Approved Navy easement blocks Hood Canal development

Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, WA), 2014-07-07


July 07 -- OLYMPIA -- A conservation easement, designed to block future industrial development on Hood Canal , has been signed by Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark and Mike Brady , representing the Navy .

The Navy will pay $720,000 for the easement, which precludes commercial projects that extend out into the water.

The easement covers a strip of land below the low-tide mark, specifically from 18 feet below the average low tide to 70 feet down. About 4,800 acres are covered by the easement, which extends from the Hood Canal bridge to just south of the Jefferson - Mason County line near Eldon.

It has been widely speculated that the easement will block construction of the controversial pit-to-pier project, a proposal to move sand and gravel by conveyor to the Hood Canal shoreline in Jefferson County , where a 990-foot pier would be built for loading ships and barges. Officials with Thorndyke Resource, the company proposing the project, have said such an easement would not be legal, because it would preclude navigation and commerce.

The company is moving ahead with the project, and Jefferson County planners recently released an environmental impact statement describing its various effects on people and the environment.

Matthew Randazzo , senior adviser to Goldmark, said officials with the Department of Natural Resources will not comment on any specific proposal, such as the pit-to-pier project, "but this easement will prevent any new large-scale industrial or commercial development in the footprint of this easement."

The easement will not affect public access, privately owned lands, recreational uses, aquaculture or geoduck harvest.

"This agreement will buffer important military operating areas in Hood Canal and ensure the long-term stability of the Navy's presence at Naval Base Kitsap , which will sustain the jobs that depend on the Navy's continued presence in the region, Goldmark said in a prepared statement.

"This agreement will also provide new protections for sensitive marine ecosystems and safeguard public access to Hood Canal ," he added.

Capt. Tom Zwolfer , commanding officer of Naval Base Kitsap , said the agreement will help protect the Navy's operating areas for the next 55 years.

"These ranges and military operating areas are crucial for military readiness and national defense," he said. "This transaction represents a substantial step toward readiness sustainment for the Navy ."

A news release issued by the Department of Natural Resources includes written comments from local conservation groups:

Mike Stevens , Washington state director of The Nature Conservancy : "With this action, we are changing the future for Hood Canal . Commissioner Goldmark and the Navy have shown profound foresight and historic leadership by preventing destructive development across a huge swath of Puget Sound bedlands. Orcas, oysters, and people should all rejoice."

Paul Kundtz , Washington state director of The Trust for Public Land : "This is a win-win-win for Hood Canal's natural resources, its traditional economy, and the Navy's vital mission delivery. We congratulate Commissioner Goldmark, the team at the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Navy on another significant success in our ongoing efforts to conserve the Hood Canal ."

John Fabian , who leads the Hood Canal Coalition : "I'm sure I speak for all members of the Hood Canal Coalition when I say that we are delighted that Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark and the United States Navy have been able to conclude this historic agreement to protect Hood Canal."

This story will be updated today as new information becomes available.

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