Tag Archives: Port Gamble

Kitsap County acquires prime forest, shoreline

It’s official. Kitsap County has become the proud owner of 535 acres of prime lowland forest, including 1.5 miles of shoreline on Port Gamble Bay. See the story I prepared for tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun (subscription).

Port Gamble Bay shoreline // Photo by Don Willott
Port Gamble Bay shoreline // Photo by Don Willott

This is prime property, both from an ecological and recreational viewpoint. It is extremely rare to find a place where so much shoreline belongs to the public, especially in a populated area like Kitsap County. With restoration work and time for nature to respond, this property could return to a near-pristine condition.

This is the first property sale completed by the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project. More than two years ago, I attended a kick-off meeting to launch the fund-raising effort. It all began with an option agreement to buy up to 7,000 acres of forestland from Pope Resources. See Kitsap Sun, Oct. 19, 2012.

The effort followed a disbanded plan by the county to trade the land for increased housing density near Port Gamble. (See Kitsap Sun, Jan. 19, 2010.)

The new effort was spearheaded by Cascade Land Conservancy, now called Forterra. CLC President Gene Duvernoy spelled out the task ahead as he announced that Michelle Connor, a vice president of CLC, would be put in charge. Duvernoy declared:

“This is probably the most important project we can accomplish to save Puget Sound… Anytime we have a real thorny project, we hand it to Michelle to make it happen… This option agreement is a reason to celebrate, but now we need to get serious. Now, we can look at all the financing and funding possibilities. Until today, we were unable to do that.”

Other acquisitions are expected to be completed soon, but it remains unclear how much of the 7,000 acres can be acquired from Pope.

In celebration of the completed sale, I would like to share the statements made in a news release by a variety of people involved in the project:

Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder:

“This acquisition has been years in the making and the beginning of a series of great things to come in 2014. We are lining up funding to protect additional lands from Kingston to Port Gamble as part of this preservation effort.”

Michelle Connor, Forterra’s executive vice president:

“Conservation of these lands will help sustain the cultural heritage and health of our communities, the functioning of our environment and diversity of our economy. Moving the whole effort forward is a testament to the leadership of local residents, Kitsap County, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, and the state of Washington.”

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman:

“The public purchase of the shoreline block at Port Gamble Bay is an accomplishment worth celebrating. The Suquamish Tribe is grateful that this critical marine habitat will be protected for time immemorial and help in efforts to protect the water quality of Port Gamble Bay.”

Jeromy Sullivan, chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe:

“One of my tribe’s ongoing priorities is to ensure that Port Gamble Bay remains productive and healthy for future generations. The conservation of this property furthers that goal by protecting water quality, preventing development and limiting stormwater runoff and other associated impacts.”

Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, Pope Resources’ real estate subsidiary:

“We are proud to be working with the community to protect these forests, beaches and trails for future generations. This purchase is a prize that has been earned through nearly a decade of dedicated efforts by the local community.”

Sandra Staples-Bortner, executive director of Great Peninsula Conservancy, a key player in the acquisition:

“The many community partners involved in the Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition have dedicated countless hours to help achieve this historic land purchase, handing out trail maps, speaking to community groups and marching in parades. And when it came down to the wire, the coalition raised over $10,000 in three days to fill the final funding gap.”

Maia Bellon, director of the Washington Department of Ecology:

“Restoring and sustaining the ecological systems that support Port Gamble Bay is critical for Hood Canal, Puget Sound, and all of us who call Washington home.”

Port Gamble Bay restoration stuck in dilemma

UPDATE, FEB. 19, 2013

Pope Resources officials have been meeting frantically with legislators and other public officials to find a way out of the dock dilemma. Jon Rose of Olympic Property Group emailed a newsletter today to interested people involved in the Kitsap Forest and Bay Association. In it, he explained the company’s position and what is being done to resolve the dilemma:

“Our Kitsap delegation including Congressman Derek Kilmer, Sen. Christine Rolfes, Rep. Drew Hansen, and Rep. Sherry Appleton have all engaged with the Department of Ecology and the Governors’ office.

“Additionally, a new DOE director Maia Bellon took office around the same time as the newspaper story broke. She has spent a great deal of time coming up to speed on this project and met last Friday with Pope Resources CEO David Nunes.

“At this point, our suggestion is to stand by and be ready to assist our elected officials when they indicate it is time to do so.”

I’ve copied the newsletter into a PDF document (PDF 78 kb) for those not on the mailing list.
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A proposed cleanup and restoration of Port Gamble Bay, worth somewhere in the range of $30 million, seems so close yet so far away this morning.

The site of the former Pope & Talbot sawmill, now a toxic cleanup site. Washington Department of Ecology Photo
The site of the former Pope & Talbot sawmill, now a toxic cleanup site. / Washington Department of Ecology Photo

It seems Pope Resources has come to an impasse with the Washington Department of Ecology, not over any aspect of the cleanup or restoration, not over a plan to buy waterfront property, not even over plans to restore the historic company town.

The issue comes down to a couple of docks that nobody wants or needs, as I explain in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun. Pope wants to keep the two docks inside the bay until a new one is approved on the site of the old sawmill, just outside the bay. Although the legal aspects are not entirely clear, Jon Rose, who represents the company, told me that the old docks would help preserve legal access to the water, serve as environmental mitigation for the new dock and provide leverage and a backup plan if the new dock is not approved.

If the deal can’t be put back together, Ecology will turn and focus on the cleanup by putting together an enforcement order against the company. The restoration plan, which has generated enthusiastic support from all involved, would be abandoned, leaving about $15 million in restoration work on the table.

Most everyone involved — including those representing Pope and Ecology — have expressed disappointment that the parties have come to this impasse over a couple of docks that nobody really wants.

Port Gamble Bay is recognized as important to the overall health of Puget Sound and to marine life around the Kitsap Peninsula. The bay remains one of seven inlets listed as the top priority for cleanup under the Puget Sound Initiative. That’s why nobody wants to believe a deal cannot be struck.

Someone may have a real answer, but all I can see is that we need to find a way to jump to the endgame, something akin to traveling in a time machine. If everyone could agree to a dock that would meet the town’s needs without causing environmental harm and if the permits could be obtained practically overnight, then everything would be fine. But, of course, those two “ifs” are central to the problem.

It reminds me of the impasse in Congress over the federal budget. Both sides are well-meaning. Both sides want to get things done. But they can’t seem to find a pathway to agreement without compromising their fundamental principles.

Federal grants make statement about Puget Sound

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday announced that $20 million in grants will go to 24 coastal wetland projects throughout the United States.

Fully one-third of those grants will go to Washington state, and seven of the eight will be used for projects in the Puget Sound region.

“This just goes to show that Puget Sound is recognized as one of the most important estuaries in the country,” Michelle Connor, chief program officer for Fortera, told me for a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

The Port Gamble project would involve the purchase of 1.8 miles of shoreline on the west side of Port Gamble Bay. Kitsap Sun map
The Port Gamble project would involve the purchase of 1.8 miles of shoreline on the west side of Port Gamble Bay. / Kitsap Sun map

I believe this focus on Puget Sound also could say something about state and local priorities in a time of economic hardship.

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire often said the effort to preserve and protect Puget Sound must not let up, regardless of the economy, or we could lose the precious ecosystem under the pressure of ongoing development. Here’s what she told me in an interview before she left office (Water Ways, Dec. 12, 2012).

“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not the improvement we should have. We have to kick it up. The population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are kind of treading water right now.”

Gov. Jay Inslee has his hands full trying to fully fund education. As far as I know, he has made no specific funding commitments for Puget Sound. Meanwhile, priorities for both the Legislature and Congress are evolving.

As for these new coastal grants, the total local and state match for all these projects nationwide is $21.3 million — more than the total of the federal grants. Fortunately, the local share for most of the projects in Washington state are considerably smaller than the federal share.

I’m not sure how many grant proposals were submitted, but it is clear that only those states and communities willing put out their own dollars in these tough economic times would even apply for the money.

My story in today’s Kitsap Sun deals mostly with a project that would buy 1.8 miles of undeveloped shoreline along Port Gamble Bay, but some of the other projects in Puget Sound are equally valuable. For a brief description of those projects, read the news release (PDF 147 kb) I received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The nationwide list (PDF 66 kb) contains only funding information.

No new town for Port Gamble, but eco goals remain

A little more than a year ago, Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer and Jon Rose of Olympic Property Group unveiled a plan to preserve 7,000 acres of forestland in North Kitsap. A tradeoff being considered was a possible new community in Port Gamble to absorb the deferred development.

Pope Resources timberlands (shown in dark green) make up a significant portion of North Kitsap. (Click to enlarge)
Map courtesy of Olympic Property Group

Lowland forests, like those in North Kitsap, are relatively scarce in the Puget Sound region, experts tell me. Preserving such lands are considered important for protecting fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and aquifer recharge areas. Furthermore, the North Kitsap Trails Association has already begun to plan for low-key trails throughout the area.

While retaining the goal of protecting forests, Bauer announced yesterday that they would not pursue a new community created under a special provision of the state’s Growth Management Act called “fully contained communities.” The switch was described in today’s story in the Kitsap Sun.

FCCs have fallen out of favor since the first ones were developed in King County. Many planners concluded that these early projects were little more than sprawling development well outside of urban areas. The Puget Sound Regional Council even developed a policy that discouraged local governments from proposing FCCs.

Kitsap Couny planners argued that they would be able to avoid the previous problems with FCCs by requiring jobs and urban amenities to be integrated into the plans.

Still, some people were never convinced. Members of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and environmental groups were worried that such a community would destroy the environment around Port Gamble.

Now, Bauer hopes everyone can get on board with a plan to acquire as much forestland as possible, using grants, donations and other funding sources. It’s not clear whether all 7,000 acres would qualify for outright purchase under the best conditions, but Cascade Land Conservancy has signed on to match wetlands, shorelines, critical habitats and recreation areas with associated grants from government and private foundations.

Some growth is still planned at Port Gamble, which is designated a “national historic town.” As such, it will be allowed to increase in population to its greatest historical levels, with or without protections for the forestland.

Interview with David Dicks, Puget Sound Partnership

The Kitsap Sun Editorial Board, which includes community members as well as Sun employees, sat down yesterday with David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership.
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Implications of toxic study will need to play out

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has received $617,000 in federal grants to investigate toxic pollution around Port Gamble Bay — including the reservation, mill site and possibly other private properties where owners wish to know if they have a problem.

Port Gamble mill site / Kitsap Sun photo, 2006

In a story I wrote for today’s Kitsap Sun, I reported on the study process, which includes hiring a consultant as early as this week.

Going forward methodically, the effort could finally determine how many sites need major cleanup, how many can be handled with some minor soil removal and how many need no attention at all.

Portions of the mill site and the bottom of the bay in places are expected to require significant work. In an agreed order signed between Pope Resources and the Washington Department of Ecology, pollution is being studied around the mill site and offshore. A report on that work is expected to come out soon.
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The dream of 7,000 forested acres protected forever

“The devil is in the details.”

It was the first idea that came to me when I learned about the goal of providing Kitsap County with 7,000 acres of publicly owned open space in North Kitsap in exchange for allowing Pope Resources to increase development in the Port Gamble area.

“The devil is in the details.”

<em> Pope Resources lands</em>
Pope Resources lands

It has been the most common reaction from people who have talked to me about the plan, which has the potential of being the largest habitat conservation project in the history of Kitsap County.

It appears that everyone involved recognizes that the values acquired by the Kitsap County and by Pope Resources must be carefully balanced. Pope would get increased density, enough to justify public services. Other values might come from conservation grants, which would give Pope cash for some of the land. The county could seek public works grants and loans to help pay for public services.

The values must be carefully balanced, but another unquantifiable factor is in play. Steve Bauer, the county commissioner from Hansville, and Jon Rose, property manager for Pope Resources, acknowledge that their desire is to create an enduring legacy that will serve the people of Kitsap County.

Bauer and Rose have taken the first step, but we must watch closely as the details begin to emerge and the effort starts through a public process that will determine if the project can succeed.

Please read the stories that Brynn Grimley and I have written so far this week. Brynn is working on one today, and I will post that link here later.

New Plan for Port Gamble: Develop 1,000 Acres, but Preserve 7,000 Acres

Kitsap County Commissioners Offer Tentative Support for Port Gamble Plan

Environmentalists Cautiously Optimistic About Port Gamble Partnership

Port Gamble Project Seen as Potential Economic Boon for Kitsap

OPINION: The Development is In the Detals