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Pit to Pier Project (Resolved)

Pit to Pier Project – The Thorndyke Resource Project, nicknamed “pit-to-pier,” is a proposal that would move gravel from an extraction area near the former Fred Hill Materials Shine gravel pit along a 4-mile-long conveyor belt to a 1,000-foot pier at Hood Canal where it would be loaded on barges for shipping.

Pit to Pier drawinig

Pit to Pier drawinig

Thorndyke has not been issued a permit to build the pier, but the company has a vested application with Jefferson County, having applied in 2003.

Located five miles south of the Hood Canal Bridge, the proposed 1000-foot long pier, rising 80 feet above the water, would be constructed to load very large ocean-going barges and ships, which would have to pass under or through the Bridge to deliver sand and gravel to Canada, Oregon and California. The Shine pit would be greatly expanded in size and depth.

The proposal would mainly affect Jefferson County, but many of us in OPAS consider Hood Canal to be part of our “back yard” and are concerned about this project’s many probable impacts. OPAS is particularly concerned about the likely impacts on birds, fish and animals, and the denigration of marine and terrestrial habitats and ecosystems. For example, extensive eelgrass beds in and near the project area that provide productive habitat for many forms of marine life likely will be disturbed or removed by the construction and operation of the pier and loading facility. Salmon fisheries and shellfish beaches would be affected. The four-mile conveyor would impact birds and wildlife along the route. Storm water run-off and probable contamination for petroleum and other spills will impact marine and wildlife, fish and bird species. OPAS also is concerned about the likely introduction of invasive plant and animal species into Hood Canal.

The proposed pier and loading facility would be located within a region that has been designated as a Shoreline of Statewide Significance under the state Shoreline Management Act. That designation requires that the project adequately protect the natural character, resources and ecology of hood Canal; give priority to statewide interests over local interests; and give priority to long term vs short term benefits. Importantly, this project seems to countervail the Governor’s Initiative to clean up and restore Puget Sound, of which Hood Canal is a vital part.

Update, May, 2013: Regional newspapers reported the Navy is working with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to secure a department-owned strip of subtidal lands stretching from the Hood Canal Bridge south to just below the border between Jefferson and Mason counties.

The agreement, expected to be approved by the Navy by the fall of 2013, would prevent new nearshore commercial and industrial construction along the areas of Hood Canal and neighboring waterways that the DNR manages and in which the Navy operates. The agreement will enhance environmental conservation along a portion of the Hood Canal and prevent encroachment into vital Navy operating ranges. DNR is in the process of an environmental impact study review.

Update 2, June 25, 2014: The Thorndyke Resource Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released for public comment. Comments need to be sent by August 11, 2014.

For purposes of analysis, the applicant has divided the proposed project into five major components:

  • Surface mining in the Meridian Extraction Area
  • Operations Hub – processing, storing, and loading material onto conveyor
  • Central Conveyor – transports material to the Pier
  • Pier – loading of barges and ships
  • Marine Transportation – from the Pier to local, interstate and intrastate markets

This Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) identifies those aspects of the Proposed Action and the No Action Alternative that have a probable significant risk of an adverse environmental impact, and evaluates the extent to which those impacts can be mitigated or are unavoidable. Jefferson County is the SEPA lead agency.

Update 3, July 7, 2014: Commissioner Of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark, signs Conservation Easement  with U.S. Navy.

OLYMPIA – Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark has signed a conservation easement with the United States Navy that will conserve and protect more than 4,800 acres of Hood Canal aquatic lands.

“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,” said Commissioner Goldmark, the statewide elected official who administers the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “This agreement will also provide new protections for sensitive marine ecosystems and safeguard public access to Hood Canal.”

“The Navy is pleased to have reached an agreement to purchase a restrictive easement over DNR-owned bedlands in the Hood Canal because this transaction allows us to protect these ranges and military operating areas for the next 55 years,” said Naval Base Kitsap Commanding Officer Capt. Tom Zwolfer. “These ranges and military operating areas are crucial for military readiness and national defense. This transaction represents a substantial step toward readiness sustainment for the Navy.”

The easement will not permit new construction by the Navy, nor will it affect public access, privately owned lands, recreational uses, or aquaculture or geoduck harvest. The practical effect of the agreement will be to preclude new, nearshore commercial or industrial construction along the areas of the Hood Canal and neighboring waterways where the Navy operates for the next 55 years.

As steward of more than 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, DNR ensures that the people of Washington benefit from the use of aquatic lands while also ensuring environmental protection of the state’s aquatic resources.

It is not known with any certainty how the agreement between DNR and the Navy will impact the Pit-to-Pier project.

Update 4, July 26, 2016: Appeals court upholds DNR-Navy easement

Hood Canal agreement conserves area, helps naval operations

The Washington State Court of Appeals upheld this afternoon an easement for Hood Canal aquatic lands between the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Navy.

The decision from a three-member panel of the Court of Appeals upholds a May 2015 Jefferson County Superior Court ruling that DNR “had the authority to grant the easement to the United States Navy” and the easement “was not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful.”

“This is great news for the people of Washington,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said. “This vital agreement between the Department of Natural Resources and the Navy has been affirmed in every venue in which it has been reviewed. Today’s decision protects a priceless marine ecosystem while ensuring public access and preserving the operations of the Navy and the many jobs that rely on its presence in Hood Canal.”

In July 2014, the Navy paid DNR $720,000 for a 50-year restrictive easement on 4,804 tidelands and bedlands in Hood Canal.

A federal lawsuit challenging the easement was dismissed in September of last year.