Project manager: New state, Navy conservation easement for areas of Hood Canal won't halt pit-to-pier
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Artist’s rendering depicts the proposed pier in Hood Canal designed to load gravel onto barges and ocean-going ships.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

Input sought on draft environmental impact statement

Peninsula Daily News

The Thorndyke Resources Project known as “pit-to-pier” is the subject of a draft Jefferson County environmental impact statement, which is midway in a 45-day comment period that ends Aug. 11.

Comments can be written or given at an open house set from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Port Ludlow Bay Club, 120 Spinnaker Lane.

Among mitigation measures mentioned in the draft statement are design-level hydraulic, geotechnical, structural and civil engineering studies for the proposed pier, including studies of the stability of the submarine slope and over-water conveyor delivery system.

The final type, size and location of piles to support the structures would be dependent on the result of those studies.

To ease the effect on bridge traffic, the draft statement says all bridge openings should be limited to non-peak hours to minimize traffic backups.

The report lists concerns in 13 categories including air, water, noise and impact upon species both marine and on land, categorizing them in regard to the construction and operations processes.

Once the comment period ends, the county will produce a final environmental impact statement, which will be used as a resource for a hearings examiner to grant or deny the construction permit. The hearing is expected to occur before the end of this year.

Once the county acts on the permit, Thorndyke must seek approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and area tribes, and acquire “about 19 permits and licenses from various [federal] agencies,” according to Dan Baksins, project manager.

The project has been in development since 2003, when then-applicant Fred Hill Materials applied for permits.

There is no completion date estimate at this time.

Baskins said the completed project would generate at least 2,000 local jobs.

The text of the 383-page document is available at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Pit-to-Pier and http://tinyurl.com/PDN-draftstatement.

It also is available at the Jefferson County Department of Community Development, 621 Sheridan St., Port Townsend, or 360-379-4940.

Copies on a CD are available for $2.50 by phoning 360-379-4465 or emailing dwjohnson@co.jefferson.wa.us. Printed copies may be purchased at SOS Printing at 2319 Washington St., Port Townsend.
HOOD CANAL — A conservation easement between the state Department of Natural Resources and the Navy that prohibits industrial development along areas of Hood Canal won't stop a gravel-moving facility nicknamed the “pit-to-pier,” the project manager said.

The agreement signed earlier this week suggests that the proposed construction of the project would not be allowed.

The project is a 4-mile-long conveyor belt to move gravel and rocks from an extraction area near the former Fred Hill Materials Shine pit to a processing facility and then to a 998-foot pier on Hood Canal.

“This agreement will collapse under its own stupidity,” said Dan Baskins, Thorndyke Resources Project manager.

“This is a goofy way to try to stop the project, and we don't believe the Navy had the authority to sign this agreement.”

Baskins had said earlier that the agreement wouldn't stop the project. He said this week the company is considering legal action but has not made a decision yet.

The pact between Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark and the Navy covers more than 4,800 acres of Hood Canal aquatic lands, in a strip of state subtidal lands stretching from the Hood Canal Bridge south to just below the border between Jefferson and Mason counties.

The Navy will pay DNR $720,000 for a 55-year easement.

It restricts development in the area around Naval Base Kitsap and gives the Navy unrestricted access to waters for it to conduct exercises that are crucial for military readiness and national defense, according to Naval Base Kitsap Commanding Officer Capt. Tom Zwolfer.

Naval Base Kitsap is just north of Silverdale on the Kitsap Peninsula.

The easement will not permit new construction by the Navy, nor will it affect public access, privately owned lands, recreational uses or aquaculture or geoduck harvest.

It forbids new nearshore commercial or industrial construction along the areas of the Hood Canal and neighboring waterways where the Navy operates the term of the easement and forbids any large-scale commercial development on state-owned aquatic lands, according to Matthew Randazzo, senior adviser to the commissioner of public lands.

While Thorndyke owns the land on which the operation will be located, the easement forbids large-scale industrial development in the water.

As designed, the proposed pier would extend 998 feet from the shore, with supports installed in the deepwater section of the canal.

There are no plans to develop a proposal for a shorter pier, which would service up to six barges daily, because the current plan is what is needed to support the project, Baskins said.

Thorndyke has no permit from Jefferson County. It is in the process of review.

Baskins called the easement “political,” saying that both Randazzo, who joined DNR in 2013, and staffer Cyrilla Cook, who worked on the agreement, were long-term opponents of the Thorndyke project.

“People don't give up their prejudices when they go to work for the government,” Baskins said. “Sometimes it follows them when they enter the public sector.”

Randazzo would not comment about the easement's effect on specific projects and said it was not directed at any single enterprise.

He said the impetus for the easement, developed over a two-year period, originated with Goldmark.

“The conservation of Hood Canal and the safeguarding of Navy operations from encroachment has been a priority of Commissioner Goldmark from the start of these discussions in 2012, and he deserves the credit for this historic agreement,” Randazzo said.

“This is an unprecedented agreement between two large government agencies.”

Randazzo is confident the agreement would withstand a legal challenge.

“This easement has been vetted by the Washington state attorney general and attorneys for the Department of Defense,” he said.

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

Last modified: July 09. 2014 11:05PM
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