State DOE committing to hold $4M for Harborworks through year’s end

The State Department of Ecology, after an August 3rd meeting attended by the Port Angeles Mayor, Dan DiGuilio, PA Harborworks Authority Chairman Orville Campbell, and Port of PA Board of Commissioner George Schoenfeldt, has agreed to ‘hold’  a requested $4M in remedial action grant funds for Harborworks until the end of December. The withholding, which has raised the ire of the anti-Harborworks coalition, doesn’t seem, on it’s surface, to be as controversial as some may say. While over 1500 signatures have been collected by PA people to ask the Governor to say no to more public funding for Harborworks, given it’s tenuous nature at present, it seems within the realm of normal that when a mayor and officials of an organization like this appeal for time to rectify the issues that have come up over the last month, that DOE and the State at least allow them some time to work through the issues. The DOE stated, “The practical of this decision is that the funds won’t be committed to other projects during that time”. I think that’s a reasonable answer, and gives a clear deadline for HW to work towards.

The Harborworks story is certainly typical of many smaller communities, when a group of local political leaders get together to try and forge a solution to a problem, and a group of local activists have their clear approach to the problem that is not in sync with the politicians, the friction we see seems to always happen. The gap between these two groups is pretty wide at present, and some controversial steps by some of the Harborworks staff to their opposition has exacerbated the problem.  However,  I can’t see fault in what the DOE is doing, as their letter to Harborworks clearly states that they are simply not acting either way for now, and letting Harborworks have some time to sort out the issues and see if they can get their program on track again. Perhaps Harborworks might take this opportunity to forge a closer alliance with their opposition, and come together to work a way forward. It would seem that continuing on as in the past might not be the smart way forward. Might be better to get all oars rowing in sync for a change. Whether any of this  can happen by end of calendar year  is very unclear as of today.

I think that both sides  need to stand back and understand that the goal is to cleanup the Rayonier site in a way that best utilizes this urban site for the community. Maybe if both sides backed off their established positions and reapproached each other to solve reach a mutually acceptable goal, this might find some traction and get moving again. That will take some giving on both sides.

One Response

  1. Al:
    I appreciate you including this matter on your site.

    What is left out is the history of HarborWorks. It was created by Rayonier, the Port and Pt Angeles City to minimize Rayonier’s cleanup costs; to pass the cleanup costs to the public. It was a scheme developed with the former Ecology Director Jay Manning and his former law partner, Rod Brown. Rod was hired by the City of Pt Angeles to help them get the Rayonier site, which apparently included passing cleanup costs to the public, which he was able to see happen in Bellingham for the Georgia Pacific cleanup. The plan was purposely kept from the public and from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, who has decision making authority over the cleanup because we would get in the way of their scheme.

    From day one, the public was up in arms. They have told their elected officials and HarborWorks the latter is unwanted and public funds should not be used to release Rayonier from its cleanup responsibility. Ecology was ready to drop it when Rayonier stopped working further with HarborWorks. And though the politics of this decision to grant HarborWorks more time to access the $4M is clear, what the Governor’s office and Ecology — who has little credibility in town anyway for the way the agency has handled the cleanup (not handled the cleanup!) over a 10 year period — have done is tell the public to buzz off (I/m putting it politely). They have told the public Ecology and the Governor will ignore the public wishes.

    Nelson’s letter sums up the situation well.

    Dear Sir, apparently there is a complete disconnect between you and the people, the people of Clallam County who have strongly voiced opposition to any public monies going to the secretly appointed Harbor Works Commission. We have demanded time and again that this issue be voted upon by the people and have been denied because the powers behind Harbor Works know it would be defeated. Harbor Works contiues to promulgate the big lie that they have public support. They do not. A poll by a local newspaper showed 75% of the people are against Harbor Works involvement in the Rayonier property. This situation makes one wonder who works for who. This decision is a perfect example of the government being unresponsive to the wishes of the people.

    I very strongly request the Department Of Ecology withdraw it’s decision to reserve 4 billion dollars for Harbor Works to spend on the Rayonier Site. I do understand there is a question of the legality of reserving monies under these cicumstances.

    Nelson B. Cone
    52 Hanusa Ln., Port Angeles, WA 98362

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