A loading dock and jetty, seen Wednesday, are among the few structures that remain intact at the former Rayonier mill site in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A loading dock and jetty, seen Wednesday, are among the few structures that remain intact at the former Rayonier mill site in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles Harbor cleanup completion target now stands at 2029-32

PORT ANGELES — The environmental cleanup of Port Angeles Harbor’s polluted sediment west of the former Rayonier Pulp Mill site might not be completed until at least 2029, more than three decades after the plant shut down, and could take until 2032, Port of Port Angeles and state Department of Ecology officials said this week.

North Olympic Peninsula residents have been waiting since 1997, when the mill shut down, for the 75-acre waterfront site, owned by Jacksonville, Fla.-based Rayonier Advanced Materials, also known as Rayonier AM, to be ready for some kind of development.

Port Executive Director Karen Goschen outlined the new timeline this week.

She said Wednesday that a western harbor cleanup plan will not be ready for implementation until 2022, with actual cleanup of the western harbor not completed for seven to 10 years after that — or by 2029-2032.

Under an agreed order with Ecology, it will be paid for by members of the Western Port Angeles Harbor Group, made up of Georgia-Pacific LLC, Nippon Paper Industries USA Co. Ltd., Merrill & Ring, the Port of Port Angeles, and the city of Port Angeles.

Nippon remains a signatory of the agreed order despite the sale of its Ediz Hook plant to McKinley Paper Co., Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s southwest region toxics cleanup manager, said Wednesday.

Goschen and Lawson, who agreed with Goschen’s maximum 10-year cleanup estimate, both said western harbor cleanup could cost $30 million to $60 million.

Rayonier AM will pay for cleanup of the adjacent eastern harbor area around the pulp mill site, and will complete the cleanup of the pulp mill uplands.

Rayonier Inc., which owned the property before Rayonier AM, had spent $26 million on cleanup as of 2011, a company official said in a 2011 interview with the Peninsula Daily News.

Company officials said that by 2006, about 90 percent of the contaminated soil at the site, which is largely covered by concrete, had been removed.

The cleanup of the eastern harbor and pulp mill uplands is proceeding along a separate path that could follow the same timeline as the western harbor, Goschen and Lawson said.

Lawson could not estimate how much the eastern harbor cleanup will cost Rayonier AM.

Comments from Rayonier AM on the project were unavailable Wednesday from a company spokesman.

Sediment cleanup would involve dredging and removal of polluted sediment, capping the polluted material with sand, or a combination of both, Lawson said.

“We’re not far enough along in determining what the actual remedy will be and what are the areas that need the remedy [to be] applied,” Lawson said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency gave cleanup oversight to Ecology in 2000 under an agreement among Ecology, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, whose village of Y’innis occupied the site in the 1800s.

In 2000, an Ecology official said cleanup would take four to six years.

In 2015, Lawson estimated cleanup completions by 2020.

In March, Lawson estimated cleanup by 2026.

The completion-by date jumped another five years this week.

“I don’t think anyone really anticipated the extent of contamination throughout the harbor or the new sediment management regulations,” Lawson said Wednesday.

“Also, when you look at a cleanup of this size and the in-water environment and start getting down in to the details and permits and how many months a year you can work and those sorts of things, you quickly see this will take multiple construction seasons to do.”

Goschen told Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting participants at their Tuesday breakfast meeting that the cleanup would take 10 years.

Goschen said the port would not consider having any role in the parcel’s future until after the cleanup is completed.

“Right now, it’s too far out to figure out what makes sense,” Goschen said at the meeting.

A big impediment: Year-round work is impossible due to “fish windows” that protect salmon, Lawson said.

Under state fish window rules, in-water work is prohibited from about mid-February to mid-July to protect migrating juvenile salmon, Chris Waldbillig, the assistant habitat program manager for Fish and Wildlife’s Region 6, which includes Clallam County, said Wednesday.

Lawson said the cleanup of the western and eastern portions of the harbor make up the biggest harbor sediment cleanup ever conducted in Ecology’s southwest region, which stretches from Clallam to Clark counties and includes the urban environs of King, Pierce and Thurston counties.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Karen Goschen

Karen Goschen

Rebecca Lawson

Rebecca Lawson

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