The state Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Navy have entered into an agreement that creates a “restrictive easement” along 32 miles of Hood Canal’s eastern shore.
The easement, which covers 2,481 acres of aquatic bedlands, prohibits new construction such as wharfs, piers, platforms, and structures for industrial use.
The agreement was reached Wednesday. The Navy will pay DNR $342,000 for the easement, which is fair market value, DNR said in a news release.
In 2014, DNR and the Navy entered into a similar agreement to create an easement on 4,800 acres of Hood Canal’s western shore along Jefferson County and portions of Mason County.
“With both easements now in place, Hood Canal is protected from further development and noise pollution that may have interfered with Navy uses,” DNR said in the release.
Said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz: “This partnership strengthens our military preparedness and strengthens our waterways by protecting critical habitat in Hood Canal. his is truly an example of mutual benefit for our navy, communities, and public waters.”
Hood Canal is a Military Operating Area for Naval Base Kitsap. Limiting disruption in this area is critical for Navy operations, including research, testing, and training, the Navy said in the release.
“The Navy’s ability to use Hood Canal for military operations depends on reducing incompatible development and noise,” said Alan Schrader, commanding officer of Naval Base Kitsap.
“Through this agreement, the Navy will be able to continue training and testing at Naval Base Kitsap for decades to come.”
The Navy uses Hood Canal to test unmanned vehicles, submarine readiness, diver training, and similar activities related to undersea warfare, DNR said, adding that explosives are not tested or placed on test units.
The easement also provides new protections for sensitive marine ecosystems, DNR said.
All 2,481 acres covered by the easement are designated critical habitat, including eelgrass communities and geoduck tracts.
John Fabian of Port Ludlow, a retired Air Force colonel and former NASA astronaut who heads the Hood Canal Coalition, praised the move.
“The Hood Canal Coalition has been involved in protecting Hood Canal for nearly 20 years,” he said. “We applaud the Navy and the Department of Natural Resources for this latest collaborative effort to ensure the long-term health of this magnificent and biologically vital waterway.”
The 55-year easement begins 18 feet from the shore and extends out 70 feet, covering 2,800 acres. It stretches along eastern Hood Canal from the Hood Canal Bridge to south of Chinom Point.
It does not apply to existing structures or authorized uses, such as marinas and cable lines; recreational uses, including fishing, boating, and public access; the installation of private recreational docks.
DNR will continue to manage these aquatic lands under its aquatic lands program.