ILWACO, Wash. -- The Port of Ilwaco and Jessie's Ilwaco Fish Company are in the beginning stages of planning a "green" cold storage facility they believe could create 75 new jobs, save local fish processors thousands of dollars in transportation and storage costs and draw other seafood-related businesses to the area.
The port and seafood processing company say the time is right to build the facility. Both the economy and fisheries management policies seem more stable now than they have in the past, they say.
And, with the dredging of Ilwaco's Baker Bay channel assured by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port of Ilwaco Manager Guy Glenn, Jr., says they feel they can plan more for the future.
Current storage is far away
Currently, there are no cold storage options locally, or even nearby. Jessie's, which processes whiting, Albacore tuna, Dungeness crab, sardines and salmon, has to transport its products by truck to cold storage facilities in Oregon's Willamette Valley - an expensive undertaking that also limits the products the company can craft and distribute, said Richard Carroll, vice president of business development at Jessie's.
Da Yang Seafood/Great Ocean Seafood wishes to build a cold-storage facility and freight depot on Pier 2 at the Port of Astoria but that has been stalled pending a lease agreement.
A cold storage facility in Ilwaco could also attract other businesses, big and small, he said.
Though Jessie's would be the principal lessee and operator of the approximately 70,000-square-foot facility, cold storage would also be available to other public users, including three area food banks, said Edward Backus of Collaborative Fisheries Associates LLC, hired by Jessie's to act as project development manager.
Carroll envisions small fishing operations taking advantage of such a facility, using it to add value to a catch by further processing or canning it. This would bring more boats to the port's 800-slip marina, he said, adding that it's also possible they would attract customers from Astoria, too.
"We're not putting all our resources into one place," Glenn said, referencing these other possible economic benefits.
"The benefits will not be restricted to Ilwaco," Carroll agreed.
Also, this spring and summer, Jessie's, which was acquired by California-based Albers Seafood earlier this year, expanded to South Bend's former East Point Seafood building. Operations there would also make use of a cold-storage facility in Ilwaco.
Project tab could reach $10 mil
Because it is so early in the planning, the group has yet to fix a price to the project. Carroll, who has worked on similar projects before, estimates it could cost between $8 to $10 million.
"It's a ballpark," Backus cautioned.
The facility would be built on port-owned land behind the main parking lot on Howerton Ave. in Ilwaco, where the port currently maintains a dry-dock storage area. About 50,000 square feet of the facility would be used for cold storage while the rest would be for processing and office space.
Planners hope to build a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified facility, designed to meet a variety of standards for water and energy efficiency and have environmentally friendly features. One such feature would be a carbon-dioxide refrigeration system, which, Backus said, is safer for the public and limits the use of refrigerants, such as ammonia.
Building the facility green and in partnership with the port, as well as the food banks, could put the project on the fast track as far as securing good grants and state support, said Backus.