PORT GAMBLE — “In 1995, the mill closed in Port Gamble, and it seemed like a simple thing,” Olympic Property Group President Jon Rose said Sept. 25.
“Everybody loved Port Gamble [and wanted] to get Port Gamble back up on its feet.Bringing the town back to life has been a 22-year effort, with every step being very, very challenging.”
But one challenging step is behind them, because Kitsap Public Utility District’s Resource Recovery Facility is officially open and operational.
This wastewater-treatment facility replaces the old Port Gamble plant with a new, state-of-the-art Membrane Bio-Reactor plant, which treats wastewater to a high enough degree that it can be reused for other purposes.
Currently, that treated water is returned to the groundwater and streamflow system, but other reuse purposes will likely be considered in the future.
No longer is treated wastewater discharged into Hood Canal, thus reopening 90 acres of shellfish beds.
Celina Abercrombie of the Department of Ecology, said, “This has turned into just a remarkable project in all aspects.”
The Department of Ecology is one of many that had a hand in getting the facility open.
“Ultimately, we are so happy to be restoring and improving both surface water and groundwater resources,” Abercrombie said. “In particular, those 90 acres of geoduck beds just north of Hood Canal that have been closed for many decades will finally have the opportunity to reopen, and that’s something that I think the public and Tribes and visitors and residents all alike can really be proud of and have something to look forward to.”
Other groups who had a hand in the completion of this project include the Department of Health, Kitsap County Health Department, Kitsap County Public Works, Jefferson County Public Woreks, Mason County Public Utility District No. 3, the City of Poulsbo, Silverdale Water District, Olympic Property Group and Kitsap Public Utility District, with legislative support from Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-23rd District.
“This is really one of those feel-good projects that was done all for the right reasons, water resource management,” Kitsap PUD Board President Jim Civilla said.
Kitsap PUD General Manager Bob Hunter said this $5.3 million project started in 2014 and took “probably a year-and-a-half too long,” from getting all the involved organizations on the same page to working through one of the rainiest winters on record.
“It takes a unique group of people to get the number of agencies together,” Hunter said, “and get them all thinking the same direction. One of the staff at Kitsap PUD was the leader on that, John Poppe (plant manager). He absolutely pushed forward and made sure that all of us were continuing to do our best to make it work.”
Aside from getting cohesiveness from many agencies, this project also required two things: KPUD’s ability to get wastewater treatment authority, granted by voters in 2015, and funding. The Department of Ecology provided a $2 million grant; the remaining $3.3 million came from Olympic Property Group.
“When we first decided that we might do this, plenty of other managers across the state of Washington asked me, ‘Why would you do that?’ ” Hunter said. “The answer to that is, primarily, Kitsap PUD’s goal has been water resource management for Kitsap County, the Kitsap Peninsula. Our challenge has always been, how do we serve the people while causing as little impact to our environment as possible?
“Port Gamble was an opportunity to do something rather than just talk about it,” he said. “We are no longer wasting the treated water into the Hood Canal. We’re putting it back into the ground to serve our streams and our aquifers. That’s the primary reason why we got into this business.”
Hunter said the project was really all “about resiliency and sustainability.”
“It’s about recycling of our resources,” he said. “Water comes out of the ground, people use it, and we treat it to a level you could almost drink it straight out of the treatment, and then we get it back into the ground … It’ll be an example for many more communities in Kitsap to adopt if it’s needed, and that’s really the important part.”
And so, on Sept. 25, after three years and $5.3 million, Rose cut a bright yellow ribbon of caution tape to officially open the Port Gamble Resource Recovery Facility, at 4110 Carver Road in Port Gamble.
“It’s a very happy day to see this plant operating, and operating well,” Rose said.