Port of Port Townsend to discuss Navy request for Mats Mats boat ramp at meeting Wednesday

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — A request by the U.S. Navy for a right of entry agreement for the Mats Mats boat ramp will be discussed by Port of Port Townsend commissioners at a meeting Wednesday.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions about this proposal,” said Port Director Larry Crockett.

“The commissioners will probably use the meeting to determine what questions we want to ask.”

The meeting begins at 1 p.m. in chambers, 333 Benedict St.

SEAL training plans

Mats Mats Bay, an inlet on the Hood Canal, is one of several Jefferson County locations identified by the Navy as possible future sites for Navy SEAL training exercises.

According to Navy documents published by the website www.truthout.org, other potential locations initially identified for fiscal year 2016 are the Port Townsend Marina, Fort Flagler State Park, Indian Island, Port Ludlow, the Toandos Peninsula and Zelatched Point.

A larger overall Navy training request also included Sequim Bay State Park in Clallam County and Port Hadlock Marina, Discovery Bay and Fort Worden, Fort Townsend and Dosewallips state parks in Jefferson County.

The Navy has said that the plans for the exercises are in the early planning stages.

In a letter to Crockett, real estate contracting officer Michael D. Brady asked that the port allow use of the Mats Mats boat ramp between Port Hadlock and Port Ludlow for the Naval Special Warfare Group to perform required cold-water training while in the Puget Sound area.

According to Navy spokesperson Sheila Murray, the training is to include cold-water, high-current, dive-swimmer training; launch and recovery of manned submersibles; underwater navigation; emergency and rescue procedures; and other maritime training.

“The training is non-invasive, meaning no live fire, no digging, no cutting vegetation, no fires, no human waste, consistent with existing non-military uses and conducted in full compliance with the law,” she said.

Five-year deal

The Navy is requesting a five-year agreement, stating the exercises would take place in a season from mid January to early May.

The request will be addressed by the commissioners because Crockett isn't allowed to unilaterally approve agreements longer than a year.

Crockett said the boat ramp is in bad repair.

“We don't even charge people to use the ramp,” he said. “When the tide goes out it becomes a long, narrow slope where most people can't back up.”

Crockett said it would take around $100,000 to fix the ramp and estimated the property's worth at around $150,000.

“We are looking to get rid of nonperforming assets and have talked about selling,” he said of the property.

“So we need to know if the agreement will affect the property if we want to sell it two years from now.”

Should the port sell the property, “we would need to coordinate access with the new property owners,” Murray said.

'Public will not notice'

Murray said the training has been coordinated with the appropriate local and federal agencies to ensure public safety and maintain a safe training environment.

“Most likely, the general public will not notice,” she said. “All safety precautions have been taken in order to prevent unnecessary risk to either the participants or the general public.”

Crockett said the Navy would need to be proactive with the public.

“I wouldn't want someone with insomnia walking his dog at 2 a.m. when a couple of dozen guys with wetsuits come out of the water and scare the crap out of the guy,” he said.

Crockett said there would need to be a point of public contact where citizens can get their questions answered.

“If there is aircraft noise, I tell people to call the FAA,” he said. “If someone complains, I need to tell them who to call.”

Crockett said the communication from Brady is the only contact the port has received about the request.

The Navy is not expected to send a representative to the Wednesday meeting, and the commissioners will take no action on the matter.

Port staff has referred the Navy request to attorneys, and the request is presented only as information.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 07. 2016 7:16PM
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