Support mounts for probe of Port Angeles graving yard miscues

PORT ANGELES — The push for an investigation of the Port Angeles graving yard by a governor’s task force has gathered support from Port Angeles and state legislative political leaders.

Gov. Christine Gregoire said she would approach lawmakers about investigating how $59 million was wasted on the now-abandoned state Department of Transportation project.

Port Angeles Mayor Richard Headrick and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles both support a task force investigation.

They echoed sentiments that Gregoire expressed last week when she said the argument for a task force “is very persuasive to me.”

“With $59 million lost, clearly taxpayers are entitled to some answers,” Gregoire told the Peninsula Daily News in a telephone interview.

“You make a very telling case,” she told the PDN after the newspaper suggested that a task force reporting to the governor look into what went wrong.

State legislators representing Clallam and Jefferson counties — Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce, Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam — said they liked Gregoire’s call for an investigation.

“I’m pleased that she thinks there needs to be an explanation,” said Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce.

Kessler noted that legislators have been calling for an inquiry into what went wrong for some time.

“We’d asked for that investigation,” she said.

“How did the project get this far, and why, if all the (archaeological) tests were done?

“Wouldn’t you do a little more thorough search? I just don’t know how they missed it.”

Gregoire plans to meet with Buck, Kessler and Hargrove this week to discuss a task force investigation, Jerry Gilliland, a Gregoire spokesman, said Friday.

“She’s deeply concerned,” Gilliland said.

Task force ‘long overdue’

Said Headrick: “I agree with what the governor said, that we need to find some answers.”

Lower Elwha chairwoman Charles said a task force “is something that is long overdue” and that a pre-construction archaeological survey should have given an indication that the 22-acre site held the ancient Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen, with hundreds of buried human remains and thousands of artifacts.

Charles said Friday she is still waiting to hear back from Transportation on suggested dates for agency and tribal officials to meet to discuss the disposition of 30,000 cubic yards of excavated material still piled in mounds at the site.

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