PORT ANGELES — A Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan to compensate the public for damages to polluted Port Angeles Harbor and to revive its habitat will be discussed at an online meeting Wednesday evening hosted by those responsible for conducting the renewal.
“The public is only made whole under the law when we actually get to restoration, and it’s exciting to be able to start this journey,” the report’s principle author, Restoration Ecologist Paul Cereghino with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Monday.
“We are actively looking for public input to help make the restoration plan as good as it can be.”
The National Resource Damage Assessment trustees hosting the meeting are the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Ecology.
The session, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., can be accessed at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8316440284408507404 or by calling 213-929-4212 and entering access code 591-322-200.
The trustees’ intent is to address “a legacy of contaminated sediments,” according to the damage assessment and restoration plan, citing a litany of industrial activities that have fouled the largest natural deep-water harbor on the West Coast.
“A history of plywood, pulp, and paper manufacturing, marine shipping, boat building and refurbishing, fueling facilities, marinas, commercial fishing, stormwater and sewer discharge, and process wastewater discharge has led to discharges of petrochemicals, organic toxins, heavy metals, and other hazardous substances,” the plan says.
The deadline for the comments on the plan and two consent decrees involving a financial settlement between the trustees and potentially liable parties is April 26. Email comments to [email protected]
According to NOAA, the settlement totals $9.3 million, with $8.5 million set aside to “restore the pollution-impacted resources” in that portion referred to as the western harbor, by far the bulk of Port Angeles Harbor.
The wishbone-shaped portion encompasses waters from the McKinley Paper Company mill — at the center of the curve at Marine Drive — east to the tip of Ediz Hook and just west of the former Rayonier Corp. pulp mill.
The pulp mill’s adjacent waters are being cleaned up and restored in a separate action that, like the western harbor cleanup, is being conducted under the state Model Toxics Control Act and restored under National Resource Damage Assessment process. Rayonier Corp. is liable for cleanup and restoration of the mill property’s nearby waters.
One consent decree is between the trustees and Port of Port Angeles, Georgia-Pacific LLC, Merrill & Ring Inc., Owens Corning and Nippon Paper Industries USA Co., Ltd., owned by McKinley.
The other decree is between the trustees and the city of Port Angeles.
The plan and consent decrees are available at Ecology’s website, ecology.wa.gov, at the agency’s Port Angeles Harbor NRDA webpage.
“Six generations of development have greatly degraded the natural resources of Port Angeles Harbor. Recreational access and education would be much less likely to recover degraded natural resources than Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan ecological restoration,” according to the plan.
“Those resources are under continued threat by climate change, population growth, and shoreline development. CERCLA [the Comprehensive Environmental Remediation Comprehensive Liability Act] requires the replacement of ecosystem services lost. That replacement will only occur under a coordinated ecological restoration effort.”
Ecology is negotiating to conduct remedial work that “will return the harbor, over time, to baseline conditions (those conditions which would exist in the harbor should the toxic release not have occurred).”
Potential restoration activities include beach restoration, debris removal including “extensive fields of subtidal wood waste from log rafting,” sediment replacement and installing stream-simulation culverts to mimic fish passage to restore salmon and other stock.
It includes invasive species control, native plantings and forest management, channel and bank restoration, access management, subtidal planting and wetland restoration.
The cleanup process that will precede restoration is “at least a couple of years out, two or three years,” Ecology Southwest Region Manager Rebecca Lawson said Monday.
“The Western Harbor Group is in the process of developing a cleanup action plan.”
Those in the Western Harbor group are the same parties as the signatories to the consent decrees.
“I don’t want people to think there is this big, definitive plan for all the money to go to restoration of the harbor,” Lawson said.
Because the body of water is a working harbor, restoration could be limited, she warned.
“Some of those projects might be outside the harbor. We don’t want people to think the $8.5 million settlement can only be used for restoration within Port Angeles Harbor.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].