Tribe objects to proposed Port Gamble Bay dock

PORT ORCHARD — The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is fighting plans for a dock on Port Gamble Bay, concerned increased boat traffic would threaten its shellfish harvest and damage marine habitat.

Olympic Property Group submitted a permit application to Kitsap County in March for an 85-foot long gangway and 150-foot-long float to be installed at the former mill site in downtown Port Gamble. The county received several negative public comments on the proposal. A public hearing is on the horizon but has not yet been not scheduled.

Olympic President Jon Rose said the dock is part of the company’s long-term plans to attract new visitors and businesses to Port Gamble. The dock would be used for loading and unloading by pleasure boaters, along with tour boats, float planes and other craft, according to the county’s notice of application. Overnight moorage would only be allowed by special permission.

This is the second time Olympic has floated a Port Gamble dock proposal.

The county approved a permit for a 160-foot Port Gamble dock in 2008, but Olympic withdrew the application over protests from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. The citizen group Friends of Port Gamble Bay and several state agencies also raised concerns about the project.

Olympic scaled down its new proposal and revised the plans to be more environmentally friendly. The new proposal includes grated decking, allowing sunlight to penetrate and reach the water. Olympic also agreed to remove 68 old creosote pilings and 43-square feet of wood debris in the bay to offset the impact of the new dock.

Those conditions weren’t enough to satisfy the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe, which submitted an objection to the project in June. In their comments, the tribe’s attorneys wrote that increased boat traffic created by the dock would likely force the state Department of Health to close shellfish harvests around the proposed dock site.

The state Department of Ecology also submitted comments on the site in June. The county should pay special attention to shellfish and fish habitat in the bay, Federal Permit Manager Rebekah Padgett wrote, adding that an assessment of shellfish closure risk would be “critically important.”

The S’Klallam Tribe also urged the county to hold off on considering the project until a large-scale cleanup of the bay was finished.

Port Gamble Bay is one of several Puget Sound Initiative sites slated for cleanup by the Department of Ecology. The Port Gamble wood mill closed in 2005, but left wood waste and chemicals on the floor of the bay. Olympic has committed to not beginning construction on the dock until the cleanup is done, Rose said. No timeline has been set for the cleanup and the effort will likely take years.

The tribe argued the county should wait until after the cleanup to consider the dock application, because the cleanup will change the baselines measurements used to determine the health of the bay.

“The bottom line is any further development surrounding the bay needs to be put on hold until the clean-up process is complete,” said McCollum, the tribe’s director of natural resources. “Only then can the true environmental impacts of the proposed facility be measured.”

Rose said he was disappointed the tribe decided to oppose what he called a “small dock project.” He said he hoped to discuss the plans with the tribe directly.

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