Tethys Bottling Plant: Anacortes Proposed UGA Expansion–Part 6

by Tom Glade Monday, October 1, 2012 11:49 PM

This post is the sixth installment of a series on the City of Anacortes’s problematic application to expand its urban growth area (UGA). The Conceptual Plant Layout included in the UGA Expansion application indicates that the rail yard for the 100-car unit trains will extend beyond the proposed UGA and into one of the County’s Rural Marine Industrial (RMI) zones.  In the following letter, Evergreen Islands expresses its concerns about the intrusion of the bottling plant site into one of  the County’s limited RMI zones.

To: Skagit County Commissioners                                         October 01, 2012
(Ken Dahlstedt, Sharon Dillon, Ron Wesen)
1800 Continental Place
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Re: PL12-0258, Anacortes/Tethys UGA Expansion Application

Encroachment into the County’s Rural Marine Industrial Land.

Dear Commissioners:

Evergreen Islands is concerned about the threat to one of the County’s few industrial zones. The map in Figure 1 shows the location of the proposed UGA Expansion in relation to the Culbertson Rural Marine Industrial zone. The proposed site does not fit the configuration needed for a bottling plant

Figure 1. Map of the Anacortes Proposed UGA Expansion


The Irregular UGA Boundary Contention

At a recent Anacortes City Council meeting, a City official contended that the land included in UGA Expansion application would fix the irregular UGA boundary which was established by the County.

However the City of Anacortes actually was one of the principal parties that compelled the UGA’s irregular boundary. In the year 2000, the City of Anacortes and others contested the County’s Rural Marine Industrial (RMI) before the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (WWGMHB)[1]. After the appeal to the WWGMHB and two appeals to Superior Court[2], as part of the settlement agreement,[3] Culbertson Marine Construction land was added to the Anacortes UGA. Section 3.d of the settlement stated,

In recognition that the Amended RMI Zone substantially reduces the development potential of the Culbertson Turner’s Bay property zoned Rural Marine Industrial, adoption of an ordinance by the City that: 1) amends its Comprehensive Plan to add to the City’s Urban Growth Area (“UGA”) the property owned by Culbertson that is adjacent to the City Limits described herein and depicted on Exhibit C as the “Culbertson Upland Property”), and 2) designates the “Culbertson Upland Property” as being subject to applicable City land use codes and ordinances, including the standards in the City’s Light Manufacturing zone; and if allowed by the Countywide Planning Policies (as currently existing or amended), adoption of an ordinance by the County that: 1) amends its Comprehensive Plan to add the Culbertson Upland Property to the City’s UGA, and 2) amends its zoning map to designate the Culbertson Upland Property as Light Manufacturing.

The UGA Expansion Land Will Be Combined with Culbertson’s UGA Land

The City of Anacortes/Tethys Application indicates that the UGA Expansion land will be combined with the Culbertson UGA land to attain the minimum 30 acre site required the City’s Water Service Agreement[4] with Tethys Enterprises, Inc.


Irregularity in the Application

Figure 2 shows the latest version of the site plan that is included in the application for the UGA Expansion. At the bottom of the plan, a note states, “Some Rail Service and Staging Areas May Extend an Additional 700’ +/-.”

Figure 2. The Tethys Revised Site Plan


The additional 700’ is required for a rail yard needed to accommodate the 100-car unit trains – unit trains are nearly 1-1/2 miles long when the new intermodal cars are used.

Businesses Requiring Unit Trains Require Long Narrow Sites

Tesoro’s SEPA checklist[5] provides the following details regarding the rail yard for their 100-car unit train:

The proposed Unloading Facility and associated structures will be approximately 18.6 acres (1,600 x 110 feet) and will consist of the following elements:

  • 4 railway tracks, about 4,100 feet in total length, located parallel to the existing railroad corridor.
  • Tie-up tracks will be constructed along the tracks and will be long enough to store four 6‑axle locomotives.

Figure 3 shows an aerial view of March Point with their rail yard shown in yellow (Note that the Tesoro rail yard honors the 200’ shoreline buffer.)

Figure 3. Aerial Photo of March Point Showing Tesoro’s Rail Yard for Its Unit Trains.


Tesoro 100-car unit trains deliver Bakken shale oil from North Dakota. Currently one train is scheduled to run every other day, but eventually the schedule will be one train a day.

Figure 4 shows how the 4,100’ length of the Tesoro rail yard would fit on Tethys’s proposed site.

Figure 4. Tesoro’s 4,100’ Rail Yard Length Superimposed on the Proposed Tethys Site


While the rail yards for 100-car unit trains are long and narrow, a rail yard the size of the Tesoro yard will not fit on the Culbertson RMI zone because the southern end of the land is too narrow, which is probably why the Tethys site plan mentions only 700 feet into the RMI zone.

Also note that Tethys has mentioned that its facility, which was originally specified as 1 million square feet, (26 acres), will be much smaller and to accommodate the loss of warehouse, the water products will be stored in rail cars. Such a scheme will require a much wider rail yard that is all likelihood require expansion into Turners Bay’s salt water marsh and possibly into the Rural Reserve lands to the west.

The Tethys Bottling Plant Is Not A Water Dependent Use

According to Skagit County Code 14.16.170, Rural Marine Industrial (RMI), the purpose of the zone is as follows (emphasis added):

(1) (a) Purpose. The Rural Marine Industrial zoning district is intended to recognize existing rural marine industrial facilities and to permit expansion of existing rural water and shoreline dependent or related marine industrial activities in Skagit County, and to provide limited expansion opportunities and limited changes of use.

In a June 11, 2012 e-mail from Gary Christensen to Ryan Larsen, Anacortes Planning Director, Mr. Christensen states (emphasis added),


This email is regarding Tethys bottling plant and possible use of unincorporated county land zoned Rural Marine Industrial (RMI). I’ve not been able to find in Skagit County Code (SCC) an acceptable or defined permitted outright or special use activity in the RMI zone that would accommodate the kind of business or land use activity associated with Tethys. See SCC at: 14.16.170 Rural Marine Industrial (RMI). If you find one, let’s discuss further.


Gary R. Christensen, AICP

In an e-mail (June 6, 2012) to Dale Pernula, Skagit County Planning Director, Mr. Christiansen stated (emphasis added),


I’m mtg later this week on Friday with representatives of Tethys (a proposed 1 million square foot watering bottling plant facility), Don Wick (EDASC), and City of Anacortes officials to discuss the project, which is located near the City of Anacortes. See attached vicinity map. The mtg is on Friday at 2, PDS office. I think you should attend.

Brandon and I have met with them before. It is a controversial project. See attached newspaper articles for background info.

I’m hearing that the project acreage may spill over beyond the Anacortes UGA and would like to utilize some portion of a Rural Marine Industrial (RMI) zoning district. See my attached emails to a Tethys attorney regarding the project and comprehensive plan and zoning map changes, and Ryan Larson, City of Anacortes Plng Director, in which I indicate that it might be difficult to locate any of the project in the RMI zoning based on the nature of the project.

Let’s discuss when you get a chance.

Gary R. Christensen, AICP


In summary,

  • Skagit County has spent a lot of time and money to protect its Rural Marine Industrial Zones (Culbertson Marine, Twin Bridges, and Rozema Boat Works). The County would do County residents and taxpayers a disservice if it abandoned one of its few marine industrial zones that not only generate revenue but also allow future water dependent and water related uses.
  • The proposed site for the Tethys facility is too small for a 5 million-gallon-a-day water bottling plant – the length of the rail yard extends into the County’s Rural Marine Industrial zone, and the width of the rail yard will likely encroach into Turners Bay and the Rural Reserve land to the west.
  • The proposed site entails multiple legal issues that the County will be forced to address if the UGA Extension is approved, and the Tethys Bottling Plant project goes forward. These issues include the SEPA determination, the UGA annexation process, the RMI water dependent use, etc.
  • The application is incomplete because it does not include a complete, accurate and detailed site plan.
  • The application process itself is questionable and may be illegal. Does the Mayor of Anacortes actually have the authority to submit the application without any public meetings or opportunity for the City Council to research and obtain relevant information prior to the July deadline? Who is actually the applicant since Tethys paid the application fee ostensibly for the property owners but the Mayor of Anacortes submitted it? The County legal department should clarify these issues before the process continues.

Evergreen Islands urges Skagit County not open this Pandora’s Box.

[1] WWGMHB: City of Anacortes, et, al. v. Skagit County, et. al. No.00-2-0049c

(et.al.: City of Anacortes, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Friends of Skagit County, …)

[2] Superior Court: Skagit County v. WWGMHB, Skagit County Superior Court No. 01-2-00424-0

Superior Court: Skagit County v. WWGMHB, Skagit County Superior Court No. 02-2-00561-9

[3] RMI Settlement Agreement #242025 17231-002 6/02/2003

[4] City Of Anacortes, Washington And Tethys Enterprises, Inc. Agreement Regarding Water Service,

October 1, 2010. Section 3.1 Site Selection.

[5] Tesoro Unit Train Unloading Facility SEPA Checklist – BP11-280, July 2011.



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