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DNR: Port's original dredge documents did not involve state-owned land
KINGSTON — The Port of Kingston may have grounded its own project when it improperly identified where a proposed maintenance dredge would take place.
"The original documents the port provided to the permitting agencies, which [the Department of Natural Resources] reviewed, indicated that the dredging operation would only take place on port-owned property," Aquatics Program Communications Manager Toni Droscher wrote in an email.
Because DNR's authority covers state-owned aquatic lands, the agency did not believe it had a role in the mitigation aspect of the project, according to Droscher. Then DNR's Ports Program received the mitigation plan Nov. 14.
"That's when we discovered that part of the project was going to be taking place on state-owned aquatic lands, which DNR manages, in addition to port-owned property," Droscher wrote.
The result is a substantial delay in the maintenance dredge.
The port had to have its final approval by Dec. 16, because bidding companies were told work would start by that date, according to Steve Hyman, the port's interim director. Bidders will be released from the dredge project. "We will not be dredging this winter," Hyman said.
The port still has all its permits, which are good for two years, so it does not have to start from the very beginning. However, due to restrictions, such as salmon migration, the port will not be able to dredge until at least July.
Without a maintenance dredge, continued silt buildup in Appletree Cove from Carpenter Creek will affect what boats can be launched and when. The boat launch may become a shallow-water launch.
The port began applying for permits in September 2012. The port was planning for the dredge since the opening of Carpenter Creek estuary in January 2012. The removal of the too-small fish culvert under West Kingston Road increased sedimentation in the cove, affecting boat traffic. The port declared a state of emergency to speed up the permit process when it became clear the cove was becoming shallower because of silt buildup. Boats grounded and A, B and C docks were sometimes inaccessible.
DNR's main concern over the port's proposed project stems from protection over eelgrass in aquatic lands. Though the department is not responsible for issuing the dredge permits, it has a say in what work is done. The department is reluctant to allow the port to tamper with eelgrass.
"Eelgrass plays a critical role in nearshore marine ecosystems and is used as an indicator of estuarine health throughout the world," according to Droscher.
"Eelgrass is called out [by] the Puget Sound Partnership as a 'vital sign' of Puget Sound’s health with a goal of increasing eelgrass by 20 percent (from 2000-2008 baseline data) by the year 2020."
The port is working with DNR and other agencies to develop a new mitigation plan. The port will has to go out and rebid the project as well.
— Correction: The port is waiting for final approval, not a final permit, for its maintenance dredge as reported in a previous story. The port's dredge permit will be good for two years.