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WSDOT decides on temporary dock

HOOD CANAL — Floating an idea to work with Olympic Property Group to utilize its proposed 230-foot dock in Port Gamble for the six-week Hood Canal Bridge closure in 2009, the Washington State Department of Transportation has decided to move forward with its own temporary pier plan. Department officials had been waiting to see if OPG’s project would get permitted before the end of 2007, and because it didn’t, will now implement its own proposal to meet the closure deadline.

WSDOT Communications Manager Theresa Gren said state officials are continuing to execute the closure mitigation plan, which includes not only constructing a temporary dock in Port Gamble, but also providing information and support to commuters and residents so they can continue to travel easily during the bridge closure in May and June 2009.

“We already have all of the permits in place to implement the closure mitigation plan,” she said. “In the plan is the construction of the dock and securing a water-shuttle service.”

OPG has designs in the works to build its own permanent dock near the WSDOT site in Port Gamble, and tried to gain permits for the project before the end of last year so WSDOT could use that dock instead of a temporary one. The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe appealed the State Environmental Policy Act permitting last month with concerns of its own, slowing the OPG dock project and causing the department to go back to its own project.

The tribe said if the OPG dock were constructed, increased marine traffic and moorage could cause pollution and that might threaten to close beaches and fishing areas in Port Gamble Bay the tribe has used both historically and recently for shellfish harvesting. Citing the Washington Department of Health’s requirements involving fishing and harvesting shellfish in certain areas and the potential bacteria and pollution that could accompany a dock such as the one OPG is proposing, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe thought it needed to work to find a compromise. The two groups met at the end of 2007 to discuss the tribe’s concerns and OPG’s project, and will continue to have conversations about the matter, said OPG President Jon Rose.

“Not a lot has transpired since we had our initial meeting,” he said. “It was a positive step forward, and we will continue to work in exploring ways to make the dock more acceptable. I don’t think it will be in time to help the DOT; we lost that opportunity unfortunately. Port Gamble does need a dock, and we will continue to pursue solutions that are acceptable to the tribe.”

The tribe had also questioned some of WSDOT’s initial plans for placement of the temporary dock, but Gren said engineers decided Port Gamble was the best location because of parking and transit availability.

WSDOT will continue to alert residents on both sides of the Hood Canal Bridge about the forthcoming closure and what it will entail, including presenting alternative driving routes, transportation options, medical transportation assistance and continuing public involvement.

For more information about the WSDOT mitigation plan and Hood Canal Bridge closure, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr104hoodcanalbridgeeast/.

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