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Residents take digs on pit-to-pier project

POULSBO — While construction of Fred Hill Materials’ pit-to-pier project has been proposed in Jefferson County, a regional environmental group is trying to gather support in Kitsap County to oppose its creation.

Nearly 200 people showed up at the Sons of Norway July 23 to hear the Hood Canal Coalition make its presentation on the expanded mine project, including views about negative impacts to the environment.

Fred Hill Materials did not have a representative at the gathering.

Larry Mayes, a member of the HCC steering committee for Jefferson County, said the group does not invite the company to speak at such presentations because it turns into an argument over the facts. He did say company representatives sometimes attend but he did not see anyone in the audience Wednesday evening.

The Poulsbo-based construction company currently has a 144-acre mine pit in Shine on the Olympic Peninsula.

The business’ proposed pit-to-pier project includes development of a four-mile-long conveyor belt to transport gravel and sand from the Shine Pit to barges and ships. The vessels would be docked at a 900-foot-long pier near the Thorndyke Bay and the pier would extend 1,100 feet out into the Hood Canal, south of the floating bridge. The pier complex would be located one mile south of the old South Point Ferry Terminal and one mile north of the Thorndyke Bay.

Ships and barges using the pier would range in size but some would be nearly 800 feet length and carrying weights of 5,000 to 60,000 tons, Mayes said.

The proposed project would remove seven to 10 million tons of material per year from the site, Mayes stated.

“We believe strongly that the Thorndyke pit-to-pier project threatens our environment, canal, bridge, regional economy and national security,” Mayes said.

He listed an extensive number of impacts that the project would have on the natural environment and the health of citizens. The HCC’s environmental concerns include damage to wetlands, wildlife habitats, destruction of marine life and shore lines.

Additionally, Homeland Security is threatened because of the proximity to Bangor, Mayes added, noting that the Navy was monitoring the activity but it is not getting involved in the civilian process unless absolutely necessary.

There is also the threat of increasing invasive foreign species in the area from the ships and barges that would travel from other areas of the country and the world, Mayes said. Increased water pollution would be a problem as well, he added.

“It takes a full six months for a complete water exchange in the canal,” Mayes explained.

Another issue was the Hood Canal Bridge and the additional closures that traffic could possibly endure. Mayes said additional bridge closures could be as many as 20 times a month. There would also be an increased potential for ship and bridge collisions, he added.

Residents asked about jobs and economy boost for the area. Mayes said the company said only 30 new jobs would come with this project.

Mayes and other HCC members, Jay Newkirk and John Fabian, encouraged folks to write their elected officials and put pressure on local politicians to oppose the project. Mayes said HCC has only spoken with two Kitsap County Commissioners, Chris Endresen and Patty Lent. Mayes said Endresen was concerned about it while Lent didn’t have much interest.

But Mayes said he still believes the “the commissioners here in Kitsap County have taken the attitude it’s not our issue,” he said.

The project itself is in the very early stages of getting approval.

In December 2002, the Jefferson County commissioners approved 690 acres in the Shine Pit area as mineral resource land. This decision allowed the company to submit an application for the project in March 2003. The decision of the land designation has been appealed by various environmental groups, Mayes said. A decision by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearing Board is expected by Aug. 22.

Several Kitsap County residents were upset over the information that HCC had provided.

Kelly Verdine, a member of the Kitsap County Steering Committee for HCC, said she got involved in the organization a year ago when she found out how close the mine would be to her home on Canyon Road near Lofall. It’s not so much that it’s in our backyard, but the whole idea is just wrong, she said.

“If people don’t think it’s not going to affect them, they are kidding

themselves,” she added.

Verdine compared the efforts of HCC to those of the group that prevented a Wal-Mart from going into Gig Harbor several years ago.

“It’s a grassroots effort,” she said.

Lola and Don McClintock said they can see the current pit now from home on the Hood Canal.

“We’re concerned about the environment,” Lola said.

“It’s the ecosystem in the area,” her husband added.

Lola emphasized the need for Kitsap County to get involved.

“Hood Canal is a shared body of water,” she explained. “It doesn’t just belong to Jefferson County, it belongs to Kitsap County (too).”

Ozzie Nohre was amazed by the overall impacts the project could have.

“It’s environmental impacts, national security, economic ramifications,” he said, adding, “If something happened to the bridge, that would cause havoc.”

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