Sunday, February 22, 2015

Port Citizen Advisory Committee Discusses 2015 Work Plan

Above: Members of the Port of Olympia citizen advisory committee met with port commissioners on February 17 to discuss their 2015 work plan.
By Janine Unsoeld

Port of Olympia commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor met with the port’s 14 member citizen advisory committee on Tuesday, February 17 to discuss committee’s 2015 work plan.
The committee has five new members who are starting three year terms. Out of seven who applied, five new members were chosen by port executive director Ed Galligan, Commissioner McGregor, and committee chair John Hurley, based on a number of criteria.
At a November 24, 2014 commissioner meeting, the last meeting port commissioner Sue Gunn attended due to health issues, Gunn stated that she would like to change how the members are selected so that it is in open session with all three commissioners.
Committee members were asked to take on four tasks for the year: research transparency issues, refine a protocol for the naming of port facilities, help develop the port’s vision statement, and conduct a self-evaluation of their work as a committee.
Tasks for the committee are created and assigned to the Port's citizen advisory committee by the commissioners. It was made clear that the group had to accept the tasks, although many clearly had no enthusiasm to revisit protocols for naming port facilities, since they did a thorough review of the subject last year. McGregor wanted the group to essentially say to the commissioners, “do it or don’t it.”

The commissioners said it would be of value to the port to have the committee investigate and report back on the issue of transparency.
Questions the commissioners asked the committee to explore are: What is an acceptable definition of transparency in government and, in particular, the Port of Olympia? What has the Port done to improve transparency over the past few years and what additional measures can the port do to improve transparency? What is it that citizens want to see improved as it relates to Port transparency? What is the overall feeling of citizens as it relates to transparency?
Regarding this last question, commissioners stated that a public hearing may be required by the committee as part of their information gathering effort.
Among other requests, the commissioners asked the committee to comment on the commission’s meetings and work sessions in terms of meeting frequency, time of day, length of meeting and content.
A detailed scope of work asks that the group look at commission meeting materials, compare the Port of Olympia to at least three other regional ports and at least two other local jurisdictions.
The group has a deadline for this task of September 2015.
Naming Protocols

Members were not keen on revisiting a task to examine how the port would go about naming facilities after individuals if so desired. The committee reported back to the commission and gave several recommendations in a detailed 2014 report, and committee member Clydia Cuykendall said that it was not a good use of the group’s time to revisit the issue. She noted that the port has received only one naming request in the past 10 years. The deadline for this task is June 2015.
Vision Statement

The commissioners and port staff will be working on the development of a vision statement as part of a two day strategic planning retreat currently scheduled for the end of March.
The committee was asked to choose from one of the sample vision statements that will be provided to them by the commissioners. If none of the sample vision statements are preferred, they are to suggest language changes. A deadline for this is to be determined.

Committee Self-Evaluation
The group is tasked with conducting a self-evaluation on the use of a citizen advisory committee. The group must compare and contrast its formation and work with at least four regional ports and at least three local jurisdictions and quasi-governmental entities. The deadline for this task is September 2015.

Committee members divided themselves up between committees. New members asked questions from whether or not the airport or the port really makes any money, to the status of the Mazama pocket gophers at the airport property.
Cuykendall wondered why the committee wasn’t included to comment on the Tumwater Real Estate Master Plan, and what the difference was between their past work, and the work of the new port advisory committee for the port’s properties in New Market.

Port of Olympia New Market Industrial Campus and Tumwater Town Center Real Estate Development Master Plan  
This latest study is a master plan being coordinated by the Thurston Regional Planning Commission. The Port of Olympia owns over 500 acres of real estate in Tumwater, excluding the Olympia Regional Airport. The property may be developed for commercial, industrial or other uses. In response to questions from committee members, port executive director Ed Galligan admitted that the gophers, now listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, present a serious impediment to growth on the property.

The port’s master plan group will have a public workshop about the development of this plan on Thursday, March 5, 6:00 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn Conference Center, 1620 74th Avenue SW, Tumwater.
For more information about the New Market Master Plan, go to

For more information about the Port of Olympia, go to

Port of Olympia Business Carries On Without Commissioner Gunn

Above: Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan, left, Commissioner George Barner, center, in striped shirt, and Commissioner Bill McGregor, to his left, conduct business at a special joint commission and port citizen's advisory committee meeting on February 17, 2015.

By Janine Unsoeld

Among other business, Port of Olympia commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor heard a presentation at their work session on February 19 about a proposal to create a new berth.
Commissioner Sue Gunn, absent from port meetings since November 24, had open heart surgery in December. Commissioner McGregor said he thinks Gunn may be absent through March and that he doesn’t know if she is going to be back.

Port commissioners divide responsibilities and assignments. Gunn is responsible for attending meetings of the Tumwater Chamber, Grand Mound Rochester Chamber, South Thurston Economic Development Initiative, Legislative Thurston County Shared Partnership Group, and the Transportation Policy Board. McGregor and Barner attended Transportation Policy Board meetings for Gunn in January and February.
At the work session meeting, new draft language regarding administrative procedures for the excusal and prolonged absence of a port commissioner was discussed. In light of Commissioner Gunn’s absence, clarifying language is needed, as this occurrence has not happened before in port history. No action was taken.

Harbor Patrol Discussion
Staff and commissioners had a lengthy conversation about the Harbor Patrol program. McGregor asked staff for more information about the loss of City of Olympia funding for the Harbor Patrol and keenly wanted to try and find a way to save it. He asked staff to see if there was a way the port could take over a portion of the costs, and to find out how much the repairs to their boat is going to cost.

“We get drawn in by association…in my cursory look, it’s a benefit. I’d hate to see it go away without discussion. Let’s begin the process from the Port’s perspective. The boat needs work. Let’s find out what is the true cost of keeping the program alive and what we can take on under our jurisdiction,” said McGregor.
Galligan said he would produce a report to the commissioners about the program by March 2.

Above: An aerial of the Port of Olympia taken in December 2014. A proposal for a Berth 4 is being discussed in the area of the missing "notch" of the current port peninsula.

Berth 4 Proposal
Alex Smith, the port’s director of environmental programs, gave a brief report on a proposal to create a fourth berth in the area of the missing “notch” of the current port peninsula.  The port says a fourth berth would provide greater flexibility, creating between four to six acres of work area for cargo loading or unloading.

The port also sees this as an opportunity to continue its cleanup of Budd Inlet and to have a place to deposit dredge spoils.
An old pier made of creosote pilings in that location is still visible. Commissioner Barner commented that he used to be employed there as a young teenager as a “casual” – a temporary laborer, using pike poles to separate floating logs. They were then pulled out of the water and either loaded on ships or stored them on land.  

“It was dangerous business, and a couple of my buddies were killed, crushed by moving logs,” he said.
Creating the new berth, technically a confined disposal facility, would require the dredging of the federal channel. Due to the contaminated sediment caused by legacy dioxins from mills along the shoreline, the proposed project has years of decisions ahead of it.

The port proposes to use a berm and/or a sheet pile wall to surround the area for the deposit. The contaminated sediment would be capped, fill would go on top of that, then asphalt. Collectively, that creates a new upland area. 
The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for doing the dredging and pays for the lowest cost disposal alternative. Smith estimated that an estimated 400,000 to 575,000 cubic yards of material would be dredged.

The cost for the berth would be about $20 million. To pay for the berth, the port would pursue a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that would pay for about a third of the total cost.
Smith said that the state Department of Ecology would be unlikely to pay for the project because it doesn’t meet their criteria for cleanup. Dredged material from berths 2 and 3 was recently taken away to landfills in Castle Rock, Washington and Oregon.

“The most we can put into berth 4 would be about 180,000 cubic yards. It’s not going to solve all our problems and it’s still a pretty expensive thing to do….” said Smith after the meeting.
Asked how desperate the port is to do this project, Smith said that will be looked at in the port’s marine terminal master plan. Smith says the port will continue to move towards design and permitting. Getting on the Army Corps of Engineers radar for the dredging is a long process.

Harry Branch, Olympia, has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on marine reserves as a tool in fishery management. He has also served as a captain operating research vessels.
Branch wrote a letter to the port commissioners saying that studies seem to indicate that confined disposal is being viewed less favorably because it impedes natural remediation by plants.

“Dredging and filling nearshore areas reduces potential ecological function by reducing the intertidal and shallow littoral area. Alterations to physical parameters impact chemical and biological parameters.
There is always some degree of mess created during construction. Any time we dig in the benthos, we release contamination into the water column.

Confined disposal facility (CDF) sites are expected to leak but at an acceptable rate. I suggest that in a confined, degraded bay like Budd Inlet, there is no acceptable rate. We need to ultimately get to a point where these things are for all intents and purposes, gone.
How long will this CDF actually survive? They haven't been around long enough to know for sure. The nearshore of Puget Sound is an artesian discharge zone. An interesting case study is the old coal gasification site near the head of the Thea Foss Waterway where a big blob of coal tar was buried about a hundred feet from the water's edge. That’s a big cap. Over the past eighty years this blob has been observed to move, underground, being pushed along by groundwater under artesian pressure. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) ultimately emerged through seeps in the bank.

The half life of dioxin in bright sunlight can be a matter of hours. In a dark, anaerobic environment it can be a matter of centuries. The link below leads to an example of forward thinking on this topic. Placing all toxic material in one pile creates an environment that impedes remediation by natural processes including remediation by plants, fungi and aerobic bacteria. Rather than making persistent toxins biologically unavailable we should think in terms of making them biological available in a controlled setting. Here's what I'd like to see at berth 4:
The land from what's labeled on the port's map as the "cargo yard", across to the Cascade Pole containment cell is clearly the location of a canal in historic photos. This canal appears to have been used to float logs and other material across to the west side of the peninsula. It's a safe bet that those are the most seriously contaminated soils. This material should be excavated, hauled away and spread out in bright sunlight. Then the historic canal should be restored to intertidal habitat. The current dock pictured at berth 4 would be rebuilt and used by ships or become the location of a fuel dock. There'd be usable dock with good habitat behind, the point being to demonstrate how we can have human use along with restoration.
Here's the study mentioned that indicates how confined disposal is being viewed less favorably because in impedes natural remediation by plants.”

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