Port of Port Angeles reaches $1.7 million settlement for harbor restoration

Commissioners mark ‘milestone,’ say more work lies ahead

PORT ANGELES — The Port of Port Angeles has reached a $1.7 million settlement that will help fund the restoration of western Port Angeles Harbor, Executive Director Karen Goschen said.

Port commissioners reviewed the federal Natural Resource Damages settlement without objection in a special meeting Monday.

Commissioners described the pact as a “huge milestone” for the port.

“I feel like we should pop a bottle of champagne or something,” Commissioner Steve Burke said.

The port’s share of the settlement will be covered by insurance, Goschen said.

“We all believe that this is a good and fair settlement,” Goschen added.

The agreement is part of an overall $8.5 million settlement to restore habitat in western Port Angeles Harbor. It was made a “trustee council” of federal, state and tribal authorities.

Georgia-Pacific, Nippon Paper Industries USA, Merrill & Ring and Owens Corning each joined the port in paying a $1.7 million share of the $8.5 million settlement. The city of Port Angeles, which also was named as a potentially liable party, reached a separate $800,000 settlement with the trustee council.

The trustee council is composed of the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam and the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Ecology.

The Port Angeles City Council approved the city’s settlement Feb. 2. The city’s share of the restoration also will be paid by insurance.

Port commission review of the settlement was delayed from a March 9 meeting in which technical difficulties made it impossible for the public to participate via Zoom.

No members of the public testified on the settlement Monday.

The western harbor restoration is separate from the Ecology-led, decades-old effort to clean up the contaminated Rayonier mill site.

Port Commissioner Connie Beauvais said the settlement would give the trustees an opportunity to manage restoration projects themselves.

“This may not seem like a big deal, but it really is a huge milestone in the big picture of cleaning up the western part of the harbor,” Beauvais said.

“This does not speak to cleaning up the harbor,” she added.

“That is a whole separate, much longer process that is going to be taking place.

“This is for damages that have been incurred, and this is to pay the stakeholders, the trustees, for those damages,” Beauvais said.

In 2013, the western harbor trustees informed the city and Port of Port Angeles that they were on the hook for natural resource damages.

Port commissioners directed Goschen to negotiate the settlement. Goschen described the negotiation as a “long, complex process.”

“The fact that we have made some progress is really a very, very big milestone,” Goschen said.

Commissioner Colleen McAleer said the western harbor restoration had been a long-standing issue for the port.

“I’ve been hearing about this for 10 years-plus and worrying about it, and it’s just really nice that we have come to this milestone,” McAleer said in the special meeting.

“I’m very glad that we’re close to having this in our rearview mirror.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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