North Kitsap Herald-
Representatives of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and Pope Resources stood on the old mill site on July 23 to bless the beginning of the final cleanup of the site and the nearshore. And then, an ancestral song was sung and the S’Klallam language was spoken, here at this place the grandparents’ grandparents knew as Teekalet. And what was past was made present.
“Most people in my generation have learned more about where we were, and how we ended up on the reservation side [of the bay]. We’ve learned about the Port Gamble mill site. So, that song and prayer on that side [of the bay] was impactful. It was a real blessing for the Tribe.”
And now, as the final cleanup project nears its midway point, negotiations are taking place that could reestablish the S’Klallam presence on the old mill site for the first time since 1853.
The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is in line to receive a $1.5 million grant from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, or ESRP. According to Fish and Wildlife, the Tribe would use the grant and other funds “to protect the mill site from future development with a conservation easement … for the purpose of restoration, returning the site to a more natural state for future generations.”
The site is across Port Gamble Bay from Point Julia and the Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation, where the S’Klallam people relocated after the mill was established in 1853.
The Tribe and Pope Resources are working together “to develop a vision for the future of the site that includes restoration, a park setting and recognition of Tribal history,” according to Fish and Wildlife.
ESRP funding comes from the state Building Construction Fund, NOAA’s Community Based Restoration Program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A match of cash or in-kind services equaling 33 percent of the grant is required.
Adrian Miller, Pope Resources’ manager of policy and environment, said the Tribe is negotiating a conservation easement for the southern two-thirds of the 26-acre site. The first cleanup period, July to January, is wrapping up. The cleanup is scheduled to be completed during the second period, July 2016 to January 2017, and Pope Resources “would love to see a number of issues related to Port Gamble Bay resolved in 2016,” including the conservation easement, Miller said.
Both sides are talking about a park-like setting on that portion of the old mill/Teekalet site, with a restored beach where clams and oysters thrive again and the story of the bay’s First Peoples can be told.
“The culture of the Port Gamble S’Klallam is part and parcel of the town. They’re intertwined,” Miller said. “I think any development that looks at incorporating that culture would be a positive of the town, as long as it’s consistent with the Tribe’s history and their view of that history. It’s not just good for the town and for the Tribe, but for residents and visitors to Kitsap County.”
Noting that the easement and how the site might be used are under negotiation, Sullivan would like to someday stand on the old Teekalet site and welcome canoes traveling on the Canoe Journey. The Canoe Journey is an annual gathering of canoe cultures.
“It would be great story for the S’Klallam people to host” the Canoe Journey on the former mill site, Sullivan said.
Both sides are careful in their discussion of the negotiations, but say their relationship, which has at times been adversarial, has improved. Sullivan spoke appreciatively of Miller, and Miller reciprocated.
“Pope Resources and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe are in mediation and there are lots of things we’re talking about in terms of potential ideas,” Miller said.
“Mediation has given us an opportunity to exchange points of views and get to know each other better.” Speaking for Pope Resources, he said, “We’ve found that experience valuable and constructive on a number of fronts. I believe our relationship has improved significantly as part of that discussion.”
Largest piling removal project in Puget Sound
Port Gamble Bay is one of seven priority bays identified for cleanup under the Puget Sound Initiative. The initiative was established to coordinate efforts to restore and protect the health of Puget Sound by 2020.
The bay is home to several species of shellfish and finfish, and is also prime spawning habitat for Pacific herring, an important forage fish for salmon.
A sawmill operated by Pope & Talbot Inc. manufactured forest products in Port Gamble Bay from 1853 to 1995. Those mill operations — which included wood chipping, log rafting, and storage — left wood waste in and near the bay, at some places as thick as 20 feet, according to the Department of Ecology.
Tests determined that wood waste is the source of such contaminants as petroleum hydrocarbons and dioxins, which have turned up in shellfish tissue samples.
When completed, the final cleanup — subject of an agreement between Pope Resources and the state Department of Ecology — will cost an estimated $20 million, paid for by Pope Resources.
By the time this project is completed, 6,000 creosote-coated pilings, overwater structures and 70,000 cubic yards of wood waste and contaminated sediments will have been removed.
Wood waste located close to shore will have been dredged and remaining areas contaminated by wood waste capped with clean material.
Eelgrass, which provides shelter for Pacific herring and crab, will have been transplanted in the cleaned areas.
Water quality will be monitored for 10 years.