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Port district pulls in more than $4 million yesterday for local economic development

It was a banner day for the Port of Sunnyside, as yesterday it garnered funds totalling more than $4 million for local development and jobs. Thursday, the state's Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) awarded the port a $1 million package that includes $850,000 in loan and $150,000 in grant proceeds. Those funds will help the port build an anaerobic digester to double capacity at its industrial wastewater treatment plant on Midvale Road. The digester is expected to be operational by January 2015 and will cost $6 million to construct, says Jed Crowther, the port's property development and project manager. The port has pledged $2.5 million of its own funds to the digester project and has applied to the federal Economic Development Administration for the remainder of the money. "It's another link in the financing picture," Crowther says of the state funds pledged yesterday. The big news from yesterday's announcement isn't just the funding, but the fact that Darigold's Sunnyside plant is on board to the tune of $22 million in private investment once the digester is a go. Crowther confirmed Darigold pledged to create 25 new jobs and retain 137 existing jobs with its ability to expand operations after the digester goes on-line. "It will probably be much more than 25," he says of new hires at the plant. Crowther added, "We appreciate the investment partnership of CERB and the committed private partner support by Darigold. The CERB award helps to close the gap in financing and to buffer the impact of a large capital project." The anaerobic schedule calls for construction beginning March 2014 and completion by October 2014 in preparation for a January 2015 opening. The CERB grant/loan award was not the biggest dollar amount the Port of Sunnyside garnered yesterday, as the state's Department of Ecology announced a $3.4 million funding package for the port's wetlands project. Crowther says the money was pledged earlier this year during the state legislative session that wrapped up just last month. However, the funds - $400,000 in the form of a grant and $3 million in the form of a loan - were not finalized until after lawmakers ended their session. The money will help the port with its portion of costs associated with the wetlands to increase its industrial wastewater plant's discharge capacity. The funds will also provide assistance in constructing a pipeline from the Midvale Road treatment plant to the wetlands. Timeline for wetlands construction is still in a state of flux, says Crowther, as the Department of Ecology is still reviewing the port's wastewater permit renewal and the Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of designing the wetlands. "The Ecology loan helps to bridge the gap in financing," Crowther said when the wetlands financing was first pledged by the state in February of this year. "We're grateful that Ecology has seen the benefit (of the wetlands project) and provided that financing tool." The loan to the port will have a 20-year term at 2.3 percent interest rate. The two announcements on the same day is good news not just for the port, but the entire community, says Crowther. "Our projects demonstrate the positive link between public infrastructure and private investment - which results in expanded economic development and job growth."

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