PDN exclusive: Gregoire supports investigation of $59 million graving yard mistake

Saying that taxpayers deserve an explanation, Gov. Christine Gregoire will approach state legislators about forming a task force to investigate the closing of the Hood Canal Bridge graving yard project in Port Angeles.

“With $59 million lost, clearly taxpayers are entitled to some answers,” Gregoire said in a half-hour telephone interview with Peninsula Daily News.

“We can all benefit by learning lessons here.”

The state Department of Transportation last month shut down the graving yard — a huge on-shore dry dock where pontoons and anchors to rehabilitate the deteriorating eastern half of the Hood Canal Bridge were to be built — after more than 300 Native American remains, the ancient Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen and 13,000 artifacts dating back 2,700 years were uncovered.

“How could this not have been detected earlier — what was the process about?” Gregoire asked.

“When the (Lower Elwha Klallam) tribal chairwoman (Frances Charles) is telling me — and it very well may be true — that this is the largest find in the country, when something like this happens, my philosophy is, you’ve got to ask some questions here,” Gregoire said.

‘Very persuasive’

The idea of a task force that would look into the demise of the project “is very persuasive to me,” Gregoire said.

She was responding to suggestions from the Peninsula Daily News and community leaders in Port Angeles that her office should take the lead in answering how it was that so much money was spent with nothing to show for it but bruised feelings and lost jobs.

“You make a very telling case,” Gregoire said in her interview Wednesday with the PDN.

“If people there do not know what has happened, and have questions and want answers, they are entitled to that.

“That’s very persuasive to me, that there needs to be some questions answered and some answers delivered to the citizens of that community and taxpayers at large and elsewhere around the state,” Gregoire said.

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