ANACORTES, Wash. — This city on Fidalgo Island, facing Puget Sound, and Madera have a lot in common. Both came into being in frontier territory in the late 1870s. Both today are working-class towns dependent on the extraction of natural resources. Both have love-hate relationships with railroads. But, there the similarities aren’t so strong.
Anacortes is a harbor town, home to marinas for commercial fishing boats and yachts. It also is a refinery town, with the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery and the Shell Anacortes Refinery occupying about four miles of shoreline on Fidalgo Bay across from the Anacortes downtown. The Tesoro operation was in the news not so long ago because of a fire that broke out and did a lot of damage. The refineries get their oil from tankers that bring it from Alaska or other places and pump it through a maze of pipes into the refinery operations. Once the various products are made, they go out in rail tanker cars, aboard fuel trucks and by pipeline. The refineries are the biggest employers in the city.
The refineries seem to be good neighbors. The harbor and the shoreline on which they’re located is pristine. There are no oil slicks in the water or on the shore. The refineries seem much cleaner than the bums who camp illegally on the shoreline and leave messes when they leave.
It’s doubtful, though, whether any new refinery would be permitted if an oil company wanted to build one in Anacortes. The city likes its yacht and fishing trade, it likes the tourists who stop and spend their money and take the ferry to the San Juan islands.
Both cities have their crime problems. A lot of drugs allegedly are smuggled through Anacortes, starting with opium in the late 1890s, because of the port access, just as drugs are smuggled through Madera once they are produced in the surrounding countryside.
Nature has been kind to both cities in many ways and both are proud of what they have and who they are.