$9.3 million Will Help Restore Washington’s Western Port Angeles Harbor
July 13, 2021
NOAA and members of the Port Angeles Harbor Trustee Council released a final damage assessment and restoration plan (PDF, 72 pages) describing a settlement to establish a new restoration program for Western Port Angeles Harbor. Of the total settlement, $8.5 million will go toward restoration. The funds will come from two consent decrees valued at $9.3 million for settlement with four companies, a local municipality, and a port district responsible for hazardous waste pollution in the harbor.
The plan includes an assessment of the injuries to the environment from the pollution. It also proposes an ecosystem-based habitat restoration program that would restore the pollution-impacted resources.
Final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan
In the final damage assessment and restoration plan NOAA and co-trustees are proposing the establishment of a restoration program to select and implement future restoration projects to benefit injured natural resources. The program will provide funding for ecosystem-based restoration actions to be implemented by local restoration partners, which may include the trustees. The Trustee Council will cultivate, solicit, and evaluate opportunities for restoration, and provide funding for selected projects.
The final plan also identifies potential high value areas for habitat restoration in Port Angeles Harbor. Some project activities may occur outside of the Harbor if they are aimed at restoring species that use the Harbor and will improve the Harbor ecosystem. The areas identified are:
Ediz-Hook shoreline and sediment
Tse-whit-zen Lagoon (Nippon Log Pond)
Valley Creek estuary
Ennis Creek floodplain, estuary, and nearshore
The plan identifies restoration strategies the trustees will focus on when evaluating future projects. Those include:
Restoration to recover and expand on areas of good quality habitat that remain in the Harbor.
Restoration of regionally rare barrier beach, lagoon, and creek mouth habitats.
Restoration of the natural erosion and transport of beach sediments to sustain beaches and shorelines.
Expanding natural beach and shallow subtidal habitats.
Constructing large areas of complex habitat connected by shallow water that supports the migration of juvenile salmon.
Increasing forage fish spawning and supporting juvenile salmonid rearing along the shoreline.
The trustees will be continuing discussions with private and public land managers about restoration opportunities, and exploring opportunities to integrate restoration and cleanup activities to maximize public benefits. The Trustees anticipate additional public meetings about how to best steward the natural resources of the harbor.
A draft assessment and restoration plan, and consent decrees were released for public comment in March 2021. The Trustee Council also held a public meeting to present information and answer questions about the plan in April. Comments submitted during the 30-day public comment period were considered in developing the final assessment and restoration plan. A federal judge approved the consent decrees on June 9, 2021.
History of the Site
Over the past century, many industries have used Port Angeles Harbor, including sawmills and plywood manufacturing, pulp and paper production, marine shipping/transportation, boat building and refurbishing, and other marine sectors. Since the early 1900s, pulp and paper mills commonly discharged treated and untreated mill process effluents into the Harbor. These discharges have resulted in harbor sediments contaminated by heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, and petrochemicals.
Port Angeles Harbor provides critical habitat for Puget Sound Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, bull trout, and Hood Canal summer chum salmon, all listed under the Endangered Species Act, as well as a diversity of shellfish, fish, birds, and mammals. Sampled fish and shellfish specimens from the Harbor have been found to have elevated concentrations of contaminants in their tissues.
The Port Angeles Harbor Trustee Council includes NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Ecology, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.