Tank Farm Could Be Edmonds Ferry Site -- Unocal's Exit Gives City Officials A Chance To Move Terminal

EDMONDS - City officials' top priority - moving the ferry dock and the traffic it generates away from the center of town - moved a giant step closer to reality yesterday with Unocal Corp.'s announcement that it plans to close its Edmonds terminal by May 1.

Since mid-1989, Edmonds officials have eyed the 53-acre Unocal site at Edwards Point as a possible new home for the ferry dock. They have argued that the property would be far more appropriate for a ferry terminal than the current ferry site on Main Street, which is often congested.

And after more than a year of bickering and negotiating, Edmonds officials and state Department of Transportation officials have agreed to conduct a joint study to consider the feasibility of building a new terminal as well as of expanding the existing ferry dock.

``Oh, wow!'' City Councilman Steve Dwyer said yesterday upon hearing of Unocal's plans. ``I think this makes it more likely than not that (the move) will happen.''

``One more barrier is down,'' said Edmonds Mayor Larry Naughten. ``It would sure be nice if the state were excited about this.''

``It's good news,'' said Don Nutter, planning director for Washington State Ferries. ``We don't want to miss the opportunity to negotiate acquisition of a portion of that site if in fact it's a feasible site.''

Even before Unocal made its announcement, Nutter was scheduled yesterday to meet with Edmonds officials on the upcoming $120,000 study, which the state has agreed to fund.

If city and state officials agree to relocate the terminal, the state would pay for acquisition of the site, Nutter said. But he said he doubted a

decision could be made before the feasibility study was complete.

Nutter added that a ferry terminal at the Unocal site probably would not require more than about 10 acres.

John Peck, Unocal's general manager of marketing distribution, said Unocal is closing its Edmonds terminal as part of the firm's restructuring of its retail and commercial motor-fuel operations in the Pacific Northwest, announced last year.

The site, south of the current ferry dock and the public marina, stores several kinds of fuel, including gasoline and diesel, in 27 storage tanks with a total capacity of 697,000 barrels. It also has truck-loading racks and maintenance shops.

Peck said oil-company officials have been cleaning up the site for the past several years. He estimated that it could be another two years before the site would be ready to turn over to a new owner.

``We really don't want to turn it over unless it's as clean as we can get it,'' he said.

Peck said the company has had no offers on the property and that, so far, only Edmonds officials have expressed interest.

However, Mike Echelbarger, a prominent developer and Woodway resident, said a group of Woodway residents living near the upper portion of the Unocal site are interested in purchasing about 15 acres on the hill.

``We would like to have input on how the property is developed,'' he said.

In recent years, Edmonds and state officials have disagreed on how to handle growth on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry route.

Department of Transportation officials have said the least-expensive approach is to expand the current terminal. They argue that expansion is already necessary but will become even more critical when jumbo ferries are added to the route by the late 1990s.

The Edmonds City Council and Naughten have opposed expansion of the current dock on Main Street. They argue that congestion at the dock poses major safety hazards.