Ecology adds money for Port Angeles to budget requests

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PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Ecology has added a $400,000 grant for Port Angeles Harbor cleanup to its list of projects for potential funding, an agency regional director said in a letter received by the city of Port Angeles on Wednesday.

Sally Toteff, regional director of the southwest regional office of Ecology, also said that the agency added funding for the stabilization of the Port Angeles landfill in its “clean up toxic sites in Puget Sound” budget request.

Funding is not assured for either project, the letter makes clear.

The remedial action grant request for the harbor cleanup in Ecology's 2013-2015 biennium budget is subject to availability of funds and the request for the landfill will be among those Ecology ranks in priority by the middle of the month.

However, Toteff said: “One reason I'm sending this letter is to affirm Ecology's continued commitment that we will give priority attention to the city on technical, financial and regulatory matters.”

Her letter to Mayor Cherie Kidd and City Manager Dan McKeen was in response to an Oct. 30 letter that McKeen sent to Ecology that laid out costs of five Ecology-related projects and which asked for grant assistance from the state agency.

McKeen said that the projects could cost the city between $57.5 million and $65.2 million over the next 20 years and that Port Angeles residents already have begun to pay for three of them through increases in stormwater and wastewater rates.

The estimated costs to the city of Port Angeles of the five major environmental projects are:
■ Combined Sewer Overflow Project: $42 million.
■ Municipal Stormwater Permit: $2.2 million.
■ Port Angeles Harbor Cleanup: $1 million.
■ Landfill Bluff Stabilization: $12 million to $20 million.
■ Shoreline Master Program update: About $500,000.

“The city is strongly committed to doing the right thing for our environment and the citizens we serve,”McKeen said in a prepared statement issued tonight.

“We greatly appreciate how Ecology recognizes the significance of these associated costs along with the financial burden it places on our citizens and community,” he added.

The city has a $4.50-per-month surcharge tacked onto wastewater utility billings beginning this month and expiring June 30, 2015 to pay the roughly $200,000 in costs leading up to an agreed order that will open the door to potential grant funding from Ecology for the harbor cleanup.

An Ecology study found harbor sediment to contain pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, mercury and arsenic, most of which are associated with industrial activities that have historically occurred in that portion of the harbor.

The city has an agreement with three of the other potentially liable parties — the Port of Port Angeles, Nippon Paper Industries USA and Georgia Pacific LLC (the latter of which historically was briefly involved in ownership of the site now owned by Nippon) — and is planning to pay about $1 million over the next few years for its share of the cleanup costs.

The other two potentially liable parties are the state Department of Natural Resources, since the agency owns some sediment lands in the harbor, and forestry company Merrill & Ring, according to Rebecca Lawson, Ecology's southwest regional toxic cleanup program section manager.

In Toteff's letter, she referred to an urgent need to stabilize the Port Angeles landfill abutting the Strait of Juan de Fuca and said that “we consider seed money to help stabilize the landfill a priority.”

Mayor Kidd said: “We appreciate Ecology's efforts to help the city deal with the unprecedented financial burden of inherited environmental problems.

“While final grant determinations are subject to availability of funds, knowing Ecology is committed to partnering for these funding opportunities is significant,” Kidd added.

“This financial relief is extremely important to our city utility customers.”

Last modified: January 03. 2013 12:50AM
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