Doors closed on archaeological dogs sniffing for Native American remains on Port Angeles waterfront

PORT ANGELES ­– Four specially trained dogs were barred from major portions of the waterfront when they recently sniffed for Native American remains.

Officials at the Port of Port Angeles, Nippon Paper Industries USA, Rayonier Inc. and an unidentified business refused to allow the canines on their property when the dogs were in Port Angeles from Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, said port, company and city of Port Angeles officials Thursday.

Derek Beery, city archaeologist, would not say if the dogs alerted to any remains.

Beery estimated earlier this year that 50 percent of the waterfront study area has a medium or high statistical probability of containing Native American remains.

The dogs trotted mostly on unpopulated, undeveloped Ediz Hook, during their weeklong stay.

Report due in February

City Planning Director Nathan West said he did not know if the report on the survey, due Feb. 4, will be made public.

“We need to evaluate the results,” he said.

The Institute for Canine Forensics, based in Woodbridge, Calif., had provided the dogs to the city under a $19,200 contract.

The canine work is a component of an archaeological survey that Beery is conducting of 872 acres of waterfront to determine the potential for Native American remains.

Beery said the dogs trotted over 65 acres — including Coast Guard Group/Air Station Port Angeles on Ediz Hook — totalling 7.5 percent of the archaeological survey area.

When completed by October 2011, the archaeological survey is intended to guide developers on where they can develop or expand without potentially finding Native American remains, Beery has said.

Beery said Thursday that much of the remaining acreage in the study area not sniffed by the dogs, especially downtown, is privately owned and sits atop fill, in which the dogs have difficulty detecting remains.

“That took a big chunk out of the [canine] study area,” Beery said.

Only city property

The dogs were solely on city property, said Lynne Angelero, project manager for the canine survey, who said the Institute’s confidentiality agreement with the city prevented her from discussing the results.

But there’s not only privately-owned and city property along the waterfront.

Port Director Jeff Robb said the port owns about 100 acres of waterfront from just east of Nippon Paper Industries USA to Oak Street, but he was skeptical of the canine survey’s accuracy.

“We needed to know what is the level of accuracy of the dogs keying on something, and they didn’t produce any results for us,” he said.

“What we wanted was statistical results of testing that said what was the scientific level of accuracy that the dogs produced, and we didn’t get anything.”

Beery would not identify two businesses who barred the dogs. Those business own 100 acres.

The Nippon paper mill, located at the base of the Hook, was one of those properties, the Peninsula Daily News learned.

“It’s our property,” mill manager Harold Norlund said Thursday. “We don’t do digs on our property.”

It made no difference that no digging would take place, Norlund added.

“There was no warning that this was even coming. We were given about five minutes notice. When you make quick decisions, I guess, that’s what happens.”

Rayonier officials also would not allow the dogs on the company’s abandoned 75-acre site, the location of the most populated of the three known ancient Klallam villages along the city’s waterfront.

Known Native American villages also existed on the waterfront on Ediz Hook and Marine Drive.

Questions reliability

“There was no consensus of the reliability of the dog-sniffing technology, so to speak, whatever you want to call it,” Rayonier spokesman Charles Hood said Thursday.

“It was subject to debate in terms of the findings. We just thought we had a archaeological study in place that had been completed and produced a number of findings.”

Hood cited a 1997 study by Larson Anthropological Archaeological Services that described a village site on the property.

Angeloro has said the dogs can smell human remains 9 feet deep and 1,500 to 2,000 years old if they aren’t buried under concrete, the condition of much of the Rayonier site.

The potential presence of remains in the waterfront fill area will be determined in part through a “geomorphological” study of land forms and what created them, in the downtown area.

“We are talking about where are the native beaches, how deep they are, are they intact,” Beery said.

Some 65,000 artifacts and 335 Native American burials were found when the ancient Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen was discovered on Marine Drive during the initial stages of construction of state Department of Transportation graving yard project. Tse-whit-zen is less than a mile from Ediz Hook.

Its discovery led to the halt of the graving yard project in 2004, and an $8.5 million settlement that is funding the archaeological survey and Beery’s position.

The settlement agreement cites a forensic canine survey as a possible survey tool.

The state Office of Archaeology is monitoring the archaeological survey and may use canine forensics in future surveys, agency director Allyson Brooks said Thursday.

‘See if dogs work’

“The whole point of the project is to see if the dogs work,” she said.

“All we are trying to do is think of new ways of identifying human remains that might be less disturbing than bulldozers or shovels. It simply has to do with finding out if something is there,” Brooks added.

“We’re just looking for new, alternate methods, and maybe it won’t work, we don’t know. Doing nothing is not acceptable.”

The same four forensic dogs that trotted the waterfront –Eros, Rhea, Alice and Riley — demonstrated their skills for the public at a demonstration in the atrium at City Hall on Nov. 30, after their first day on the job in Port Angeles.

They found human teeth on some concrete, a bag of grave soil under a rock and human hair shoved under the leaves of a plant, Angeloro said.

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Staff writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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