Peter Bales, left, of the Northwest Watershed Institute gave the Jefferson County Commissioners his opinion Monday on the alleged clearing and grading of wetlands on the Tarboo Lake property of Joe D’Amico. Peter Newland of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition holds a photo that was created from drone photography. (Jeannie McMacken/ Peninsula Daily News)

Peter Bales, left, of the Northwest Watershed Institute gave the Jefferson County Commissioners his opinion Monday on the alleged clearing and grading of wetlands on the Tarboo Lake property of Joe D’Amico. Peter Newland of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition holds a photo that was created from drone photography. (Jeannie McMacken/ Peninsula Daily News)

Tarboo Ridge Coalition claims D’Amico making changes at planned shooting range site

Land owner says he is within his rights

PORT TOWNSEND — Members of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition on Monday told the Jefferson County commissioners that Joe D’Amico has been making changes at the site of his proposed Cedar Hills Recreational Facility.

Peter Newland of Tarboo Bay and a member of the coalition said the organization filed complaints with the county Department of Community Development, the state Department of Ecology and the state Department of Natural Resources last week.

D’Amico said in an interview Monday morning he has done nothing wrong.

Newland said a drone flying at 350 feet captured photos of D’Amico’s property.

“There has been significant activity on the site during the [commercial shooting range] moratorium,” Newland said.

“Work has begun on what appears to exceed minimum thresholds that require permits from various agencies.

“Work has begun on what appears to be the first of three proposed 50-yard ranges. Various structures have been distributed across the property with at least seven major areas of disturbance, and the very high probability that drainage courses have been redirected and wetlands filled.”

D’Amico said there has not been any wetland disruption on his property.

“We can state, unequivocally, we did not fill in any wetlands,” D’Amico said in a phone interview Monday.

“We own that property and we have the right to groom our logging roads and make trails,” he said. “There are no permits needed if your land clearing is less than 7,500 square feet. I believe that is what we are allowed to do.”

Newland asked commissioners to do an “immediate on-the-ground inspection,” and said that it is “both appropriate and necessary” to confirm the extent of the violations.

“Once confirmed, stop-work orders should be issued to prevent further damage and remedial requirements and penalties should be imposed,” Newland said.

He believes the county commission’s rule-making authority is being challenged and said the coalition “believes it is incumbent on Jefferson County to vigorously demonstrate that even those who threaten you or make you fearful are not above the law.”

D’Amico said he was “putting in a grassy area out in front, picking up sticks, moving rocks out of the way, and that kind of stuff.”

He said the buildings were already built and they were just moved to the property.

Diane Johnson, a Dabob Bay resident and coalition member, suggested that if Fort Discovery Inc., D’Amico’s corporation behind the facility, resists an on-site inspection, “Jefferson County should seek as many court orders as necessary to allow state and local personnel on the site.”

“Construction crews routinely access the site by roads that are restricted by the Department of Transportation to commercial forestry use only,” Johnson said.

She also suggested that the assessor’s office should be included in the site inspections to determine if these parcels still quality for an “in holding forest” tax designation. If they do not, Johnson said, the property tax rate should be adjusted accordingly.

“I’m carrying on,” D’Amico said. “I have a right to do upkeep on my roads. I have my buildings here. Even if the county takes the position that they accept one kind of permit but not another, what drives that? Political opposition?”

“It’s just to be expected. It’s almost childish and silly.

“We look forward to being treated the same way as everyone else in this county.

“Surely if I nosed around on their property, I’d find an outbuilding too close to the water.”

Peter Bahls, a biologist and executive director of the Northwest Watershed Institute, suggested that wetlands have been filled based on his review of high resolution aerial photographs of the property property taken from March through Nov. 11.

“In my professional opinion, the photos clearly indicate a significant amount of clearing and grading has recently been done on the property and the wetlands have been filled,” he told commissioners.

The areas he studied totaled 1.8 acres, nearly double the 1-acre threshold of clearing and grading requirement for stormwater and general construction permits from the state Department of Ecology and more than 10 times the threshold for clearing and grading for a work permit by Jefferson County.

He said a comparison between the March and November photos indicates that wetlands have been heavily impacted in some of the clearing and grading zones and might have impacted both the water quality of Tarboo Lake and Tarboo Creek and wildlife, especially a variety of amphibian species that live in wetland ponds.

“To prevent further potential damage to public resources, the Northwest Watershed Institute requests the county immediately do an on-site inspection of the property to verify if violations have occurred and if so, post a stop-work order with penalties for non-compliance,” Bahls said.

D’Amico said, “This isn’t my first rodeo. The drones and airplanes and the spying on us is to be expected. This is just doing business as normal in Jefferson County. They try to discredit you with investigations and red tape.”

D’Amico was adamant about the future.

“There will be a shooting range out there soon. That’s what we are shooting for.”

Commissioner Kate Dean asked that County Administrator Philip Morley be briefed on the situation and the next steps the county will be taking.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].

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