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Driftwood Key dredging OK’d, work set to begin in November

HANSVILLE — Though postponed for more than a year, dredging at the entrance of Coon Bay is now scheduled for November, and Driftwood Key Club members say after navigating various local, state and private organizations’ requirements, all the permits have been approved.

Still Driftwood Key resident Mike Feola is hoping for a different plan, one focusing on the preservation of wildlife habitat. He is concerned the plan will further damage salmon, eel grass and other marine life in the bay.

“In actuality, I don’t have a problem with the dredging as long as it’s environmentally friendly,” he said. “They’re planning on dredging it too deep, and it will affect the salmon there.”

Driftwood Key Club President Bill Buegel said the dredging is ready to begin and will be completely respectful of the environment. Before permits were approved, both county and state agencies required a thorough examination of potential impacts to the local habitat.

“We’re in the bidding process now,” Beugel said. “We have all the permits in hand and we’re taking plans to different companies now. It will probably be done November 2007. We’re a little behind schedule.”

The dredging will remove 29,000 cubic yards of sediment from the bay’s entrance that has built up in the 5.6-acre area since the last dredging in 1993. The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners approved the project in 2004, and Driftwood Key Club members’ dues were raised the same year from $222 to $370 to help pay for the estimated $800,000 project.

A barge with a clamshell dredge will scoop out the sediment, which will then be shipped to an open-water dump site near Port Townsend or Port Gardner.

The issue was raised repeatedly to 23rd District Rep. Christine Rolfes while she was doorbelling in the area before being elected last November. She said she didn’t pursue the project once in office, and hasn’t heard anything further from the residents she had spoken with.

Buegel said the process is moving forward smoothly now that the club has completed all required work Kitsap County and various state agencies requested. Feola, however, disagreed, pointing out a section of a report from an April 26, 2007 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.

“Conversion of approximately 2.0 acres of intertidal habitat to sub-tidal habitat is expected to adversely affect many of the species listed in Table 3,” he read from the report. The table included various species of fish. “Loss of this important habitat is expected to reduce the quantity and quality of (essential fish habitat) within Coon Bay. This is especially important given the severely degraded conditions currently existing in Coon Bay.”

A cover letter accompanying the report stated NOAA felt the dredging was unlikely to cause harm to the Chinook salmon or the summer chum in the bay.

“There’s nothing specifically different about this dredging than any other and we have addressed all environmental concerns,” said Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife regional habitat program manager Stephan Kalinowski. “There are a number of residents who are upset about this project, and as with any project, it has some impacts. We have worked to keep the impacts minimal.”

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