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Legislators split on yard

Rockefeller, Appleton say the yard stays; Woods wants discussion.

As members of Reclaim Our Waterfront mount a petition and letter-writing campaign to convince elected officials that the ferry maintenance yard’s removal is in the island’s interest, some of the area’s state legislators have already made up their minds.

“It’s there to stay,” said state Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island. “I am not an advocate for overturning the legislative commitment to provide $39 million in funds to upgrade the (Washington State Ferries) maintenance facility, or to force it to relocate elsewhere.”

Rockefeller believes the site processes a “unique berthing capability” unmatched elsewhere in the sound.

“Even if it were to relocate, the berthing capacity of Eagle Harbor would still be required for vessel storage, whatever the location for the on-shore maintenance facility.”

The first-term senator also points to the site’s underground pollution levels, which would make it difficult to redevelop for commercial or residential use.

“It is a Superfund site, not readily converted to non-industrial use,” he said.

According to Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, the “Legislature is already set” in its support for the yard’s continued presence in the harbor.

“Some say (the yard) is not compatible,” she said. “But the truth is that was a shipyard over 100 years ago so it’s the things that (now) surround it that are not compatible. It’s the last working harbor we have.

“Some are very proud of it and don’t want all of the harbor gentrified.”

Rather than removing the yard, Appleton said the area, which served as part of the Hall Brothers Shipyard, should be added to state or federal historical listings.

Rep. Beverly Woods, R-Kingston, has come out strongly against the yard’s present location in the past, but recently advocated more debate.

“I’d like the Legislature to discuss this again,” she said. “I want citizen input to be an influence and that (the state) will use that in its final decision.”

Woods said she was concerned that WSF rejected a 2001 state-mandated study that recommended the maintenance yard’s relocation. WSF crafted its own study shortly thereafter that supported its continued presence in Eagle Harbor.

“They turned around and said it was in their best interest to stay,” she said. “I question that.”

But, as the years have passed since the 2001 study, Woods said she fears that the recommended relocation sites have already been committed to other uses.

While Woods advocates discussion about the yard’s relocation, Appleton can all but guarantee it won’t happen this year.

“This is going to be a short (legislative) session and we’re not going to look at this,” she said. “I understand the frustration some people have with the maintenance yard. But they ought to look on the bright side – about the economic vitality it provides, the good jobs, the 54 people from Kitsap County who work there and what it does for our ferry system.”

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