Kitsap Forest & Bay Project awarded $1 million for shoreline acquisition

PORT GAMBLE — The Kitsap Forest & Bay Project has been awarded $1 million from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for acquisition of the Port Gamble Bay shoreline.

Sandra Staples-Bortner, executive director of the Great Peninsula Conservancy, said the grant came from the National Coastal Wetland Conservation program, which awarded a total of $20 million in funding to 24 critical coastal wetland projects in 13 states and territories, to conserve and restore coastal wetlands and their fish and wildlife habitat.

That brings approximately $12 million in fundraising to purchase nearly 7,000 acres of North Kitsap forest land owned by Pope Resources. Pope agreed in fall 2011 to keep the land off the market until March 2013 while the Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition raises money to purchase the land for conservation, public open space, trails and non-motorized access to the water.

The land Pope is selling is divided into five blocks: Port Gamble Upland Block, 3,316 acres; Port Gamble Shoreline Block, 564 acres, including 1.8 miles of shoreline; Hansville Block, 1,784 acres; Divide Block, 664 acres; and the Heritage Park Expansion Block, 366 acres.

An appraisal for the 7,000 acres has been completed and the appraised value accepted by Forterra and Pope; Liz Johnston, conservation transactions director for Forterra, would not disclose the appraisal, saying it’s “proprietary information.”

Forterra is a nonprofit environmental organization that is leading the fundraising for the coalition.

Pope and the state Department of Ecology are negotiating a cost-sharing agreement for the cleanup of the old mill site. The agreement will release $7 million approved by the state Legislature last year for purchase of Port Gamble Bay shoreline. It will also free up Forterra and Pope to hunker down for what are expected to be complex negotiations involving price offsets and funds from a variety of sources.

In addition to the $7 million from the state, Kitsap County has received $400,000 from the U.S. Forest Service for the Heritage Park Addition, according to Johnston.

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe received up to $3.5 million to help acquire shoreline; the money is part of a settlement from the Navy for salmon habitat impacts from the second explosive weapons-handling wharf under construction at Naval Base Bangor.

Grants pending: A total of $2.25 million for shoreline acquisition, $1 million for the Divide Block, and another $392,000 for the Heritage Park Expansion.

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