Ecology appeals county-approved Port Gamble marina plan

PORT GAMBLE — Development of a permanent marina in Port Gamble Bay continues as a tug-of-war of appeals and approvals between state and county entities.

On June 3, the Department of Ecology appealed Olympic Property Group’s 160-foot marina that was approved unanimously — with conditions — by Kitsap County commissioners in April.

Just after the county’s approval, Washington State Department of Transportation decided against using OPG’s offer to use the dock temporarily as a passenger-only ferry dock to route Jefferson County commuters during the six-week Hood Canal Bridge closure in 2009. The decision was made out of environmental concern for the bay.

“The county should have submitted the permit to Ecology for state-level review, a common step for more thoroughly addressing issues such as these in larger shoreline projects,” wrote Larry Altose in a news release from the Department of Ecology (DOE). “Because the width of the proposed dock exceeded limits in the county’s Shoreline Master Program — the framework for shoreline permits — the county should have requested a variance from Ecology.”

Kitsap County’s Shoreline Master Program calls for eight feet in width, said Kim Schmanke, communications manager for DOE. The proposed width for the marina is 12 feet.

“A variance would be a request by the applicant to do something outside the SMP’s parameters,” she said. “Generally, a variance is vetted locally and then sent on to Ecology for review and approval.”

However, the county doesn’t agree with requesting a variance in this case, said Lisa Lewis, shoreline administrator and lead planner on the dock project for Kitsap County Department of Community Development.

“The width of the dock was thoroughly reviewed. The code says the width of a pier or dock is not to exceed eight feet or it shall be limited to the minimum necessary. Based on substantial documentation by the applicant’s engineers, the applicant successfully argued that 12 feet was the minumum necessary,” she said. “That is what is going to be argued at the Shoreline’s Hearing Board.”

However, at the time of the application, the dock was going to be used temporarily by the DOT as the passenger-only dock during the bridge closure. Now that DOT has pulled out, things could change during the appeal process.

The hearing has yet to be scheduled; but the county’s legal staff has recommended it take place February 2009.

The marina, planned for attracting tourists to the Port Gamble townsite, has been a source for controversy between OPG and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, which relies on the bay for shellfish harvesting to generate income.

According to the tribes Natural Resources Shellfish Management Program, shellfish account for about $3 million in annual total income.

Lewis said to date there are three appeals on the dock being reviewed. Appellants are the DOE, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and OPG, who is appealing the no overnight conditions placed on the marina by county commissioners in April.

“We’ll see through the appeal process if the width requirements change,” Lewis said. “The applicant (OPG) will have to show if 12 feet is still the minimum necessary.”

The DOE and DCD work together on projects to make sure the best outcome is garnered for the people and the environment, Lewis said.

“Ecology sees great potential for appropriate waterfront redevelopment at Port Gamble and is prepared to work with the applicant and the county on proposals that are located, constructed, and operated in a manner that protects the environment,” Altose said.

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