Around the Sound: Changes already obvious during Port Gamble Bay cleanup

photo of former mill site at Port Gamble; a muddy beach with construction equipment.

This photo of the former mill site was taken early this month.

Wow! Cleanup work in and around Port Gamble Bay didn’t start until late September, but already the changes are striking.
The shoreline at the former Pope & Talbot mill site is changing daily. Concrete bulkheads, debris and most of the piling-supported structures along the south shore are gone.
So far, more than 1,800 creosote-treated pilings have been pulled out and 600 tons of creosote-treated debris have been trucked off the site to a permitted landfill.
That clears the way for digging out contaminated sediments from the beach areas. As of late last week, about 5,000 cubic yards of material had already been dug up. And there's more to go.

How did we get here?

historical photo of mill at Port Gamble, various structures along a shoreline.

The mill in its heyday decades ago.

Historical activities at the former Pope & Talbot mill site released contamination and wood waste on land and in the water. The mill operated for more than 140 years before closing in 1995. Since then, the site has been used for various activities.

The bay is a high priority under the Puget Sound Initiative. We and various partners are already doing restoration and preservation work in and around the bay, so this cleanup project is the next step.

Current mill site owner Pope Resources is the main responsible party and is paying for the cleanup work. The company has stepped up.

What's happening now? What's next?

Work this season will go on until roughly Jan. 15. It's focused on dredging contaminated sediments and wood waste and removing structures from the southern embayment.  
Port Gamble cleanup, equipment in water and workers standing on a dock.
Shoreline work at the south end of the mill site will keep moving north for the next two months. It's done during low tides at  night during the fall and winter. A clean cap is laid down after  the contaminated sediment is removed.
Clean sand has been used to build a subtidal "shelf" at the right depths to replace eelgrass lost during dredging. Eelgrass will be planted there this coming spring.
Stockpiles of clean sand come rolling in each day, totaling more than 20,000 tons of sand to date. An average of 70-plus truckloads deliver materials and haul out debris every day.
The most visible remaining overwater structure, the alder chip conveyor, will be taken down in December. That structure is shown in the photo at the right.

Keep up to date

If you have questions, concerns or you're simply curious, call the Port Gamble Bay Cleanup Information Line at 1-888-707-8663, send email to, or visit the project website.