Jefferson County site among top three for new graving yard;
other two on Puget Sound
PORT TOWNSEND -- Port Ludlow Quarry at Mats Mats Bay is one of three sites named Wednesday as front-runners for a Hood Canal Bridge graving yard.
Besides the rock quarry owned by Seattle-based Glacier Northwest north of Port Ludlow, the two other preferred sites are the Port of Everett's South Terminal, and properties owned by the FCB Facilities Team, a partnership involving the Concrete Technology graving dock on the Blair Waterway in Tacoma, Todd Shipyards located on Terminal Island in Seattle, and AML/Duwamish Shipyard on Puget Sound's Duwamish Waterway.
``The urgency in moving ahead was a major factor in our site suitability review,'' said Eric Soderquist, Hood Canal Bridge project manager.
``There may be other proposals that should not be completely ruled out, but these three now seem to provide the best chance of getting pontoon construction under way most quickly.''
Clock ticking on bridge
With the Hood Canal Bridge's eastern-half project delayed nearly two years after the Port Angeles site was shut down in December, time is of the essence, Transportation officials said Wednesday, and the final site selection would mainly be based on where work could get under way most rapidly.
Lloyd Brown, Transportation's Olympic Region communications manager, said Wednesday that Department of Transportation officials will now concentrate efforts on developing plans for the three proposed sites, contact local agencies -- including Jefferson County planning officials -- and meet with the general public.
The graving yard, a huge onshore dry dock, would be used to build massive concrete pontoons for the Hood Canal Bridge's eastern-half replacement project, now scheduled for as late as 2009.
The state reported that it is also continuing to investigate with the project contractor, Kiewit-General Construction Co. of Poulsbo, the possibility of building of bridge anchors in the Port Angeles area.
The Mats Mats selection came as somewhat of a disappointment to the Port of Port Townsend and Port Townsend Paper Corp. officials who partnered in December and worked overtime to come up with a joint proposal involving Port and mill properties.
The Port-mill 44-acre proposal, which called for locating the actual yard on about 20 acres adjacent to the mill's shoreline, was called ``high risk'' by state Transportation evaluators in a report released with the announcement Wednesday.
``It's a disappointment, but its not a surprise,'' said Bruce McComas, Port Townsend Paper mill's vice president and general manager.
``After we saw 18 sites proposed, we thought we had a pretty low chance.''
Larry Crockett, Port of Port Townsend executive director, agreed with McComas, saying: ``Nothing surprised me from what I've seen.
Crockett said after talking to Transportation officials several times in recent weeks, ``it was obvious they were going to take the point of least resistance.''
Crockett said he appreciated that the state was trying to keep jobs on the North Olympic Peninsula with the possible graving dock site on private property at Mats Mats.
However, he said he disagreed with the state's assessment of the Port Townsend Paper site.
``I think that they were confusing it by just looking at the Port property, which was an ancillary site,'' said Crockett.
``The entire intent of it was to build the whole thing at the mill.''
Not large enough
The state concluded that the Port and mill sites were not large enough to build both pontoons and anchors for the Hood Canal Bridge and possibly future state floating bridges.
``This reality would increase construction time substantially or require affecting wetlands to maintain the original schedule,'' the Department of Transportation report concluded.
``Other than a 600-foot pier, the combined sites would require complete development and a full graving dock design.
``Wetlands and eelgrass beds would be affected, which could make it difficult to obtain environmental permits.''
The sites' location would also require a cultural resource assessment for tribal artifacts and remains, the report states.
Discovery Bay site
Joseph D'Amico, president and CEO of Security Services Northwest, said he was ``excited'' that the company's proposed graving dock site on 3,700 acres he leases on the western shores of Discovery Bay was rated No. 4 of 18 proposals considered.
The site, which the state concluded was ``acceptable'' for the project, has about 100 acres near the water, and state Transportation officials noted that the timberland had never been developed for industrial purposes.
``An environmental impact statement and rezoning would likely be required due to the change in land use from an undeveloped to an industrial site,'' Transportation's evaluation states.
A cultural resource assessment for tribal artifacts and remains would also have to be conducted, the report states.
``Of all the proposals evaluated, it is expected that the environmental process would take the longest to complete for this site,'' the evaluation concludes.
Contacted Wednesday after the state's announcement, Ron Summers, Glacier Northwest vice president and general manager in Seattle, took a wait-and-see stance.
The company owns the Port Ludlow Quarry at Mats Mats, which is about 8.5 miles north of the Hood Canal Bridge and was considered in 1991 as a possible site for building pontoons for the Lacey V. Murrow Bridge east of Seattle.
Recalling the company's past history with residents concerned with noise and explosives used to blast rock, Summers said he believes the site would be controversial among the quarry's neighbors but that differences could be worked out.
``This is so preliminary yet,'' Summers said.
``They just made the decision on the sites and I expect they will want to talk more. We'll see what happens. They've got a lot of things to go through.''
State officials said the 120-acre rock quarry site was big enough for expansion in the future should it be used for construction of pontoons for the state Highway 520 floating bridge near Seattle.
Brown said the state's next step is to contact county, state and federal agencies involved in the permitting process, much like was done for the Port Angeles site.
The state used the Transportation Permit Efficiency Act to bring local, state and federal officials to the negotiation table to prioritize the permitting process.
Tribes were also invited to participate, he said.
In the permitting process for the graving dock project, officials prioritize the permit process, cultural resources and engineering.
This determines how difficult it would be to build the facility.
The Mats Mats location, said Brown, would allow for a graving dock ``very similar to the plan we had in Port Angeles.''
That plan included a massive concrete ``lock'' with a 100-foot-wide door that would be opened to flood the lock and float the newly constructed concrete pontoons.
Brown said the FCB proposal could come under construction the quickest of the finalists.
That proposal would allow for pontoons to be floated in 2008, while Mats Mats or Everett sites would mean pontoons completed in 2009.
`Driven by time'
``If there is one theme, it's that we were driven by time,'' said Brown.
Al Scalf, Jefferson County community development director, said the state has been in contact with his staff ``more from a property acquisition approach than the permit process.''
``I know an environmental and shoreline review is in order,'' Scalf said, referring to the Mats Mats location.
Scalf said his county planning staff was concerned with the possibility of a 24-hour operation at Mats Mats.
He said he wondered if the state has a ``trump'' that would supersede county zoning laws, allowing for Mats Mats construction.
Said Scalf: ``We like the [Port Townsend Paper] mill site because
it's a heavy industrial zone and had shoreline already.''
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