U.S. judge won’t stop Navy wharf project

SUQUAMISH — Construction of the second explosives-handling wharf at Kitsap Naval Base-Bangor will continue, as a federal judge denied a preliminary injunction to halt construction pending a lawsuit filed by the Suquamish Tribe.

The Suquamish Tribe expressed disappointment with Judge Ronald Leighton’s ruling.

“The decision failed to recognize the Federal Government’s trust responsibility to honor Indian Treaties and protect the trust resources of the Indian Tribes of this nation,” the Tribe stated in a press release.

“We stand behind the merits of the case we presented in the injunction and are now considering options on how to proceed in a manner that best protects our Treaty Rights and the ecological integrity of the Hood Canal.”

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility joined Suquamish’s filing for an injunction.

The Tribe filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Aug. 27 against the U.S. Navy, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service, stating the Navy did not acknowledge Suquamish’s fishing rights in the Hood Canal when left out of the project's mitigation agreements.

According to a 1985 court case, Suquamish has secondary fishing rights in the canal based upon invitation by the Skokomish Tribe.

The Navy set up mitigation meetings with the Port Gamble S’Klallam, Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Skokomish and Suquamish tribes because of the environmental impacts the wharf’s construction will have on the canal.

The project will “permanently disrupt salmon and other species migration patterns” and noise from the construction will injure seven species of fish, many of which are listed as “endangered” or “threatened,” Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said in an earlier interview.

The Navy reached a $9 million mitigation agreement with Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish last May, but communication between the Navy and Suquamish had already ended. The mitigation plan calls for improvements to Tribal hatcheries, beach enhancement, a research facility, and up to $3.5 million to help acquire shoreline along Port Gamble Bay, south of the former Pope Resources mill site.

The wharf will cover 6.3 acres, extending 600 feet from the shoreline and use 1,250 steel pilings. Construction costs are estimated to be $331 million, and construction began in September, according to Navy spokeswoman Leslie Yuenger. The project is expected to be completed in January 2016. All permits have been received; the Army Corps authorized the final permit Aug. 21, after other mitigation agreements were signed and the Department of Ecology authorized a water quality certification.



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