Tribe fears pollution from temporary ferry during Hood Canal Bridge closure

PORT GAMBLE — Fearing that their historic shellfish beds could be polluted, Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal leaders are working with state Transportation officials to address the potential environmental effects of a temporary ferry dock for the May 2009 construction closure of Hood Canal Bridge.

“We’re concerned about the effects on reservation beaches, plus the entrances to Port Gamble and Port Gamble Bay,” said Port Gamble Tribal Chairman Ron Charles on Tuesday.

“It affects not only the tribe, but the community as a whole.”

Specifically, Charles said the tribe has told state Department of Transportation officials that a passenger ferry docking at Port Gamble planned for six weeks during the Hood Canal Bridge project could stir up pollutants at the dock site, and send them into two miles of tribal clam, oyster and geoduck beds that line the bay.

The shellfish beds are shared with regional tribes, including the Lower Elwha Klallam and the Jamestown S’Klallam in Clallam County.

The ferry dock, as proposed, would be built at the site of the former Pope and Talbot lumber mill, which operated from 1853 to 1995.

Passengers would be shuttled by ferry from South Point in Jefferson County, south of the Hood Canal Bridge, to Port Gamble.

“We’re interested in seeing the whole area cleaned up,” Charles said.

“And it’s unclear to us what the cleanup plan is.

“The tipping point that we think of is shellfish closures, which is a really delicate balance here.”

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