Poulsbo-based Fred Hill Materials announced innovative plans to build a four-mile conveyor belt that would haul gravel and sand from its Shine quarry to a marine pier on Hood Canal, where it would be shipped out.
The proposed pier would be located about five miles south of the Hood Canal Bridge, and about 2 miles west of the Lofall ferry dock on the western shore of Hood Canal. The nearest Kitsap point would be the Edgewater Estates.
The proposed conveyer belt and pier would allow Fred Hill to ship sand and gravel by water to the rest of the West Coast, reducing the number of trucks it now puts on the road.The project’s estimated cost is $15 million.The company has also promised to donated a half million tons of sand from the quarry to restore Puget Sound beaches.
The conveyor belt route would be through an area that is mainly forest land owned by Pope Resources.
The pier’s location avoids critically sensitive areas such as eel grass beds and geoduck habitats, according to Dan Baskins, a spokesperson for Fred Hill Materials.
Some neighboring residents have raised concerns about dust and noise.
Alex Hill, chief operating officer of Fred Hill Materials, said the nearest resident would be several hundred feet away from the conveyor belt and the noise itself is not a problem.
“You can stand next to one and have a whisper conversation,” he said.
According to Baskins, there will be a long public review process to address environmental and other concerns. Jefferson County would most likely be the lead agency on this project. An environmental impact statement would also be written.
Based on permitting cycles it is likely to take from three to 10 years to get to the construction phase of the project.
Fred Hill officials said they are pleased to announce their plans after nearly two years of research.
“From a business standpoint it’s a tremendous opportunity to reach new regional market opportunities,” Hill said.
“Transporting sand and gravel by marine vessels makes sense compared to the alternative of putting that many trucks on the bridge and local roads,” Hill said. A single vessel could carry as much sand as 2,000 trucks.
The project also offers opportunities to the Puget Sound Restoration Fund whose mission in part is to restore about 800 miles of beaches. Fred Hill Materials has agreed to give the non-profit group 500,000 tons of sand and gravel over a five-year period. About 17 miles of beach could be restored.
“This is a huge opportunity to do work on a much larger scale,” said Betsy Peabody, the executive director for the restoration fund.
Beach restoration is ideally done in drift cell increments — the distance between where the erosion takes place to where the sediment ends up. This could cover a fraction of or several miles.
Peabody said this method of restoration is the most recommended way, but the group hasn’t had enough sand to take on the task.
Other groups are a little more tentative before showing their support or opposition to the project.
Al Adams, who served and executive director for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and is now a board member, said the group knows only the broadstroke definition of the project.
“Anything of that extent has the potential to have a big impact,” he said stressing the word potential.
He added that while the marine pier’s impacts on the habitat are not clear, the Hood Canal’s nearshore habitat has not been researched enough.
“We’re not opposed to good business practices, but we are opposed to bad resource management,” he said.
Adams anticipates the salmon enhancement group will be part of the public discussions associated with the project. Public forum dates about this have not yet been announced, but are planned to begin in a few months.
Fred Hill Materials is a third generation family business which has been in operation since 1946. About 30 jobs will be created at the Shine quarry because of this project. The company currently has 108 employees at its four concrete plants and three mining operations in Poulsbo, Port Townsend, Sequim, Shine, and in south Kitsap.