2012 Letters

Port Townsend Leader 18 April 2012

Kah Tai park has clean bill of health
Good news has never been particularly newsworthy. The March 2012 discovery of a 2004 report in the Washington Department of Ecology archives demonstrates that a local park is not contaminated with heavy metals, as had been rumored for over a decade.

When the rumors started, our local newspapers published several articles about the potential dangers posed by the presumed contamination.

Perhaps the Leader will grant some space in the letters to the editor for this good news: Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park poses no threat to human or environmental health.

The Department of Ecology sampled the lagoon, wetlands, uplands and vegetation, and analyzed for heavy metals, PCBs, organic volatiles, phthalates and other compounds in 2001. The most serious recommendation in its report is that we build more bioswales to filter all the urban runoff that ends up in the lagoon.

We are left to wonder why it took Ecology three years to write up the report giving Kah Tai a clean bill of health, and why that 2004 report was never transmitted to the city so that it could have cleared the cloud over Kah Tai. Some mysteries may never be solved.


Port Townsend Leader 18 January 2012

City cannot support port
A few years ago, the city and port attempted to negotiate a land swap whereby port lands in Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park were to be exchanged for city-owned or -controlled rights-of-way in the boatyard. The deal fell through. But, as part of the process, the city produced a map showing their ROWs atop a Google image of the boatyard that provides a wonderful opportunity to examine city-port dynamics in our community.

On the day the Google image was captured, approximately 1,400 linear feet of boats were stored on the city’s ROWs. At the present rate of $0.50/ foot/day (boats less than 70 feet, under 30 days), this generates $700 per day for the port ($255,000/year).

This ignores buildings that have also been constructed on city ROWs over the years. Unopened ROWs may be available to adjacent property owners, but even if you restrict this analysis to the fee simple lands owned by the city, this yields $69,000/ year in port revenue.

Over the duration of the 30-year lease, the port has generated millions in today’s dollars from its Kah Tai arrangement with the city. To suggest that this city subsidy of the port is somehow anti-business or not to the benefit of all Jefferson County residents is not consistent with reality.

But, this arrangement ends next July.

Normally, I would strongly advocate for cooperation between local governmental entities with overlapping taxing districts. After all, all of these lands actually belong to the public and, while tax dollars may end up in different pots, they come from the same pockets.

However, the port has now dragged the city into a lawsuit even though the city had no say in declaring the port’s Kah Tai lands federally protected. That was a federal ruling. Despite making money from their arrangement with the city the whole time, the port’s suit uses the lease to extract full commercial value from the city should federal restrictions on the Kah Tai lands be upheld in court. Enough already. I fully encourage the city to demand fair market value for their holdings in the boatyard come next August. I apologize to my many friends who work or live in the boatyard/Boat Haven if this results in higher rents or moorage fees. But, the city can no longer afford to continue to subsidize the port when the port takes every opportunity to exploit the city.

RICK JAHNKE Port Townsend