PORT ANGELES — An imposing, abandoned vestige of the Rayonier pulp mill’s legacy will be demolished starting in mid-June.
Workers will begin to remove the concrete panels of a 1,050-foot-long dock that juts into Port Angeles Harbor east of downtown the week of June 13 and are expected to complete it in July, pier owner Rayonier A.M. announced last week. Some of the panels were removed in November. This will finish the job.
Work at the 75-acre site, which is located within the city limits, will include removal of a warehouse on the 250-foot-wide pier and a 120-foot-long, 14-foot-wide railroad trestle across Ennis Creek.
Workers operating barge-based equipment will remove the panels and place them into barges before they are transported to the site and stacked for potential future reuse, according to the company’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist.
Timber debris will be transported off-site for disposal or recycling, while warehouse materials, including those with asbestos, “will be properly managed and disposed of off-site,” according to the checklist.
Trestle debris will be transferred to temporary stockpiles before being trucked off-site for disposal.
The project is part of a cleanup that’s in its 21st year.
Demolition was delayed from startup this week due to contractor scheduling issues, Rayonier A.M. spokesperson Ryan Houck said Friday in an email.
About 800 dock panels will be removed, said Joe Smillie, aquatics program communications manager for the state Department of Natural Resources, which manages the public land on which the dock sits and Rayonier A.M.’s lease to use it.
More than 5,000 toxic, decay-preventing creosote pilings will remain, spiking upward for the foreseeable future, a reminder of more than a century of timber-based manufacturing on a site that before that held the Lower Elwha Klallam village of Y’innis.
The creosote pilings are under the dock and buttress a rock jetty and breakwater.
That does not include several hundred pilings, the exact number of which is unknown, used for support for the foundation and for other pilings.
Pilings won’t be removed until 2023, when polluted sediment is dealt with as part of the company’s overall cleanup of the eastern harbor, predicted Rebecca Lawson, head of the Department of Ecology’s regional toxics cleanup program, said Friday.
“The dock is so big I don’t thing they can remove it all in one construction season,” Lawson said, adding that salmon migration restrictions limit in-water work such as piling extraction to four-six months a year.
Mill site owner Rayonier A.M. Properties LLC, a branch of Rayonier A.M., which split off from Rayonier in 2014, is removing the decking as part of its lease obligation with DNR.
“Part of the condition of the lease is cleaning [the property] up, as it is in most of our leases,” Smillie said.
“When you wind down a lease, we want you to restore it as best you can.”
Rayonier shut down March 1, 1997, after operating for 68 years on a site where other mills churned out wood products and toxins as well as creating jobs since the mid-1800s.
The federal government announced Feb. 1, 2000, that Rayonier’s “moderately contaminated” site was not toxic enough to warrant Superfund status and handed cleanup oversight to Ecology.
“‘The mill buildings themselves were taken down many years ago,” Lawson said.
“This is the first visible activity in quite a long time.”
A company official was not provided for an interview about the project or overall cleanup of the site, which will cost the company an estimated $26.6 million.
Overall cleanup will include vaporizing tainted groundwater by air sparging, dredging a log pond and dredging toxic sediment under the dock.
Dock removal is also meant to stem the incursion of homeless people who have gravitated to the fenced-off private property for shelter.
They are suspected of causing a March 5, 2019 fire that took firefighters nine hours to squelch and burned about 3,000 square feet. Authorities deemed the blaze accidental.
“The project’s purpose is to improve safety by clearing deteriorated decking and preventing trespassers from accessing the dock or trestle,” Houck said in the email.
“No in-water structures will be removed. Work will be performed using a floating derrick barge and a material barge supported by an upland crane for material offload. The project is slated to continue through July.”
The 6-acre dock, long reported to be 4 acres, is being dismantled and an adjacent jetty removed as part of Rayonier A.M. closing out its lease with DNR, Lawson said
Debris will not be allowed to enter the water or wetland around Ennis Creek, according to the sSEPA checklist filled out by a Rayonier A.M. representative and submitted to the city Department of Community and Economic Development. The agency issued a determination of nonsignificance for the project May 11.
“They will probably have to do another one when they do the rest of the work,” City Community Development Manager Emma Bolin said Friday.
She said Rayonier A.M. has been issued demolition and waste permits.
Construction will occur only during daytime hours.
The SEPA checklist included a general rundown of pollution at the site and its impact on harbor resources.
“All investigations showed exceedances of state sediment management standards, exceedances in tissue samples, and water samples for multiple constituents of potential concern, both in upland investigations, investigations in Ennis Creek, and in the marine environment adjacent to the mill,” it said.
“Recreational and commercial shellfish harvest is closed due to pollution, and the consumption of rockfish and crabs is recommended to be limited due to high levels of PCBs and dioxins.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected]