PORT GAMBLE — The state Department of Ecology and Pope Resources have agreed on a cleanup plan for the old Port Gamble mill site and shoreline. Ecology spokesman Seth Preston said the cleanup could begin in 2014.
Ecology announced the agreement March 22. According to Ecology, the agency and Pope Resources will sign a consent decree, which is a legally binding agreement that will lay out how the cleanup of contaminated, in-water sediments will be designed and carried out.
Pope Resources estimates the cost of cleaning Port Gamble Bay to be roughly $17 million; it will negotiate a share of those costs with the state Department of Natural Resources, which has some liability because it leased aquatic land to Pope & Talbot, from which Pope Resources spun off. According to Pope, the latest agreement opens the way for the company and DNR to engage in discussions regarding how costs for the clean-up effort will be shared.
As part of the in-water cleanup, Pope Resources has agreed to remove the company’s two southern docks by fall 2015. That may give Pope time to work out an agreement in which it could use removal of those docks as mitigation when it applies for a permit to build a new dock. Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, the real estate arm of Pope Resources, has said a new dock is an important part of Port Gamble’s redevelopment plan.
Rose said Pope Resources is preparing an application to build a new community dock. As part of this application, the company wanted to delay the removal of two small docks used by current mill site tenants as mitigation for the new dock. The company has agreed to remove these docks as part of the clean-up effort, but to stage the timing of the removal to 2015. By phasing the removal of these docks within the broader clean-up effort, the company will be able to apply for advanced mitigation credit as part of its new dock application.
Other cleanup details include:
— About 2,000 pilings as well as existing over-water structures will be removed.
— A total of about 80,000 cubic yards of wood waste and contaminated sediments will be removed, including the amount removed during previous cleanup actions.
— About 130 acres of bay bottom and shoreline will undergo active remediation when work is completed.
As part of the agreement with Pope Resources, Ecology will:
— Dedicate $2 million for the removal of Pope Resources’ wastewater outfall and construction of a new large onsite septic system for Pope Resources of the same capacity as the current wastewater system. Removing the outfall will prevent the continued discharge of wastewater into the bay; removing the outfall will provide for the improvement and future protection of potentially rich shellfish beds.
— Agree to forgo $2.4 million in past cleanup costs incurred by Ecology for cleanup work in Port Gamble Bay.
— Contribute about $2 million toward the Kitsap Forest and Bay Coalition’s purchase of the 500-acre Shoreline Block, which contains nearly two miles of shoreline on Port Gamble Bay, from Pope Resources. The coalition has been working to obtain grants to acquire this $4.6 million property for conservation. The protected land will include roughly 470 acres of uplands, which will be owned and managed by Kitsap County, and 83 acres of tidelands, which will be owned and managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Pope Resources and Ecology have agreed to re-start current negotiations on settling a Natural Resource Damages Assessment at the site; tied to that agreement is $7 million in state funding for shoreline and upland acquisition and represents more than half of the money raised by the Kitsap Forest and Bay Coalition for purchase of Pope’s North Kitsap land holdings. Ecology is a coalition partner.
In an earlier version of the Natural Resource Damages Assessment agreement, Pope had agreed to, among other things, contribute to the startup costs of a marine science center to be owned by Western Washington University — which would include a Port Gamble S’Klallam cultural center — and to donate approximately 25 acres and 1.1 miles of tidelands to the state.
Assessing natural-resource damages and settling the company’s liability will now follow a different process that will include federal and Tribal trustees. Preston said he wasn’t sure what the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and Suquamish Tribe’s involvement would be. “That’s the part that’s still in question at this point,” he said.
The timeframe for coming to agreement on a Natural Resource Damages Assessment had not been determined March 22. “Pope and Ecology are talking about how to proceed,” he said.
Port Gamble Bay is one of seven priority bays identified for cleanup under the Puget Sound Initiative. Pope & Talbot operated a mill at Port Gamble from 1853 to 1995. Milling, wood chipping, log rafting and storage activities contaminated uplands, groundwater and in-water sediments with chemicals, diesel fuel, wood debris, and other substances. Pope Resources entered Ecology’s voluntary cleanup program 11 years ago and has spent $10 million on marine and upland cleanup so far.
Preston said once the consent decree is signed, there will be a public comment period. He expects the cleanup plan will be finalized later this year and the work will begin in 2014. As for what work will be done when, “Those details are part of the consent decree talks,” he said.
In Ecology’s announcement, Ecology Director Maia Bellon thanked Ecology staff, Pope Resources, and a number of people and organizations for their “hard work” in the latest agreement. Negotiations had soured in late February, with Pope wanting to pull removal of the two docks from the cleanup plan until it had approval for a new dock and Ecology threatening to serve an enforcement order by March 5.
“This agreement represents a major milestone in the cleanup of Port Gamble Bay,” Bellon said. “This project will benefit the environment by restoring and protecting the bay’s health, will benefit the economy by allowing for the restoration of shellfish harvesting, and will benefit the quality of life for Washington citizens and visitors who enjoy the bay and its surrounding environment.”
Pope Resources President and CEO David Nunes said, “I want to thank everyone involved in this for working long and hard to reach a conclusion to these negotiations that will allow for the final phase of Port Gamble’s cleanup to commence. I particularly want to thank Maia Bellon from the Department of Ecology, who in her first weeks in office brought a focused effort on reaching an equitable resolution to this complex cleanup project.
“We are also grateful to our 23rd District legislators and Congressman Derek Kilmer, who were instrumental in obtaining the funding to protect and restore Port Gamble Bay and still remain very involved.”