I’m very happy to report that the cleanup of Port Gamble Bay is now complete.
In January, crews — who began working on the site in 2015 — finished the cleanup work, which was being managed by Port Gamble’s owner, Pope Resources, and overseen by the state Department of Ecology.
Over the two-year cleanup, 70,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment and wood waste were dredged and removed. The project also broke records as one of the biggest creosote piling removal projects in the Puget Sound with more than 6,000 piles removed from the waters of the bay.
To meet the January 2017 deadline, crews worked day and night, confining excavation work to low tides. Dredging was also restricted to the cooler months to reduce the risk of contamination.
Throughout the cleanup, Port Gamble S’Klallam Natural Resources monitored the health of the bay. This included sampling mussel tissue for paralytic shellfish poisoning and testing for any changes in water quality. They also engaged in a multi-year study of herring embryos and stock to gauge how the forage fish fared before, during, and after the cleanup — particularly once creosote pilings were removed from the habitat.
Separate from the cleanup, but during the work, the S’Klallam Tribe headed up the debris removal project, which cleaned up tires, abandoned fishing gear, and scrap metal from the beaches and shores of Point Julia. Community members from the S’Klallam Tribe and volunteers from across the county lent their support, hauling items out from the mud and muck. The project also included the removal of several derelict vessels, a number of abandoned cars and the old Point Julia pier.
Going forward, the Tribe and Ecology will work together to continue to monitor the bay and its recovery.
I would like to thank the Department of Ecology, Pope Resources and all the various contractors and crews who worked on this project. This has been a long time coming and all it takes is a glance at a before-and-after comparison of the mill site to see what a drastic change has been made.
I also want to extend a big thank you to the community members and concerned citizens who voiced their support for the bay’s cleanup. With the cleanup of the bay complete, my Tribe can feel safer in knowing that the bay will continue to be here to feed and support us for generations to come.
— Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. He writes a column for the Kingston Community News, a Kitsap News Group publication. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org