Clallam County left with glimmer of hope — building some floating bridge concrete anchors

OLYMPIA — Clallam County prospects to build replacement parts for the Hood Canal Bridge seemed to dim further Wednesday when the state Department of Transportation ranked 18 sites proposed for a new graving yard.

None of the top choices is in Clallam County, where the first graving yard was idled mid-construction in December.

Transportation’s top choice is the Port of Everett’s South Terminal.

Second is the Mats Mats Bay quarry in Jefferson County.

Third is a partnership of a Tacoma concrete works and two Seattle shipyards.

Fourth is a site on Discovery Bay.

Not until seventh place does a Clallam County location — the Rayonier Inc. site in Port Angeles — appear on the rankings list.

The Makah tribe’s bid for its site on Neah Bay is in 12th place.

At 13th place is the LaFarge North America former clay quarry at Twin River, 20 miles west of Port Angeles.

The Port of Port Angeles’ Terminal 7 — which Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald last month said might be used to build concrete anchors for the bridge — is 15th.

“[Transportation] also continues to investigate with the project contractor, Kiewit-General of Poulsbo, the building of bridge anchors in the Port Angeles area,” said the agency’s Olympic Region communications manager, Lloyd Brown.

Anchors at Terminal 7

A source close to Transportation said the department will push to build anchors at Terminal 7, the former chip dock for what is now Nippon Paper Industries USA.

The concrete anchors could be built without excavating the site, lifted by crane onto barges and towed to Hood Canal.

However, Brown said the agency now will concentrate on developing plans for each of the three “front-runner” sites.

“Any consideration of other sites will be suspended until the next phase of work can be completed for the three sites that now seem most likely,” he said.

Eric Soderquist, Hood Canal Bridge project manager, said: “There may be other proposals that should not be completely ruled out, but these three now seem to provide the best chance of getting pontoon construction under way most quickly.”

The Everett, Mats Mats, and Tacoma/Seattle sites were listed as “preferred,” based on engineering and environmental criteria listed in the 42-page report released Wednesday.

The Rayonier site was one of four listed as “acceptable.” The Neah Bay, Twin River and Terminal 7 locations were termed “high risk.”

Muted reaction in PA

Reaction from Port Angeles city and civic leaders was muted compared to their public positions after work on the former graving yard stopped two months ago.

“It’s unfortunate,” City Councilman Larry Williams said.

“I really believe they don’t know what they are missing in terms of what we can provide them up here.

“We’ll just have to wait and see what the next development is,” Williams said.

“They still have a site in Port Angeles,” said Councilwoman Karen Rogers.

“We still have work to do. We’re going to keep working on Port Angeles.”

Russ Veenema, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped Gov. Christine Gregoire’s urging the Department of Transportation to keep at least part of the work on the North Olympic Peninsula will have an effect.

And Deputy Mayor Gary Braun said: “I hope they do the anchors if we’re not in the running for the whole project.

“Put some people to work, and heal some of the hurt.”

Union representative

Roger Daignault, business representative of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, echoed Braun’s hopes for a site to build anchors at Terminal 7.

“I want all the work to still stay here. At least we’re going to get part of it, I hope,” Daignault said.

Although Terminal 7 is too small to build pontoons for the bridge, it “may be suitable for an anchor construction and launch facility,” according to the report.

Docks at the location, just west of Boat Haven, “could be used for mooring pontoons and anchors.”

However, the site would require a cultural resource assessment, the report said.

The 15 acres at Terminal 7 are adjacent to the former graving yard, where workers uncovered burials and artifacts of the Klallam ancestral village of Tse-whit-zen.

Archaeological discoveries eventually led the tribe on Dec. 10 to urge Transportation to halt the project.

The department concurred Dec. 21 and began searching for a new site the next day.

Rayonier site

As for Rayonier Properties, the real estate arm of Rainier Inc., the site of its former pulp mill has existing power, employee parking and a 4½-acre dock where pontoons could be moored and outfitted, the Transportation report said.

Furthermore, it could accommodate a facility nearly identical to the former graving yard “and keep graving dock, pontoon and anchor construction in Port Angeles.”

The yard could be built on 25 to 30 acres of fill material on the site’s west side and thus avoid disturbing either the Ennis Creek ancestral Klallam village or the remains of an 1887 settler colony, the report said.

“From a constructability standpoint, the property has excellent potential,” the report said.

However, it noted the site contains contaminated soil, groundwater and sediment that make it a Model Toxics Control Act cleanup site.

The 100 acres at Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation, enjoys strong community support, the report says.

However, a graving yard there would have to be built on tidelands and require extensive dredging of shallow channel waters.

Furthermore, Neah Bay has limited materials, supplies, potable water, and labor, the report says.

And it receives an annual 100 to 140 inches of rain that could delay construction.

The LaFarge clay quarry site, at 210 acres, is large enough to accommodate bridge pontoon and anchor construction, but it also can be exposed to severe weather conditions, the report said.

“The site lacks any facilities other than a 300-foot-wide by 600-foot-long earthen pier,” the document added.

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