PORT TOWNSEND — A meeting next week will address the planned removal of the iconic Lombardy poplar trees along Sims Way in Port Townsend.
The virtual meeting will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday. To participate, go to www.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID 826 6135 6962. The passcode is 568098.
To listen only, call 253-215-8782 or tune into to KPTZ 91.9 FM radio.
The removal of the poplar trees, which were planted some six decades ago, is part of the $2 million Sims Gateway Tree Project, which also will include undergrounding power lines, installing a multi-use path, replanting the area with native trees, expanding the boatyard at Boat Haven and associated permitting, officals said in a press release.
About 130 poplar trees are to be removed due to safety concerns and economic development plans, including the needs of the Kah Tai Lagoon side of Sims Way, the release said.
During the joint town hall, officials with the City of Port Townsend, the Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD) and the Port of Port Townsend will give brief overviews of each element of the project and then be on hand to answer questions and hear community perspectives, officials said.
“The goal of the town hall meeting is to ensure a more comprehensive and common understanding of the elements of the project, overall scope, rationale and objectives, costs, status and timeline as well as to incorporate ideas and feedback from the wider community into project planning,” the release said.
The joint project is led by the port and the PUD, with the city participating as a supporting partner.
Costs are expected to be $700,000 for the PUD, $900,000 for the port and $370,000 for the city.
The agencies applied for a Jefferson County Public Infrastructure Grant of $1 million to offset the overall estimated cost, with the city providing a $100,000 match.
The trees on the port side of the road have been known to contribute to overhead powerlines sparking and have been causing concerns about public safety, officials said.
“This is a great opportunity to leverage our collective strengths as agencies in partnership to make a generational improvement with lasting benefits,” port Executive Director Eron Berg said in the release. “In particular, expansion of the boatyard will be very helpful for our maritime industry by providing more space for boat projects.
“It is also vitally important to the port that the safety concerns about the close proximity of the boatyard and the 115 kilovolt power lines is addressed.”
PUD General Manager Kevin Streett said the agency has two issues.
“We have boats and masts making contact with powerlines, and we have a whole row of trees that have grown right up into the powerlines,” he said in the release.
To solve the problems, the PUD intends to remove the trees and bury the power lines.
“Removing the trees takes away our concerns about fire and outages,” Streett said. “Undergrounding the power ensures no more boats come in contact with high-voltage lines and gives the port room to expand the boat yard.
“It’s a win-win as far as the PUD is concerned.”
The city understands the tree-lined section of Sims Way is an iconic feature to Port Townsend along with Boat Haven and Kah Tai Lagoon, the release said.
“Our amazing natural assets are deeply important to so many people in our community,” said City Manager John Mauro. “The poplar trees, especially now, are simply beautiful.
“That said, we’re also thinking ahead so that a future tree-lined entrance to Port Townsend isn’t a liability for electricity supply and safety or a hindrance for our maritime industry, but something that remains stunning, accessible and iconic — a project that our community can be proud of for 100 years onward.”
More information on the project can by found on the city’s webpage at cityofpt.us/publicworks/project/sims-way-gateway-tree-project.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]