Tag Archives: Pope Resources

After environmental restoration, quiet has returned to Port Gamble

Twenty-five years ago, I stood and watched as a screaming buzz saw tossed clouds of sawdust into the air while slicing through thick logs of Douglas fir at the Pope & Talbot sawmill in Port Gamble.

Last week, I walked across the vacant site of the old mill, which was torn down years ago. Along the edge of Port Gamble Bay, I could hear nothing but the sound of the wind and an occasional call of a seagull.

Linda Berry-Maraist, restoration manager for Pope Resources, describes the renewed shoreline along Port Gamble Bay. // Photo: Dunagan

I came back to the old mill site to see how things looked following completion of the $20-million-plus cleanup of Port Gamble Bay. Some 111,000 cubic yards of dredge material is now piled up in the middle of the site, an amount roughly equivalent to 10,000 dumptruck loads.

In addition, nearly 8,600 wooden pilings — most imbedded with creosote — were removed and shipped off for disposal, making it one of the largest piling-removal projects in state history. The final number of pilings removed far exceeded original estimates, largely because buried ones kept turning up during the removal work.

“It’s a huge relief to get this done,” said Jon Rose, vice president of Pope Resources who has overseen a decade of planning and cleanup. “It has been very hard on our staff, hard on the town, hard on our financial statements.

“I think we are on the right side of the mountain,” he added. “Look at how incredible the shore looks.”

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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.

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.

A new piece gets added to the 7,000-acre puzzle

Another piece of the 7,000-acre forest puzzle in North Kitsap has been put into place by the Legislature, following some last-minute scrambling. State lawmakers approved a new tax exemption for Kitsap and Thurston counties that could save millions of dollars when counties buy forestlands.

Without the exemption, back property taxes would come due when Kitsap County acquires ownership of various parts of the North Kitsap forestland — even if the county maintains the property for timber production. For a more complete explanation, check out my story in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun.

Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, who sponsored the bill with North Kitsap Rep. Sherry Appleton, told me that he liked my comparison of the North Kitsap Forest and Bay Project to a puzzle made up of many pieces (Water Ways, Dec. 31). He has been using the analogy in his explanations of the project.

The goal is to acquire blocks of forestland from Pope Resources, as the company divests itself of lands in Kitsap County and buys other property in less populated areas of Southwest Washington. To support the project, at least a half-dozen grant applications will be going out by summer seeking funding for the purchase.

Sandra Staples-Bortner, who chairs the Kitsap Forest and Bay Coalition, mentioned that many of the grants are specific to protecting shorelines, wetlands and other sensitive areas. Protecting a second- and third-growth tree farm will be more of a challenge — even with the likelihood that the land would eventually take on characteristics of an old-growth forest supporting a great diversity of wildlife.

If House Bill 2502 is a piece of a puzzle, it’s an edge piece, one of the early pieces that frames the picture and makes it easier to match other pieces that come later. In Kitsap County, excitement and anxiety are running high for the project, which people seem to recognize for its tremendous ecological potential for future generations. But what really can be done in this period of tight money? We will see.

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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

Forest Legacy grant protects more than 2,100 acres

Some $3.3 million from the federal Forest Legacy Program will be used to purchase development rights on 2,100 acres of Pope Resources forestland adjacent to both Green Mountain and Tahuya state forests.

forest1That’s almost as good as putting these lands into one of the two state forests, which is something that could happen in the future. See my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Jon Rose, who works on long-term plans for Pope, says the land near Tiger and Panther lakes was under pressure for development. Now, the land will be retained in forestry uses.

The property, which straddles the Kitsap-Mason county line and lies adjacent to Bremerton’s vast watershed, can be found in the upper reaches of the Tahuya watershed — and that was how it was presented to the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service administers the Forest Legacy Program and lays out priorities for future acquisition.

The property will provide habitat for a variety of species and help maintain clean water in nearby salmon streams. A forest management plan spells out how and where logging can occur, with protections included for streams, wetlands and related buffers.

Washington Department of Natural Resources is designated to apply for Forest Legacy money in this state. Since 2000, about 20 properties in Washington have been acquired. Thirteen of them are in King County, three are in Kittitas, two are in Snohomish and one is in Pierce. Check out the list of properties through 2008 (PDF 40 kb).