In 2015, the long-awaited Port Gamble Bay cleanup — managed by the Department of Ecology — is slated to begin. While it’s exciting to see this project finally get under way, work toward a healthy bay has been ongoing, including significant efforts in 2014.
Port Gamble Bay Debris Project
In June, my Tribe, the Port Gamble S’Klallam (PGST), kicked off the Port Gamble Bay Debris Removal Project, cleaning up garbage and debris from private and public beaches and shorelines.
This also included the removal of the Point Julia pier this past October. Many of our community members — myself included — have fond memories of that pier, but tearing it down was the right thing to do. It had outlived its usefulness with creosote pilings that posed human and habitat health issues.
The Debris Removal Project is in its final stages and is expected to wrap up during the first quarter of 2015.
Herring Embryo Study
At one time, the herring stock in Port Gamble Bay was quite impressive. As recently as 2000, the spawning biomass estimate was 2,500 tons or a staggering 5 million pounds!
Since then, the numbers have begun to decrease dramatically. In 2008, the stock hit a record low of less than 10 percent of the population a decade before.
The question, of course, is why? There are a lot of theories — pollution and hypoxia top the list — but a study funded by the Department of Ecology and managed by PGST Natural Resources is attempting to shed some light.
Herring embryos are ideal indicators for the presence of contaminants. In a field study, though, herring embryos are tough to manage: not only is spawning relegated to a slim window in the middle of winter, eggs are a food source for a number of natural predators.
Our current study offers a solution: cages to protect embryos alongside doppelgangers — plastic counterfeit “embryos” that mimic the accumulation of contaminants in real herring.
The results of this study are being analyzed and will provide a baseline indicator of the health of the bay’s herring stocks. Particular attention is being paid to how these numbers shift after the removal of creosote pilings from around the bay — particularly at the mill site — during Ecology’s 2015 cleanup. The good news is similar scenarios have shown immediate benefits.
Kitsap Forest & Bay Project
By now, you’ve likely heard of the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project — a joint partnership between PGST, Suquamish, Kitsap County, land conservators Great Peninsula Conservancy and Forterra, and land owner Pope Resources — to conserve land and shoreline in north Kitsap County.
This past year saw several significant victories including the acquisition of the first parcel of land: the 535-acre shoreline block. This property, which includes 1.5 miles of shoreline on the western side of the bay, is now owned by Kitsap County.
The lead-up to the purchase included closing a $44,000 funding gap. My Tribe donated a significant portion and $8,000 came from the first-ever KFBP public fundraising campaign, which reached 128 percent of its goal in just 48 hours!
Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged the purchase at a private ceremony in Olympia and, later, it was celebrated during a public event attended by Sen. Christine Rolfes, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, and retired Sen. Phil Rockefeller.
An effort is now under way to finalize the purchase of land around Grovers Creek. This piece of property has old-growth trees, extensive wetlands, and significant reaches of the creek itself. A grant is in place to help purchase the land, but the money requires a one-to-one match. I and other principal partners are now serving on a committee that will work to find sources of additional funding, which will hopefully be secured during the first part of 2015.
I would also like to acknowledge the ongoing work of KFBP’s community coalition. They have been dedicated to this project from the start and continue to champion it and keep it in the public eye.
A further thanks to everyone — from PGST Natural Resources’ leaders and biologists to our KFBP principal and legislative partners — who have worked tirelessly to protect and restore Port Gamble Bay, whose future continues to grow brighter.
— Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.