‘Pit-pier’ company challenges state-Navy coastline easement on Hood Canal

PORT TOWNSEND –– Hood Canal Sand and Gravel, the company seeking the long-planned “pit to pier” gravel operation, has filed suit in Jefferson County Superior Court in an effort to thwart a state and federal plan to block development along the Hood Canal coastline.

“We’re real confident we have a compelling case,” project manager Dan Baskins said.

In its suit filed Tuesday, Hood Canal Sand and Gravel claims a conservation easement pact between the state Department of Natural Resources and the Navy violates the company’s rights to develop a gravel export facility in “arbitrary and capricious” ways.

The company asked the court to nullify the easement and order that the company has preserved rights to develop the property. The suit also asks the court for an injunction preventing the state and Navy from enforcing the easement.

Thorndyke Resources Operation Complex, affiliated with Hood Canal Sand and Gravel, wants to build a 998-foot pier on state-owned tidelands five miles south of the Hood Canal Bridge to annually load onto barges some 6.75 million tons of gravel that would be transported from a quarry at Shine. The project is expected to create some 2,000 jobs, Baskins said.

Matthew Randazzo, senior advisor to Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, would not comment on pending litigation against DNR. Navy spokeswoman Liane Nakahara said the same for her agency.

On July 7, Natural Resources and the Navy agreed to a 55-year conservation easement that would block commercial or industrial development of more than 4,800 acres of state-owned tidelands along Hood Canal, including the property south of the floating bridge where the pier would be sited.

The Navy paid DNR $720,000 for the easement, which restricts development in the area around Naval Base Kitsap and gives the Navy unrestricted access to waters for military exercises. Naval Base Kitsap is just north of Silverdale on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Hood Canal Sand and Gravel said the construction restrictions are “excessively broad.”

The permit process for the pit-to-pier project was begun in 2003 by Fred Hill Materials. After Fred Hill’s 2012 bankruptcy, Thorndyke, a Poulsbo company, took over the project.

The company also claims the project is consistent with the purposes the easement is trying to accomplish.

The suit also claims DNR erred by not notifying it when the Navy to apply to use the bedlands in September 2012, saying state law requires owners of land adjoining state lands to be notified of such applications.

Also, the company alleges the $720,000 cost of the easement is based on the Navy’s budget cap for land acquisition, not an appraised value of the land.

The suit names the Navy and DNR along with Michael Brady, real estate contracting officer for the Navy, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

“Quite frankly, I think Commissioner Goldmark has lost control of his staff,” Baskins said.

“The public records we’ve obtained and the emails we’ve received since this all came out in May of last year indicate that there’s a personal agenda by some people in DNR to promote their personal projects,” though he did not say who those people were.

Thorndyke Resources would need a lease agreement from DNR to receive permits from Jefferson County, planner David Wayne Johnson said.

A forum on the draft environmental-impact statement issued by Jefferson County on the project drew some 200 people to the Port Ludlow Bay Club on Monday.

The county is taking public comments on the statement through next Monday, Aug. 11.

John Fabian, volunteer leader of the Hood Canal Coalition, gathered 125 signatures on a petition to against the project outside an open house on its environmental-impact statement at the Port Ludlow Bay Club Monday night.

He criticized the company for filing its suit, saying the project benefits national security by providing naval training ground and protects Hood Canal from being “industrialized like so many other parts of Puget Sound.”

“I thought these guys were patriots,” Fabian, a retired astronaut, said.“Now here they are suing the government.”

Peninsula Daily News article by Joe Smillie




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