PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County commissioners learned details of a proposal to expand two conservation areas within the county at their meeting Monday.
The proposal from the state Department of Natural Resources would expand Devil’s Lake Natural Resources Conservation Area by just over 400 acres and Dabob Bay Natural Area by almost 3,000 acres.
The Devil’s Lake expansion would be onto 415 acres of DNR managed trust land, with would put the boundary right up to Quilcene Bay.
Currently, the conservation area, which was dedicated in 2002, is 80 acres and includes the lake, wetlands, bog and the forests around the area, which has developed old growth characteristics thanks to its ability to survive multiple forest fires, according to the DNR proposal.
Of the two proposed areas, the smaller Devil’s Lake is the simplest to plan.
The much more expansive area around Dabob Bay is expected to be a long-term project, according to John Gamon of the DNR.
“We’re thinking out 50 years or 100 years and we want a large site that could be viable, where the ecosystem can grown into its own and be self sustaining,” said Gamon.
The proposed expansion area includes 940 acres of trust land and 2,700 acres of private land.
However, it would add lowland forests, an estuary and other ecologically significant areas to the already existing area.
The current Dabob conservation area was establish in 1984 to preserve the salt marshes and sand spit plant communities in the area, according to the DNR proposal.
It was enlarged in 2009 to its current boundaries on the north end of Dabob Bay.
The plan is to acquire adjoining parcels of land that hold ecological benefits for the conservation area from willing sellers.
Ideally the entire conservation area would eventually stretch across to Hood Canal and down the southeast side of Dabob Bay.
According to the DNR proposal, the area would protect mature coastal forests, coastal streams, fish spawning areas, eel grass beds, oyster beds, mudflats that are utilized by salmon and shorebirds, and open water.
According to Gamon, the hope is to fund the project using money from Washington State Wildlife and Recreation, trust land transfers and a matching fund with the U.S. Navy.
The commissioners had their concerns, mostly about the private property owners who would now be on or near the proposed conservation areas.
However, the proposal is still in its planning phases and changes will likely be made and issues addressed before it is presented to the public and before it is presented for approval later on.
“That’s exactly why I’m here today, to know your concerns and the concerns of your constituents,” said Gamon.
According to Gamon, there will be an informational meeting for the public Sept. 28 and a public hearing Oct. 13. Both meetings will be held in Quilcene but times and locations are still to be decided.