‘Welcome News’: Corps Nears Decision On Long-awaited …
Kitsap County and other sportfishing and boating leaders say they’re “excited” that a seven-year-long state effort to get a federal permit to build a new boat launch on Puget Sound near Hansville could wrap up in the coming months.
“That is very welcome news!” Larry Bucklin, Ron Flerx, Mark Larson, Nello Picinich, Norm Reinhardt and Peter Schrappen recently wrote in an email to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which stated in mid-July that its goal was to “have a final decision no later than January 2021.”
The Corps reconfirmed the Point No Point timeline to Northwest Sportsman today: “We are actively working to address the permit application with an eye on completing the process by the end of January 2021.”
The six representatives of Puget Sound Anglers, Bremerton Sportsmen’s Club, Kitsap Parks Advocates, Coastal Conservation Association, Kitsap Poggie Club and Northwest Marine Trade Association, respectively, say that that timing meshes well with the start of the Washington Legislature’s long session, a chance for WDFW to again score funding for a project that’s been under federal review since the in-water-work application was filed in fall 2013.
Due to “extended delays,” WDFW has seen over a million dollars for construction of the one-lane concrete ramp down to the lowest low tide line slip through its hands.
The state agency bought the 3.4-acre site of a former longtime private fishing resort near the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula in 1996 and cleaned it up, removing 90 creosote pilings, a pier and a rail launch system that extended 100 yards into the water.
With shoreline construction permits in hand, by 2014 WDFW had put in new paving, launch lane, parking lot for 20 truck-and-trailer combos, handicap access and restrooms.
While anglers and others can carry kayaks and other craft down to the beach to mooch and troll this very fishy point, the new ramp would service Kitsap Peninsula anglers with larger craft who otherwise must run the 7 to 10 miles up from Kingston or around Foulweather Bluff from Cape Salsbury Point County Park on upper Hood Canal.
Given the single launch lane and limited parking in the lot and nearby street, it would not likely see the volume of much bigger sport ports such as 10th Street in Everett, Shilshole/Eddie Vine in Seattle or Point Defiance in Tacoma.
Busiest times would likely be in May for shrimp, lingcod and halibut; and July, August and September for crabs, Chinook and coho.
The hold up has come as the Corps reviews multiple concerns raised by the nearby Suquamish Tribe of the Port Madison Indian Reservation.
Their worries boil down to three elements. They call the facility “an obstacle that our fishermen will be forced to maneuver around and avoid thus excluding the Tribe from engaging in treaty-reserved fishing and harvesting activities”;
They say it will concentrate boat traffic in a “treaty reserved fishing ground and station” and interfere with tribal fishermen and damage their gear;
And they say county and state regulations for the site would infringe on their ability to commercially sell their catch in the ramp parking lot to the public.
The primary tribal fisheries in these waters, known as Marine Area 9, or Admiralty Inlet, are Dungeness and what are called C&S, or ceremonial and subsistence, seasons that allow for up to 500 Chinook to be caught either with hook-and-line gear or purse seines.
The Suquamish says that WDFW should instead upgrade the Salsbury Point ramp just north of the Hood Canal Bridge’s east end and keep PNP as a hand-launch-only site, with a sunset clause to review its usage and purpose after 40 years.
And with a “mission” to protect fishing rights reaffirmed under the Boldt Decision “for the next seven generations,” the tribe claims WDFW “does not appear to want to engage in a meaningful process to acknowledge, address, and mitigate” impacts the tribe says will happen if the ramp is built.
“The Tribe should not bear the burden of a flawed WDFW project that fails to address treaty fishing impacts under an application for a federal permit,” tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman stated in a late July letter to the Corps.
He asked that the permit be denied.
That led to an early September response from WDFW Director Kelly Susewind, who said that Suquamish vessel traffic concerns were “hypothetical” and that there was no solid evidence that it would have more than a de minimis, or trivial, impact on treaty harvest rights.
He said the tribe has not explained how boats just a bit bigger than the kayaks launched there now “would transform the activity into one that substantively impairs their treaty rights.” Anglers could always steer around tribal boats and gear.
“In maintaining its objections, the Tribe also fails to reflect on its obligation to share open navigable waters in common with the general public,” Susewind added. “The mere fact that the proposed replacement boat ramp will enable boats to launch into waters designated as treaty fishing grounds and stations does not prove a treaty right violation so as to mandate rejection of the Corps permit. If that was the case, no dock in all of Puget Sound could be permitted.”
He also took umbrage that the Suquamish “never acknowledge” WDFW’s cleanup work of the old resort, which “has expanded the physical area the Tribe can fish and shellfish” and “should be considered as mitigation towards the Tribe’s indirect interference claims.”
The tribe could as quickly say, Thanks, and what about the rest of the mess in Pugetropolis?
But at the end of the day, Susewind vowed that if the Corps permits the ramp WDFW would work with the Suquamish and other tribes if needed to resolve “any actual conflicts” and “minimize impacts on nearby treaty fishing activity.”
And he reiterated that WDFW wouldn’t enforce a county permit if tribal members sold their catch in the lot.
The letters and other documents on the issue over the years have been posted on Pointnopointramp.com by boat launch advocates.
They believe WDFW “has conducted a comprehensive and thorough review of all relevant facts and has presented a solid case for granting a permit to construct a small replacement boat launch at PNP.”
With the state looking for better access in the short term and the Suquamish appearing to play a longer game, it will now be up to the Corps to make that determination, with the clock ticking closer and closer to January 2021.