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And the clock ticks: Carrot offered, but Rose still not optimistic about new dock at P.G.

PORT GAMBLE — The clock continued to tick Thursday toward a deadline for Pope Resources to agree to a final cleanup plan with the state Department of Ecology.

Ecology officials said Wednesday a cleanup enforcement order was ready to be served March 5. When that happens, $7 million in state funding for land and shoreline acquisition that is tied to the cleanup plan, called a Natural Resource Damage Assessment, or NRD, goes away. That money is more than half the money raised by a coalition, which includes Ecology, to buy North Kitsap acreage and shoreline being sold by Pope Resources.

In addition, the Department of Ecology has $2 million in state funding to close a sewer outfall and restore geoduck beds.

At stake for Pope Resources: Pope would lose a buyer of more 565 acres of uplands and tidelands. And cleanup of the old mill site and bay would no longer be voluntary. Pope Resources entered Ecology’s voluntary cleanup program 11 years ago and has spent $10 million on marine and upland cleanup so far. To be done: The removal of 1,800 creosoted pilings and removal of above-water structures, and dredging and removal of wood waste from the bay.

As part of the NRD, Pope Resources would, among other things, plant riparian buffers, restore the beach, and contribute to the startup costs of a marine science center to be owned by Western Washington University. Pope Resources would also donate approximately 25 acres and 1.1 miles of tidelands to the state.

According to Jon Rose, president of Pope’s Olympic Property Group, costs of the final cleanup is $17 million and restoration is $7 million. Those costs would be shared by Pope Resources and the state Department of Natural Resources, to be negotiated.

The stalemate hinges on Pope’s desire to take the removal of two docks out of the cleanup plan. Ecology says the docks need to be removed because they have creosoted pilings and stand in the way of dredging wood waste. Rose says he needs those docks as mitigation when he applies for a new dock as part of the master plan for Port Gamble.

The idea is no “net loss of habitat” – in the view of regulatory agencies, if you want to build a dock, you have to be able to do something to offset the impacts of the dock. And the work you do can’t be counted twice. That means, work done under an earlier cleanup plan can’t be counted again toward future work.

Pope Resources is trying to ensure it can build a new dock. In 2008, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe successfully appealed Pope Resource’s permit for a 165-foot dock on the grounds that it would negatively impact a herring spawning area and shellfish beds. The state Fish and Wildlife Department agreed, saying that because the dock would have allowed overnight moorage that it constituted a marina.

Pope now proposes an 85-foot gangway, 150-foot float and 80-foot pier that would allow for moorage of nine boats — one fewer than the marina threshold.

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe Chairman Jeromy Sullivan said in a Herald story last April he could support a dock, but added, “It depends on what kind of dock it is. We’ve always taken the approach that if you’re calling it a ‘dock,’ you’re calling it a ‘dock’ as defined by the Department of Health ... If you can tie up 10 vessels, it’s no longer a dock. We don’t write that kind of code, the Department of Health does.”

Chairman Leonard Forsman of the Suquamish Tribe, which has also been involved in discussions about Port Gamble Bay cleanup, said if Pope Resources wanted to build a dock that didn’t negatively impact shellfish beds or water quality, “I could see a scenario where maybe all parties could be satisfied.”

Geoff Tallent, shorelines planning supervisor in Ecology’s regional office, said Tuesday that Ecology carved out of the latest cleanup plan a mitigation that Pope Resources could use for its dock permit – the elimination of shading, which inhibits the growth of eelgrass, that would result from the removal of the southern dock. Rose said he received that in writing Tuesday.

Tallent also said Ecology is “open to a discussion” with Pope Resources regarding an advance mitigation agreement which would give Pope credit from the cleanup that it could use toward its dock permit. Developing an advance mitigation agreement is a formal process involving the agencies that permit docks. But Tallent said, “There are probably several paths to consider advance mitigation — a formal advance mitigation agreement or an interlocal agreement among the regulatory agencies and Pope.”

However, all agencies involved in permitting docks say Pope Resources’ future dock proposal will be approved or denied on its own merits. Jeff Rowe, deputy director of the county Department of Community Development, said the county encourages docks that are joint use, such as a community dock — “to control the proliferation of docks in our waterways. We would assume it would allow some transient moorage to someone who is going by.”

Joe Burcar, a shoreline planner with the Department of Ecology, said the dock will be approved or denied based on its intended use and its impacts to shellfish beds and water quality. Tim Nord, Ecology’s toxics cleanup manager, added, “Pope is allowed by regulations to have a dock, so there will be [water] access. The issue comes down to what type of dock.”

David Martin, section chief of the regulatory branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said his department’s dock permit criteria is “highly variable.” He would consider the dock’s size and the materials used in construction and how they minimize impacts to the environment.

Thursday morning, Rose was still pessimistic about his company’s chances of getting a dock permit in the future.

“I think without the docks being there, it diminishes our odds [of getting a new dock],” Rose said. “Even with the helpful comments, the letter doesn’t change what I think our odds are with or without the docks. Nothing replaces an existing dock [as a mitigation tool]. Advance mitigation is a path, but the S’Klallams  and anyone else can appeal it. Once the docks are gone, it’s more difficult to make the case [for a new dock].”

The dock is considered a critical part of Pope Resources’ master plan for Port Gamble’s redevelopment. The dock would provide water access to the town and proposed amenities: A waterfront boardwalk, the marine science center, and nature trails, parks, stores and waterfront dining. The marine science center would house a Port Gamble S’Klallam cultural center.

The master plan also calls for development of an agricultural district with farmers market, orchard, production garden, vineyards, and a landscape and horticultural center. A neighborhood of approximately 200 homes would be built, with a neighborhood pavilion and beach access. The century-old homes owned by Pope Resources would be sold.

The master plan and cleanup of the old mill site are not related. The master plan was submitted to the county; the cleanup is regulated by the Department of Ecology.

Pope Resources is the spinoff of Pope & Talbot, which operated a mill in the company town — patterned after the owners’ hometown of East Machias, Maine — from 1853 to 1995.

 

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