Port Considers Sharing Costs of Habitat Restoration Study

Squaxin tribe concerned a proposed trail might affect West Bay habitat

By Rolf Boone, February 11, 2014, The Olympian

The Port of Olympia commission on Monday weighed two proposals for future action: whether to enter into an agreement with the city of Olympia to assess potential habitat restoration along West Bay, and whether to seek bids to repair several hangars at Olympia Regional Airport.


Those were the key items on Monday’s agenda, resulting in a meeting that adjourned after 45 minutes.


The commission will take action on both items at its next commission meeting, which is set for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24.


In 2005, the city of Olympia purchased West Bay property from the port. One of those parcels later became West Bay Park; another parcel is located to the south of the park, and is known as the railroad berm property.


The city would like to develop a trail along that second parcel to connect the park with the Fourth Avenue Bridge. But the Squaxin Island Tribe, which has historic ties and an interest in the Budd Inlet watershed, is concerned about development there and how it might affect habitat.


Based on that concern, the city reached out to the port to jointly hire a consultant to assess the potential for habitat restoration. If approved by the commission, the cost to the port would be $50,000. Port environmental programs Director Alex Smith and Commissioner Sue Gunn said the tribe supports the idea of an interlocal agreement.


One resident, Richard Wolf of Olympia, questioned why the port would spend money on city-owned property.


Smith pointed out that the port still holds title to the tidelands, so an assessment would also benefit port property.


The port also heard a proposal on spending an estimated $740,000 to repair several hangars at the airport. That money has already been budgeted as part of the port’s capital investment plan for this year. Some hangar roofs haven’t been replaced since the early 1960s, said airport director Rudy Rudolph.


Rudolph told the commission that the hangars are an important source of revenue for the port. A pending financial analysis will show that, he said.


Resident Bob Jacobs of Olympia, a close observer of port finances, urged the commission to examine all the costs for the hangars over time, balanced against all the hangar revenue over time.


“That’s how you should be looking at it, I would suggest,” he said.


Port finance director Jeff Smith said the financial analysis would include all relevant costs.

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