The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has spent 2014 focused on improving the health of Port Gamble Bay, especially Point Julia, where tribal members regularly gather to exercise their treaty rights.
The tribe has been working through a list of more than 400 items for removal, including old creosote pilings and derelict fishing gear, on the beaches north and south of Point Julia. Also on the removal list is a large rusting barge north of Point Julia, a dilapidated pier and an old concrete boat launch, all of which were removed this fall.
“We had an intern from Northwest Indian College develop this comprehensive database of all the derelict gear and debris in the bay, which has really helped show how much is actually out there,” said Ahmis Loving, an engineer contracted by the tribe to develop the cleanup plan. “It’s providing a unique tracking system for identifying, locating and ensuring the removal of debris.”
Prior to this summer’s clean up, a 2011 study identified sources of contaminants at Point Julia such as creosoted piles and a barge with lead-based paint, making the cleanup work even more of a priority for the tribe.
“Getting rid of all this debris will improve beach habitat for fish, shellfish and the residents, both tribal and nontribal,” Loving said. “A big motivator was to remove the primary sources of contaminants, such as the creosote pilings from the pier and the rusty barge.”
There are tribal members harvesting shellfish from Point Julia on a regular basis and sharing that food with their families and elders, plus residents throughout the bay who harvest from their own tidelands.
“We need to make sure we get this area as clean as possible for everyone,” she said.
Funded from legislative funds through the state Department of Ecology, the work is expected to be finished by this winter. This is a separate cleanup effort than the much larger ongoing Model Toxics Control Act/Puget Sound Initiative cleanup for Port Gamble Bay that Ecology is working with Pope Resources and Olympic Property Group due to long-term mill site impacts.