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Work begins on second explosives-handling wharf

BANGOR — Navy contractors began in-water construction Thursday of the second explosives-handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor. The explosives-handling wharf will cover 6.3 acres, extend 600 feet from the shoreline and use 1,250 steel pilings.

Construction costs are estimated at $331 million, but the entire project is projected to cost $715 million and will include environmental mitigation, security work, and relocation and demolition of related utilities and facilities, according to Navy spokeswoman Annalisa Cachin.

Construction began with moving barge cranes and material supply barges to the construction site within Hood Canal, and the installation of piles using a combination of vibratory pile drivers and impact pile drivers.

According to the Navy, movement of barges into and out of Hood Canal will occur during non-peak commuting hours on the Hood Canal Bridge. Pile driving will be heard from locations along Hood Canal outside of Naval Base Kitsap Bangor’s waterfront. Pile-driving work will occur during daylight hours and will continue through the end of the approved work window for fish protection in early 2013, the Navy reported.

The number of barges on site at any one time will not exceed eight, depending on the type of construction taking place at that time. Tug boats will be used to tow barges and position them for construction activity and will leave the site once these tasks are completed. Smaller skiff-type boats will be on site supporting construction activities and monitoring sensitive species.

The second explosives-handling wharf will support the upgrades of Trident D-5 missiles and strategic weapons on the submarines at Bangor. The Trident Life Extension Program involves the upgrade of guidance systems, rocket motors in the missiles and other components, which requires additional missile handling operations in Hood Canal. The Navy says the upgrades will extend the missiles’ life to 2042.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in January 2016.

“Properties with a direct line-of-sight to the project would receive noise levels above local background levels,” Cachin wrote in an email, citing the final environmental impact report (www.nbkeis.com).

“Noise levels at nearby Hood Canal waterfront residences in Jefferson County will be less than 60 dBA, which is the maximum daytime noise levels allowed under the Washington Administrative Code. Residents at Vinland would be able to hear noise during pile driving, but levels will be below the background noise level of a residential neighborhood due to trees and terrain.”

The Navy reached a $9 million mitigation agreement with Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish in May, to offset the impacts on salmon and other natural resources caused by the wharf. The S’Klallam and Skokomish have treaty-protected rights to harvest salmon in their usual and accustomed territories.

But even as construction begins, the explosives-handling wharf faces legal challenges.

In August, the Suquamish Tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service, saying the Navy didn’t acknowledge Suquamish’s treaty-protected right to harvest salmon in Hood Canal.

And in June, Poulsbo-based Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act. They claim the construction will harm birds, salmon, seals, whales and other marine life.

“Before the Navy spends hundreds of millions of tax dollars on this project, Congress and the public are entitled to a complete and open discussion of the risks and less harmful alternatives,” Kathy George, Seattle attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement when the suit was filed.

Plaintiffs say the wharf is not necessary, and that the risks outweigh the need.

“As major disasters such as Fukushima become more common, our nation must decrease the potential risk to our environment instead of increasing it, as with the second Explosives Handling Wharf in Hood Canal,” said Steven Gilbert, a member of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.

 

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