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Docks allowed on Port Gamble Bay

PORT GAMBLE — For those looking to boost tourism in Port Gamble, the county’s decision to allow docks on Port Gamble Bay on a conditional basis was celebrated.

For those concerned about the environmental repercussions, it was disappointing.

The County Commission approved the zoning change on Monday. Or, as Olympic Property Group President Jon Rose puts it, the county spent months “fixing an ‘X.’”

“It’s disappointing, but it’s not the end,” Port Gamble S’Klallam Chairman Jeromy Sullivan said. “We still have many concerns about the health of the bay, and that’s what we’ve been tasked with, the health of the bay.”

Nearly a year ago, after OPG applied for a permit to install a 2,800-square-foot dock in Port Gamble Bay, the county discovered an inadvertent change in the rural zoning code. Docks for tourist activities, including sea planes and tour boats, had both an “X” for not permitted, and a “C” for conditionally permitted. OPG petitioned for the county to revert to the original code, which allowed docks with conditions. The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe led the charge to use this opportunity to disallow docks from being built in the bay.

Rose said the biggest thing to come out of this “correction” was the amount of time and money OPG’s staff and the county staff put into looking at what the zoning code changed.

“That was all time that could have been spent on the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project that we can’t get back,” Rose said. He estimated his staff spent 120 hours and $15,000 in attorney fees on the zoning change.

The tribe and other area organizations, such as the Hood Canal Environmental Council and the West Sound Conservation Council, are concerned that more water traffic will adversely impact the environment. Specifically, a dock large enough could qualify as a marina, according to Sullivan, and poor water quality could lead to closure of herring spawning areas by the Department of Health.

Under a conditional use permit, a proposed terminal or dock would still have to comply with several local codes, and reviewed by the state, tribes and national interests, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“We felt this process was more appropriate rather than to cut the [applicant] off at the knees,” county Department of Community Development planner Scott Diener said in a previous interview.

Sullivan said, “Hopefully whatever gets done gets done in a positive way for the bay and environment.”

 

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