Teams of horses draw equipment through the mud of the just-completed raising of Front Street in a June 22

Can’t make them like they used to: Permitting rules would make ‘Sluicing the Hogback’ impossible today

PORT ANGELES — In today’s world, a project as massive as “sluicing the Hogback,” which brought Port Angeles into the modern era, would be buried under permitting requirements.

In 1914, using a degree of manual labor unheard of in 2014, a hill, or hogback, located between First and Front streets was sluiced with fresh water from Peabody Creek and sea water from Port Angeles Harbor.

The fill that bled from the sides and top raised sections of downtown streets up to 15 feet to prevent flooding of downtown businesses. The project included the installation of sewage lines that ended the dumping of raw human waste into the harbor.

The project, which employed 900 workers, brought about “the major, major transformation of Port Angeles,” said Port Angeles historian Don Perry, an organizer of this weekend’s centennial celebration of the project.

But the sluicing of the hogback would not have been permitted to occur in 2014, said Perry, a former city councilman not unfamiliar with the multilevel permits required of such comprehensive projects.

“It could just never happen today with all the permitting processes of the city, state, port, county, the feds and the tribes,” Perry said.

To the list, he added the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and the state Department of Natural Resources — “you name it.”

The project included turning a chunk of mountain into mud, lining the waterfront with concrete walls to dam the flow of fill and rerouting Peabody Creek, which until then was channeled through an elevated trough down the middle of Front Street.

The project would have required at least five permits from the city alone and likely would have triggered an environmental impact statement, said Nathan West, the city’s community and economic development director.

The rerouting of Peabody Creek would have required permits outside the city’s jurisdiction, he said.

The permits for everything but the creek work would have included:

■   A federal national pollutant discharge elimination system construction permit issued by the state Department of Ecology.

■   A federal national pollutant discharge elimination system permit administered by Ecology.

■   A clearing and grading permit issued by city Public Works and Utilities.

■   An environmentally sensitive-areas permit issued by the city under the city’s state-required critical-areas ordinance.

■   A permit under the state Environmental Policy Act that the city administers on behalf of the state.

This likely would result in a determination that the project could have significant impact on the environment and require an environmental impact statement to mitigate those impacts, West said.

Nathan said the rerouting of the creek likely would have triggered additional state and federal permits.

And if the project fell within 200 feet of the shoreline or coastal-zone management area, at least nine permits would be required.

Almost 400,000 cubic yards of earth were moved in the $194,229 project, according to the late June Robinson, who was a Peninsula Daily News history columnist and president of the Clallam County Historical Society.

The cost was covered by an assessment on downtown property owners, said Alice Alexander, who succeeded Robinson and now writes “Back When,” which appears in the PDN the first Sunday of the month.

The project took six years from start to finish, from raising the streets in six months to completion in 1920, when the mud was dry enough to pave over with concrete that was mixed by hand, Perry said.

It included the installation of sewer lines that ended “the Curse of Port Angeles”: the odor of raw human sewage from shoreline-area public outhouses that ended up in Port Angeles Harbor.

“Let’s just say you would not swim with the incoming tide,” Perry quipped.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected]

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