Q&A: Port of Grays Harbor Commission


The Daily World is running a question and answer series with candidates for public office. The Port of Grays Harbor Commission has two candidates for one six-year term to the non-partisan office.

Chuck Caldwell

Current Port Commission president, serving 12 years on the commission, and owner/broker at Price & Price Real Estate in Montesano.

What do you consider to be the Port Commission’s top priority?

Our top priority is to continue increasing economic development and growth within Grays Harbor through Port development, thus creating employment, which then increases the tax base for our cities, schools and county. This is being done with great concern for keeping Grays Harbor a clean and healthy place to live and work. The facts show that in the last 12 years our economic growth has increased by over $200 million dollars in private investments and over 1,000 jobs.

What’s your interpretation of the role of the commission? What role should the commission play in, as examples, directing Port business, general commerce in the area or environmental issues?

As policy makers, the commissioners guide and direct the port to carry out our mission statement: “To best utilize our resources to facilitate, enhance and stimulate international trade, economic development and tourism for the betterment of the region.”

What makes you a good fit for the position?

I am native Haborite whose family goes back to the 1880s. I know the people and the land of the community. Long before I was a Commissioner I was involved in many aspects with the port, working with them during periods of growth and decline. With the current Port staff and Commissioners we have grown over 400% during my 12 years as a Port Commissioner.

I continue to be involved in a multitude of community service projects impacting the people of Grays Harbor, including helping to develop and now am President of Friends Landing, a completely handicap accessible recreational park, which was built from an old gravel pit. I am also President of the F.C. Kelsey Foundation which awards over $500,000 in scholarships and community enrichment grants each year. Running my Real Estate business for over 40 years has given me an in depth working knowledge of the lands and water ways of Grays Harbor.

What’s your position on proposed crude-by-rail businesses?

CBR is one of the most highly regulated businesses in the U.S. and has an outstanding safety record. The requirements for this type of facility are well documented and I have had many discussions with other ports around the country where CBR has been shipped for years without any major spills. CBR has a 99.9977% safety record.

State and federal agencies have made presentations to the port documenting preventative and safety measures. These permitting agencies have well qualified staff able to make the best decisions in the permitting process.

CBR may be a great opportunity for economic growth within Grays Harbor and the port. While my opponent and his supporters take the stand that 100 new jobs are not “a big deal”, many folks here on the Harbor would be happy to have one of these jobs. Scare tactics are not a reasonable way to make an important decision on CBR.

I want to leave my family (many of who live on the Harbor) and all who live here a strong, safe and clean community where they can return after college and continue to live, work and enjoy the benefits I have had spending my life on the Harbor.

Ron Figlar-Barnes

Works as the environmental coordinator for the Skokomish Tribal Nation, and holds a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in natural resource management from the Evergreen State College.

What do you consider to be the Port Commission’s top priority?

I believe retaining the existing export and import operations, while looking for additional environmentally friendly opportunities for all port properties is a top priority. Support for AGPInternational is a very important as well as Pasha Automotive, Dkoram and Pan Ocean Shipping. Westway and Imperium will continue to be an important component of the port. Support for Westport, Satsop and Bowerman Airport needs to be enhanced. Continuing the relationships with all existing port partners should be a top priority. The one limiting factor for the port is the carrying capacity of the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad. Any plan to retain and enhance the port must include major improvements to the railroad infrastructure.

What’s your interpretation of the role of the commission? What role should the commission play in, as examples, directing Port business, general commerce in the area or environmental issues?

The commission should be the leader in providing direction for port business, general commerce and environmental issues. The commission is the policy and regulatory driver for the port. In Washington State it can be stated the main role of a port commission is to promote economic development. In fact, ports are the only municipal corporation whose primary function is to promote economic development. The port manager can carry out the directives of the commission but it is the responsibility of the port commission to develop that direction.

What makes you a good fit for the position?

I believe in the potential for Grays Harbor. I will bring an environmental perspective that is lacking in the current commission. My vision includes finding new technological businesses for the port, acute environmental awareness on issues such as sea level rise and potential tsunami impacts. In addition, I believe I can bring together groups to promote Grays Harbor as a whole community. I would like to develop strong relationships with Westport, Ocean Shores, Hoquiam, Aberdeen, Central Park, Montesano, Elma, McCleary, and Oakville. Together we can make a difference in the economic well-being of Grays Harbor.

What’s your position on proposed crude-by-rail businesses?

I’m running for port commissioner because of my opposition to crude-by-rail. There is a fundamental difference between the existing commissioner and myself. I believe oil terminals and crude by rail do not belong in Grays Harbor, while my opponent feels they do. As I have said before it is not about permitting it is about common sense. Quadruple increased rail traffic will add to an already dissected Elma and Montesano. This increase in rail traffic will cause economic loss in Aberdeen. In addition, there are inherent dangers associated with rail cars filled with explosive benzene and oil mixtures.

Grays Harbor is a closed bay, one oil spill, one major accident and the livelihood of the communities associated with fisheries, shellfish, tourism, recreation, and existing port functions would be in jeopardy. The additional 35 to 75 jobs which may be created cannot compare to the thousands of jobs the Washington Department of Ecology estimates could be at risk if an oil spill occurred. The environmental cost would be devastating and the effects on the harbor would be felt for many generations. Oil is not worth the risk!