Tethys Bottling Plant: Anacortes Proposes UGA Expansion – Part 4

by Tom Glade Sunday, August 19, 2012 10:54 PM

This post is the fourth installment of a series on the City of Anacortes’s problematic application to expand its urban growth area (UGA). This post touches on the enormous size of a 5 million-gallon-a-day (MGD) bottling facility, the economic impacts and transportation nightmares resulting from a development on this scale.

Comprehending the Scale of Bottling 5 Million Gallons of Water

In his September 2010 e-mail to Phil Bastien, a Tethys Enterprises, Steve Winter, another Tethys Enterprises principal, Mr. Bastien conveyed his concerns regarding the Anacortes/Tethys Water Service Agreement’s requirement that ” The water is treated and packaged on the Property in units or containers of a size no greater than ten (10) gallons.” In his e-mail, Mr. Bastien, in an effort to illustrate the scale, writes (emphasis added),

  • Once again the scope of what is required to use 5 MGD is not understood by those who think up the possible loopholes to restrictions on container size when proposing packaging restrictions. To use 10 gallon bags and consume the 5 MGD of water we have available, it would require 500,000 bags per day. That's 20,833 bags per hour or 347 bags per minute or 6 per second assuming a 24 hour day with no breaks. You can't do that with a garden hose or even a fire hose and a couple of guys. It would require a specialized high speed line that doesn't exist and specialized material handling equipment to manage basically body bags of water weighing 80 pounds.
  • No standard pallet or other transport system could be used so special containers would have to be created at hug cost and be returnable to be practical. It would take over 670 rail cars every day on 7 miles of track to ship the 40 million pounds of water in 10 gallon bags. That means you would need over a weeks' worth of shipping packages in stock, stored in a monstrous warehouse or on 4,700 rail cards in a yard requiring 47 miles of track. Then, on the other end, they would have to figure out how to manage 500,000 eighty pound bags of water and return the containers within a few days.

The Impact of 100-Car “Unit Trains” – 8 Train Trips a Day

In another Tethys e-mail (April 2010), Matthew Kelly conveys his concerns about the resultant rail traffic to Don Wick, Economic Development Association of Skagit County (EDASC) and Ryan Larsen, City of Anacortes Planning Director. In his e-mail, Mr. Kelly writes,

  • The second issue is that of increased rail traffic. We'd be generating significant increases in rail traffic which need to be discussed now before getting any deeper into this. Think 400 rail cars a day - 4 unit trains - and how that may effect access to the Skagit Airport and other businesses on that side of SR 20.

It’s important to note the essential facts about the proposed unit-trains:

  • A unit-train is a 100 car train that’s over a mile long.
  • When Mr.. Kelly says 4 unit trains, he talking about 4 round trip trains: 4 trains into Anacortes plus 4 trains out of Anacortes – a total of 8 train trips down the SR20 corridor, daily.

Add the Impact of Tesoro’s 100-Car Unit Oil Trains

The August 15 edition of the Anacortes American, “100-Car Unit Train Expected at Tesoro This Month,” announced the first 100-car oil train shipment to the Tesoro refinery. The shipment was Bakken Shale crude oil from North Dakota. The American article went on to state, “The most recent numbers add up to one unit train six days a week...”

The total 100-car unit train trips now accrues to a staggering total of 10 unit train trips a day up-and-down the SR20 corridor to Anacortes – daily (8 trips on Sunday).

The Adverse Economic Impacts to Local Businesses

The following table summarizes some of the adverse impacts on local businesses.

Rail Curve

Ralph Bennett

Burlington Sharp Turn

The sharp railroad turn in Burlington, will bring the 100‑car unit train speed down to crawl, which will bring traffic to long stops in Burlington’s business district.



SR20 Corridor Businesses

The train crossings will adversely affect businesses along the corridor, and the unit trains will interfere with rail car switching at the spur for Pacific Lumber


Swinomish Channel Swing Bridge

The Swinomish Channel Blockade

The long train transit times will get significantly longer because of the time it takes to open and close the Swinomish Channel swing bridge. This closing is like to a naval blockade of La Conner - adversely affecting boat travel up and down the Channel.



The T-Bailey Sharp Turn

As in the Burlington Turn, the trains will be forced to a crawl to negotiate the T-Bailey sharp turn. This transition may increase the amount of time that the swing bridge is closed.

The Reservation Road Blockade

The railroad tracks cross at the intersection of Reservation Road and Stevenson Road – forcing the roads to close to allow the trains to cross.

The crossing time will increase dramatically because a huge of amount of time will be spent dividing the trains into smaller sections that will fit on the bottling plant site.

Again the long crossing times represent a blockade of La Conner.

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