Around the Sound: Port Gamble cleanup is a great success!

Port Gamble cleanup, before and after. Before: Old dock and lots of wood and metal parts: After: clean sandy beach area.
(This is the first post of a three-part series on our cleanup, restoration, and preservation efforts at Port Gamble.

The in-water cleanup of contamination at Port Gamble is now complete!

Port Gamble Bay, on scenic Hood Canal, is a vibrant place for tribal and community members and the numerous visitors who come to see the picturesque historic mill town. Used for recreation and food harvesting, the bay is one of seven Puget Sound Initiative priority bays due, in part, to its high-quality natural resources, such as shellfish, crab, and other fisheries.
Port Gamble Bay is also the traditional home of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe who live on the north side of the bay and is culturally important to several other tribes, as well.
For 142 years, starting in 1853, the area included a sawmill operated by Pope and Talbott. After the mill was shut down in 1995 and removed in 1997, the site’s owner, Pope Resources/Olympic Property Group, leased parts of the property for log sorting, wood chipping, marine research, and other light industrial activities. 
Port Gamble cleanup, before and after, going from a busy smelter to a clean sandy beach.
Now, after over ten years of planning and design, the in-water portion of the Port Gamble Bay and Mill cleanup site is cleaned up! The two-year construction effort removed creosote-treated pilings, derelict overwater structures, wood waste, and contaminated sediment harmful to marine life.
This cleanup is one of the largest creosote-treated piling removal projects in Puget Sound! Creosote leaches from treated pilings and structures to surrounding sediment and water. Shellfish — such as mussels and clams that are consumed by humans and fish, such as herring and bottomfish — accumulate this leached contamination. Removal of pilings and contaminated sediment improves conditions for humans and the food they eat.

Cleanup by the numbers

The in-water cleanup removed:
  • Over 8,500 creosote-treated pilings
  • 110,000 cubic yards of wood waste and contaminated sediment
  • 55,000 square feet, more than an acre, of overwater and derelict structures

Other cleanup work included

  • Clean capping and habitat materials placed: over 200,000 tons
  • Clean sand placed to accelerate natural recovery: over 113,000 cubic yards
  • Length of shoreline improved along mill site: over 3,400 feet
  • Total area of sediment that was cleaned up: over 106 acres

Cleanup costs

Ecology and Pope Resources/Olympic Property Group each assumed parts of the cleanup costs. In 2007, we provided approximately $1 million to dredge wood waste. And, from 2013 to 2015, we invested over $1.4 million towards cleanup plan oversight and added about $600,000 to remove debris, derelict vessels, and creosote-treated pilings outside of the cleanup area. Since then, Pope Resources has paid over $20 million to complete the baywide cleanup.
These cleanup efforts improved habitat in the bay, improved protection of human health and wildlife, and provided jobs to residents and members of the broader community (an estimated 40 full-time jobs during peak construction).

Port Gamble efforts are making a difference

The cleanup is:
  • Creating a healthier and safer environment for fish and shellfish, and those harvesting and eating them.
  • Improving the bay’s aesthetics.
  • Enhancing recreation by making it safer and more enjoyable for kayaking, boating, hiking, biking, and bird watching.
  • Providing jobs to bay residents and the broader community.
  • Supporting future restoration and conservation efforts in the bay.

We will continue to work with Pope Resources to complete the upland cleanup portion of the site. Stayed tuned for the second and third installments of this three-part series.