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Habitat preservation and restoration in Port Gamble Bay

Restoration and conservation projects are bolstering current and future efforts to revive, enhance, and protect valued resources in the water and on land. Conservation of nearly 1,900 acres of upland habitat and tidelands for people, fish and wildlife; enhancement of beaches for shellfish and forage fish; and replanting eelgrass and riparian plants contribute to the recovery of this highly productive area.

Using funding from the Washington State Legislature to complement cleanup of the Bay, Ecology completed projects in Port Gamble Bay to improve and protect habitat, provide jobs within the bay’s community, and enhance recreational opportunities in the water and on land.

Land preservation highlights

Ecology contributed to the purchase of nearly 1,900 acres of land for permanent protection in the Port Gamble Bay watershed. This effort protects the majority of the western bay’s uplands from future development and makes it available for current and future generations to enjoy for years to come.

Ecology worked with Kitsap County, Pope Resources/OPG, LLC, the nonprofit Forterra, and the Port Gamble community for over four years to reach agreement on two significant land purchases.

Successes

  • Fully funded the protection and conservation of 1,355 acres of the Port Gamble forest block. Under a 25-year timber deed, Pope Resources will be able to harvest trees before the land is fully transferred to Kitsap County and added to the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park.
  • Partially funded the purchase of the 535-acre Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park. This was a large community effort to protect 1.5 miles of shoreline, tidelands, and uplands with fish-bearing streams that flow into the bay.

Our contributions also provide matching funds for grants and help support fundraising efforts by Forterra and Kitsap County to conserve even more land.

Restoration highlights

We partnered with agencies and organizations on restoration projects that complement cleanup efforts and improve the overall health of the bay.

Successes

  • Restored two acres of eelgrass in the southern bay to support Pacific herring, fish, crab, and other aquatic organisms. A significant amount of eelgrass habitat has been lost over the past 20-30 years. This project focused on expanding existing habitat and helps inform future restoration efforts.
  • Enhanced 9 acres of Olympia oyster habitat on the western shoreline and in the southern bay to diversify the types of shellfish in the bay, restore native species, and improve water quality. Shellfish are an important resource to the tribes and community.
  • Replanted 1.5 acres of native trees and shrubs on the western shoreline in the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park. Riparian habitat provides food and shade that is important to upland and marine species.
  • Removed 591,600 pounds of debris from beaches and tidelands — tires, nets, derelict boats and a steel barge, and creosote-treated pilings — and the Point Julia pier from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s beach. This effort builds on other cleanup efforts occurring at the mill site.

Contaminant studies

A decline in herring spawning and known contamination from past mill operations raised concerns about the health of Pacific herring and shellfish resources in Port Gamble Bay. We worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe to complete two contaminant studies in the Bay — a Pacific herring egg study and a mussel study.

Study highlights

  • Evaluated the effects of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (cPAH) contamination on herring eggs and in sediment throughout the bay. Low concentrations are shown to be harmful to herring and other marine life. The study showed higher concentrations of cPAHs around the mill site than in other areas of the bay and at the reference site in Hood Canal.
  • Documented the concentrations of cPAHs and other contaminants in shellfish using caged mussels throughout the bay. This study provided a baseline for similar shellfish monitoring conducted during the in-water cleanup. The information was also used to inform tribal and community members about the health of shellfish in the bay.

Pollution prevention highlights

Ecology worked with Pope Resources/OPG, LLC, and Kitsap County Public Utilities District (KPUD) to partially fund and construct a new wastewater treatment facility to serve the town. The facility is currently operated by KPUD. KPUD and Pope Resources decommissioned the old facility, which will begin the process of reopening 90 acres of geoduck tracts for harvest in Hood Canal.

Why this work matters

Combining cleanup, restoration, and preservation efforts improves habitat for fish and shellfish, generates economic opportunities, and paves the way for future work. This work:

  • Created a healthier and safer environment for fish and shellfish, and for people who live and work on the bay by removing contaminated sediment, sources of contamination, derelict structures and vessels, and beach debris (e.g., bricks, nets, trash, and tires).
  • Improved aesthetics by removing derelict structures, pilings, trash, and debris from beaches.
  • Enhanced recreation in the bay (e.g., boating, fishing, shellfish harvesting, hiking, biking, bird watching).
  • Provided jobs to bay residents and the broader community.
  • Supports future restoration and conservation efforts in Port Gamble Bay and Hood Canal.

What’s next?

Now that the new wastewater treatment facility is operating, the Department of Health will evaluate conditions to reopen geoduck beds north of the town in Hood Canal. Pope Resources/OPG, LLC, is in the process of removing the outfall pipe for the old treatment facility from the beach in Hood Canal.

Restoration and preservation costs

Ecology provided the following funding toward land preservation, restoration, contaminant studies, and source control work in the bay:

  • $4.1 million to preserve land for conservation and recreation, and to support stewardship activities at the Port Gamble Bay Forest Heritage Park.
  • $613,000 to remove debris, derelict vessels, and creosote-treated pilings outside of the cleanup area.
  • $297,000 to restore and monitor eelgrass.
  • $994,000 to enhance Olympia oyster habitat and populations.
  • $132,000 to restore and maintain riparian habitat on the western shoreline.
  • $607,000 to complete contaminants studies on fish and shellfish.
  • $2 million towards construction of a new wastewater treatment facility for the town of Port Gamble.

Thank you!

We couldn’t do this work alone. Thank you to the following key contributors:

  • Pope Resources/OPG, LLC
  • Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe
  • Suquamish Tribe
  • Kitsap County
  • Kitsap Forest and Bay Coalition
  • Department of Natural Resources
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Ecology’s Conservation Corps
  • Puget Sound Restoration Fund
  • Kitsap Public Utilities District
  • Numerous community groups and members