By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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The 200-foot-long, L-shaped dock for Coast Guard escort and Navy blocking vessels for submarines would be built out from an unused barge landing within Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles at the end of the Hook, Bangor Naval Base spokesman Tom Danaher said Friday.
It would mark the Navy's first return to Port Angeles Harbor — except for occasional anchored ship visits that have dwindled since the 1990s — in decades.
Blocking vessels, which are rectangular in shape and 250 feet long by 60 feet wide, are piloted by civilian mariners and protect submarines by interfering with waterborne attacks, Danaher said. They are similar in size and shape to oil-rig service vessels.
The pier itself, which would be parallel to the shoreline, would be located a few hundred feet inside the base entrance, base executive officer Cmdr. Mike Campbell said.
The Navy already has started a National Environmental Policy Act review that includes consulting with the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S'Klallam and Port Gamble S'Klallam tribes, he said.
The project area is within those tribes' usual and accustomed fishing grounds.
It has not been funded and would be built in 2017 or 2018.
“This is an unprogrammed priority currently under review,” Danaher said, adding that public hearings would be held before it's finalized.
“It may not happen.”
Still, the Navy has begun the process of having affected parties review plans for the project and has scheduled a meeting Wednesday on the Lower Elwha Klallam reservation.
Scott Chitwood, Jamestown S'Klallam natural resources director, said last week that the tribe would “like to understand what the proposal is about, the full width and breadth of it.”
Navy personnel already have met with Puget Sound Pilots, which dock on Ediz Hook just outside the Coast Guard base entrance, to ensure the Navy's plans do not interfere with vessel-piloting operations.
The estimated $15 million project would include an 8,300-square-foot building with temporary sleeping quarters, operations and fuel-oil waste systems near the dock and on Coast Guard property.
The facility would serve as a rest-stop for personnel who must travel the 80-mile stretch of Strait of Juan de Fuca from Bremerton and Bangor to Cape Flattery.
The trip to the Pacific Ocean takes about 10 hours, and vessels that need to refuel must sometimes turn back.
“It comes down to the bigger concept,” Danaher said.
“Why we are looking at establishing this place in Port Angeles is to avoid crew fatigue, to be more efficient with our money and be more effective in performing the mission of escorts.”
The project is not expected to provide a notable boost to the economy, Danaher said.
“It's not going to increase the number of people at the Coast Guard station. They're not going to buy a bunch of homes or buy cars.
“It's an overnight stop so we can rest our people and bring them back.”
Danaher said the project is in its preliminary stages.
As the project develops, there will be numerous occasions for the public to comment on it, Danaher added.
Campbell said the project is solely the Navy's.
“They are still in the early design phases,” he said.
Port Angeles resident Bill Roberds discussed the project at the Port of Port Angeles commissioners' meeting Tuesday during the public comment section.
He suggested that the port work with the Navy to fulfill the Navy's needs so taxpayers could reap the benefits.
Commissioner Colleen McAleer said the port should offer port assets as an alternative.
Military vessels sometimes dock along the city's waterfront.
But Danaher said the base automatically provides required security.
The unused barge landing also is a natural starting point for the dock, reducing the project's cost, he added.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.