‘Pit-to-pier’ firm appeals Jefferson County’s Shoreline Master Plan

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

SHINE — A company that seeks to construct a 4-mile-long conveyor belt to move gravel and rocks from a quarry to Hood Canal has filed an appeal of Jefferson County’s recently enacted Shoreline Master Plan.

Obstacles won’t stop the company’s plans for the project known as “pit-to-pier,” said Dan Baskins, project manager for the Thorndyke Resources Project.

“This is a good project, and we are going to see it through,” Baskins said.

“It will create 200 jobs and will be good for both the environment and the economy,” he added.

James Tracy, Thorndyke’s attorney, filed a challenge to the plan with the Washington Growth Management Hearings Board on Monday.

The plan violated Thorndyke’s right to substantive and procedural due process under the state and federal constitutions, according to the appeal.

The appeal challenges the public comment period leading up to the approval of the shoreline plan, saying Thorndyke was not given accurate information or adequate notice about the comment process.

The motion requests that the approval of the plan be reversed and that it be returned to Jefferson County “for further review consistent with the requirements of applicable state law/regulation and state and federal constitutional provisions.”

The appeal states that the shoreline plan includes an outright ban on certain water-dependent uses in Hood Canal such as the marine transport of aggregate materials, which are specifically allowed as conditional uses in the state’s Shoreline Management Act as priority uses.

It compares this ban to the county’s attempted ban of finfish aquaculture, which the state Department of Ecology did not allow.

Baskins claims the plan’s approval process “was politically motivated by a desire to stop the project. They singled out the sand and gravel load-out process.”

“That’s not true,” said Carl Smith, county Department of Community Development director.

“We did what was best for the code and did not use it to pre-emptively deny anyone their rights.”

The Growth Management Hearings Board has 180 days from the date of filing to issue a ruling, according to administrative manager Paulette York, who added that hearings will be scheduled about four weeks prior to the due date.

“I’m amazed they continue to push this [project] because everything is stacked against them,” said project opponent John Fabian of the Hood Canal Coalition.

Fabian, a former astronaut who moved to Port Ludlow in 1998, said opposition to the project is widespread and includes local community groups, environmental organizations, tribes and business groups along with county and state elected officials.

Fabian’s opposition originates from the scope of the project, which he said would include an industrial harbor complex 4 miles south of the Hood Canal Bridge with barges and ore ships increasing congestion in the waterway.

No estimates are available as to when the project would become operational or when construction would begin.

The Jefferson County Department of Community Development is working on an environmental impact statement.

The draft could be completed this summer, according to planner David Wayne Johnson, who is supervising the project.

Following the draft’s release will be a public comment period before the final environmental impact statement is prepared.

That will be followed by another public comment period.

Following this, the project will be turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers for evaluation, Johnson said.

Concerns about the project include impacts of noise, air quality, traffic and increased mining that would result from its operation, according to a letter from Johnson to Tracy.

Also still in play is an effort by the Navy, working with the state Department of Natural Resources, to secure a state-owned strip of subtidal lands stretching from the Hood Canal Bridge south to just below the border between Jefferson and Mason counties.

The agreement, still under review, would prevent new nearshore commercial and industrial construction along the areas of Hood Canal and neighboring waterways that the DNR manages and in which the Navy operates.

The practical effect of the agreement would be to preclude new commercial or industrial construction along the Hood Canal in areas that are managed by DNR and where the Navy operates.

Matthew Randazzo, special assistant to the commissioner of public lands, said the agreement is being finalized and that he had no new information about it.

While Fabian said the implementation of these restrictions “would make it impossible for them to get a permit,” Baskins disagreed.

“I don’t think it will affect the project,” he said, saying that time spent waiting for the resolution of legal motions and the granting of permits would not be wasted.

“We’ll keep plugging along, addressing all the issues.

“There is a lot of work to be done.”

Neither supporters nor opponents of the project expected a long battle.

“I didn’t come back to Washington and retire to fight a 10-year environmental battle, but that’s how it’s worked out,” Fabian said.

________

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 17. 2014 6:52PM
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