'Pit to pier' open house appears to draw more foes than supporters
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“Pit to pier” opponents Dawn Harris, left, and Sue Corbett show their objection to the project with a cartoon by syndicated newspaper editorial cartoonist Milt Priggee. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT LUDLOW — Some 200 people turned out at an open house on a proposal to build a 4-mile-long conveyor belt and a 998-foot pier on the Hood Canal to move gravel from a quarry to ships.

Some carried signs against the Thorndyke Resources project, known as “pit-to-pier,” at Monday night's open house on a draft environmental impact statement at the Port Ludlow Bay Club.

The “overwhelming majority” of those he spoke with opposed it, said David Wayne Johnson of the Jefferson County Department of Community Development.

“There is a lot of opposition to this. In a few weeks, there will be a lot of powerful people commenting against this,” said John Fabian, volunteer leader of the Hood Canal Coalition, who said he gathered 125 signatures on a petition against it outside the Bay Club.

“The tribes, the Navy and the [state Department of Natural Resources] all have serious concerns,” Fabian added.

Not all who attended were against the plan.

“If you think globally, you will understand how important this project is,” said Mark Coleman, an engineer who has worked with both Fred Hill Materials, which applied for the permits in 2003 before it declared bankruptcy and closed in 2012, and with Thorndyke, a Poulsbo company that took over the project from Fred Hill.

“I understand the concerns of some of the people who live in Jefferson County, but if they are really citizens of the world, they will see the plus side of it,” Coleman said.

The pier would be designed to serve both barges and ships, and at full production, expected 25 years after construction of the pier, it would load some 6.75 million tons (U.S. short) annually from the pier, Thorndyke has said.

Thorndyke representative Dan Baskins said the project would generate at least 2,000 local jobs.

Public comment is being taken on the draft environmental impact statement. The public comment period ends Monday.

Opposition focused on possible environmental effects, traffic and the potential impact, including collisions, of the multiple daily Hood Canal Bridge openings required by up to six barges a day.

“I don't know who could be for this, unless they were benefiting economically,” said John Arscott of Port Ludlow.

“The bridge will need to open up to 12 times a day, and that will cause some real transit problems.”

Said Shine resident Sue Corbett: “There will be a lot of barges, and one of them is bound to hit the bridge.

“I'm concerned about traffic, about damage and about any invasive species that will come into the canal on the bottom of a barge.”

Project proponents say the environmental impact of a conveyor belt and barge terminal would be far less than if the gravel were transported by truck.

“The sand and the gravel will need to come out of there some way, and this is the most convenient way,” said project supporter Michael Forbes of Kingston.

“This is the safest, cleanest way, and a lot of the concerns that people have are unfounded.”

Baskins said he talked to a lot of people who are opposed to the project but hadn't heard anything that was not addressed in the draft environmental impact statement.

The firm would have to address collective impacts on the Hood Canal, its shorelines and neighboring residential areas; marine transportation on Hood Canal; traffic on Hood Canal Bridge; geohydrology; and noise and light, the draft environmental impact statement says.

Public comments will be incorporated into a final environmental impact statement, expected by Sept. 29.

Then the Jefferson County hearings examiner will consider a county shoreline conditional-use permit for the proposed pier and loading dock and a zoning conditional-use permit for the proposed conveyor to transport material to the pier.

The hearings examiner's decision could take place in late November.

The company eventually must seek approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and area tribes, and acquire “about 19 permits and licenses from various [federal] agencies,” Baskins has said.

There is no project completion date estimate now.

The full text of the 383-page document is available at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Pit-to-Pier and at the Jefferson County Department of Community Development, 621 Sheridan St., Port Townsend. The phone number is 360-379-4940.

Electronic copies of the draft document can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-draftstatement.

Email comments are due by 5 p.m. Monday to t-roc@co.jefferson.wa.us and must include a complete current return mailing address.

Written comments sent via the Postal Service must be postmarked by that day or hand-delivered by 4:30 p.m. that day to Thorndyke Resource DEIS c/o Jefferson County DCD, 621 Sheridan St., Port Townsend, WA 98368.

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

Last modified: August 06. 2014 5:33AM
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