Looking back: A review of news from 2012

Published on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 by The Northern Light Staff

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The Mayans said 2012 would be the Earth’s last year, but it turned out to be a year of preparation not for the apocalypse, but for growth, as the Blaine and Birch Bay communities debated and planned for big, and sometimes controversial, developments.

The Gateway Pacific Terminal, the Birch Bay Pedestrian Facility and the new Whatcom County Jail: These are some of the developments that percolated all year and should see progress in 2013. 

Local athletes gained experience, a president was re-elected, and the national economy continued a slow climb out of recession. Sadly, though as things grow, they sometimes also must end, as in the case of the Semiahmoo Resort’s closure. But, all in all, 2012 seemed to be a year for building foundations. Let’s take a look back at the year’s news.


• Whatcom County granted SSA Marine an extension on its deadline to submit the necessary permits for the proposed $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.
• The Birch Bay Steering Committee created the Waterfront Group with the goal of securing public restroom facilities for the Birch Bay community somewhere along Birch Bay Drive.
• Blaine wrestlers took third place in the Northwest Conference Championships at Sehome High School.
• Lynden-based Homestead Northwest filed for bankruptcy. 
• Harry Robinson was appointed mayor of Blaine.


• Voters approved a $3 million capital improvement bond for facility improvements to the middle school and high school.
• The girls basketball team won the district playoffs against Granite Falls, clinching a spot in the class 2A state tournament for the first time since 2004.
• City council voted to rezone areas near D and 14th streets from light manufacturing to commercial and residential use.
• The owner of the Subway restaurant on Marine Drive filed a suit against the city of Blaine for failure to provide proper paperwork regarding the proposed roundabouts on Marine Drive and their effect on parking at the restaurant.
• Blaine wrestlers placed 20th overall in the state tournament in Tacoma, with senior Shaypher Hendricks earning a third-place medal in the 145-pound weight division, and sophomore Caleb Johnson placing fifth in the 195-pound weight division.


• County engineers unveiled plans for a new traffic light at the intersection of Portal Way and Birch Bay-Lynden Road.
• The Birch Bay boat launch opened for public use. 
•The 10th annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival celebrated the diversity of migratory birds that flock to Blaine and Birch Bay.
• The city of Blaine acquired the Banner Bank building and began renovations for city hall’s new home.
• Hundreds of Whatcom County residents opposed to the Gateway Pacific Terminal rallied at a pre-scoping meeting.
• Extra oil refinery workers who were hired to help with maintenance of the BP and Conoco-Phillips refineries provided a boost to the local economy.
• Rail advocate Bruce Agnew spoke to a full-house Blaine City Council meeting about how best to get a train stop in Blaine.


• Seven Blaine students qualified for the Technology Student Association’s national competition in Tennessee: Brayden Giffen, Paul Comchoc, Andrew Crafts, Andrew Dahl, Charisse deBlen, Emily Steelquist and Abby Walters.
• Blaine West Marine Express store manager Deb Morley was recognized by the national retail chain as an outstanding manager.
• Bellingham-based RE Sources for Sustainable Communities petitioned the state Department of Ecology to include Birch Bay in a national storm-water discharge permit, managed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
• The Blaine Planning Commission voted to move ahead with improvements to Marine Drive.
• Whatcom County gave the public its first opportunity to submit comments on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.
• The Birch Bay pedestrian facility moved forward as county public works staff began seeking funding sources.
• Whatcom County Council approved new state-mandated voter precinct boundaries.
• Blaine City Council re-instituted water and sewer connection fees for new developments to increase municipal revenue.


• City planners gave the Marine Park shoreline a facelift, placing felled trees to prevent erosion.
• Girls basketball coach Jeremy Hinchey retired after eight years with the program to spend more time with family. Just a few weeks later, boys’ head coach Dougal Thomas announced he was stepping down as well for the same reasons.
• A Canadian man was apprehended in Blaine and charged with illegally entering the U.S. for the 14th time.
• State health departments began offering free vaccinations to combat a county- and state-wide epidemic of whooping cough.
• The state Department of Ecology approved shoreline improvement projects in Birch Bay, greenlighting them for $7 million in state funding.
• Elevated levels of marine biotoxins led to a state-mandated closure of all beaches north of Sandy Point to recreational shellfish harvesting.
• The Blaine train depot was added to the Washington state endangered properties list.


|• Borderite senior Cherish Morrison set a state record for career medals in track and field when she won the gold in the 100m, 200m, 400m and  4x400m relay at the Washington State Track and Field championships.
• Whatcom County Council approved a contract with a Colorado-based environmental consulting firm to conduct the environmental review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal.
• Semiahmoo wastewater project crews uncovered human remains, and the project continued after representatives of the Lummi Nation held a ceremony for the remains and left them in their original resting place.
• An electric vehicle charging station was installed at the Custer rest stop just south of Blaine.
•Whatcom County Council and Bellingham City Council agreed to split oversight of the county’s EMS system, called Whatcom Medic One.
• A Florida development company, Patten Sales and Marketing, bought the Marin condos on Semiahmoo Spit.
• Blaine City Council passed a formal resolution of support for an Amtrak passenger rail stop in Blaine.


• A B.C. woman who crashed her car on the Canadian side of the Peace Arch monument was airlifted to a Canadian hospital.
• Local developer Brady Mayson bought an unfinished housing development on Shintaffer Road for $1.2 million.
• Blaine City Council expressed support for the Blaine Harbor Square project, a proposed new community center, hotel, and library at the site of the old city hall.
• Ace Hardware reopened under new ownership as part of the Whatcom Farmer’s Co-op.
• Crews completed the Peace Portal Community trail.
• Unsafe biotoxin levels were found in the water at Semiahmoo Spit, resulting in shellfish harvesting restrictions.
• Whatcom County Health Department officials proposed stricter enforcement for septic owners county-wide.
• Blaine local Jeff Coston finished sixth out of 312 competitors at the 45th PGA Professional National Championship.
• The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a decision to include the Birch Bay urban growth area (UGA) in Whatcom County’s national stormwater permit.


• Five WWU students released a study of the possible impacts of the Birch Bay shoreline enhancement projects.
• The Sea Links driving range closed due to stolen golf balls.
• The Sockeye salmon fishing season was shortened to two weeks.
• Construction crews began work on the H Street Revitalization Project.
• The Washington Surveying and Ratings Bureau improved Blaine’s fire safety rating from six to four.
• A joint operation between the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies led to the arrests of five Birch Bay residents and one Blaine resident on various charges that included possession of drugs and stolen property.
• Six-year-old Alejandro Moser-Hernandez earned third place in the under-11 division of the Washington State Pepsi Championship Bowling Tournament.
• British Columbia-based investment group North America Chen’s Holdings, LLP purchased the Sea Links Golf Course, the CJ’s Beach House property, and 38 acres of conservation easement between the golf course and Blaine Road.
• The city officially opened the Peace Portal Community Trail. 


• The city entered into a lengthy legal battle to acquire the Martin property as part of an easement to provide sewer service to east Blaine developments. 
• Jack Niemann announced he would be reopening CJ’s Beach House, making it the 50th restaurant of his career. 
• The Blaine Community Soup Kitchen changed its name, and its approach, reinventing itself as Community Meals of Blaine and partnering with the Community Assistance Program. 
• Two teenagers were arrested by Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies suspected of committing a June 27 burglary.
• The city of Blaine said goodbye to its old quarters on H Street and began business in the newly renovated Banner Bank building on Martin Street.
• The Borderites opened their football season strongly with a 50-16 victory over the New Westminster Hyacks.
• Washington State Department of Labor & Industries issued an $81,500 fine to the BP oil refinery for the February blaze at the refinery. 
• Residents finally got the chance to have their voices heard regarding the Gateway Pacific Terminal project as the official scoping period began. The public meetings will allow county residents to show their support or air their concerns about the project which will be a multi-commodity, dry bulk cargo-handling facility on nearly 1,500 acres in Whatcom County.


• Aggressive raccoons in Birch Bay began making a name for themselves when they were linked to contamination in the water supply. 
• An international film crew from Belarus came to study Blaine as part of their documentary on border cities. 
• Mario Gobbato broke the Whatcom County career rushing record with 4,623 yards.
• Blaine High School celebrated its 2012 Homecoming by crowning Palmer Sandel and Ashley Bolick as the Homecoming King and Queen. 
• The SWAT team was called in to deal with an armed Birch Bay man who was despondent over a breakup with his girlfriend.
• A lengthy period without rain prompted Governor Gregoire to extend the statewide burn ban well into October.
• A Canadian border guard was shot in her booth at the Douglas border crossing; the gunman immediately thereafter committed suicide.
• Things got a little sweeter in Blaine when the new ice cream parlor and coffee shop, We’ve Got the Scoop, opened.
• The city of Blaine and the Martin family came to a tentative agreement on the property the city was eyeing for its utility and road corridor for east Blaine. 
• A string of summer burglaries in Birch Bay were finally resolved after sheriff’s deputies made several arrests in connection with the cases. 


• Birch Bay square found a new owner who hopes to revitalize the long semi-dormant shopping center.
• Semiahmoo Resort announced that it would close its doors, effectively laying off more than 200 employees.
• Blaine High School started work on new science and life skills classrooms. 
• A public meeting for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project drew close to 2,000 people to Bellingham’s Squalicum High School.
• Kenneth Martin Cassell was convicted of three counts of animal cruelty in the second degree and one count of violating the Washington State dog breeding law after Whatcom Humane Society animal control officers seized nearly 50 miniature Australian Shepherds from his property in April.
• Local voters in Blaine, Birch Bay and Point Roberts pretty much mirrored the nation during the 2012 election with 50.8 percent casting their ballot to re-elect Barack Obama as President.
• Mario Gobbato burned his name into the record books with a blazing single-game rushing record of 480 yards, and a single-season rushing record of 2,821 yards.
• Blaine city council approved a three percent property tax increase to help with the budget shortfall created by loss of revenue from Semiahmoo. 
• The Port of Bellingham announced the hiring of its new executive director, Rob Fix.
• For the first time in more than 50 years, the Blaine High School cross country team qualified as a team for the state championship meet. 
• Snowy owls were found warming their feathers in Blaine. 


• Whatcom County Council approved a $179 million budget and established the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project Fund and the Birch Bay - Lynden Road/Portal Way Signalization/Improvement Project Fund.
• Same-sex marriage became legal on December 6 after Washington voters approved it in the November election.
• Semiahmoo cleaned out its inventory and closed its doors on December 1. 
• A new jail site was recommended for Whatcom County and was met with varied and passionate reactions by concerned citizens at the county council meeting.
• Blaine wrestlers muscled their way to first place at the Mariner Holiday Classic tournament.
• The first ever Holiday Lights Dash was held during the Blaine Holiday Harbor Lights festival.
• Blaine chopped the 2013 BTAC tourism grant funding due to budget shortfalls, leaving many local organization fumbling for funding. 
• Birch Bay Drive was battered by high tides and high winds as seawater inundated homes and businesses. 
• Ken Hertz was honored as the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 “Man of the Year”
• Blaine High School celebrated its 23rd annual “Roman Banquet.”