sewer system.

** Scoular to construct its own private wastewater pump station similar to those used successfully by Overbay Houseworks and the UPS distribution center, both within a block of the airport.

** The port to install a pressurized sanitary system to resolve its infiltration problems at an expected cost of $330,000. On Tuesday, the port hired AM Engineering of Seaside for $40,600 to figure out where the problems are. The system is expected to be complete by mid-April.

** The city agrees to approve the project if it complies with city development requirements and if the port has constructed its new sanitary system.

“We probably wouldn’t have any problems with this if we could get our other players to fix their problem,” City Commissioner Mark Baldwin said of the port and Coast Guard. “My fear is adding any other large commercial project is going to add to our problems.”

The agreement was developed for that very reason, Warrenton Public Works Director Collin Stelzig said.

“The port has committed (funds) and that’s further along than we’ve ever gotten,” Mayor Henry Balensifer said. Later, he added, “The port can’t get its tenant in place without getting this fixed on their end. … The tenant’s value to the port is too great to ignore or otherwise let go.”

Matt McGrath, the port’s assistant director, agreed with him.

“We really want to focus on the industrial park,” McGrath said. “We know it’s been a long time coming … We’re incentivized; Scoular is incentivized.”

Scoular expects to spend $6 million to $8 million to build the plant on a 1.5-acre parcel.

Tom Wortmann of Scoular

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