WDFW investigation leads to charges against Port commissioner

An investigation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife led to the Kitsap County Procecutor’s Office filing a criminal charge against Port of Manchester Commissioner James E. Strode for his involvement in unlawful hydraulic project activity at the Port.

Charging papers, filed Feb. 12, stated that on Dec. 4, that Strode allegedly performed work on a hydraulic project without approval under state law. The penalty is a year in jail or $5,000, or both.

Strode is scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, March 11 in Kitsap County District Court.

Port Administrator Dennis O' Connell said he has no comments at this time.

WDFW Police Officer Jason Czebotar, of the department’s Montesano office, investigated the incident after receiving a complaint from David Kimble, of Manchester.

According to the Czebotar’s incident report — filed with charging documents — Kimble sent an email to Christopher Waldbillig, WDFW habitat biologist, and his supervisor Stephen Kalinowski.

In his email, Kimble alleges the Port of Manchester lifted a log off the beach and repositioned it  along the shoreline, then chained it to existing logs. Kimble stated Strode was present while the logs were moved.

Included in Kimble’s email were photographs of a backhoe lifting and placing logs along the shore. Documents said one photograph shows two individuals chaining the long in place on the beach.

The report stated the Port conducted a similar project in December 2011, with the Manchester Water District conducting shore armoring under the direction of the Port.

WDFW reported it received a complaint on Dec. 15, 2011, from a resident who observed two men doing work between two floats at Pomeroy Park. WDFW investigators visited the site and discovered logs and other wood material had been staked and anchored to the shoreline, and appeared the work was done recently. WDFW reported no HPA permits were issued for the work.

The Port received a warning letter, dated Feb. 3, 2012, by WDFW. In the letter, WDFW stated they would work with the Port to get approval for maintenance. Since the letter was sent, the Port has not successfully obtained an HPA permit for work at the location.

Czebotar said in the report, he went to the Port’s boat launch and took photographs of the bank armorment and observed a log chained down.

He said he contacted Strode on Dec. 18, 2012, by phone and reported Strode became “very agitated” with the conversation in reference to HPA violation at the Port.

Czebotar reported Strode told him the Port did take a log out of the water and placed it on the beach. He also reported Strode became argumentative during the telephone conversation and once the call became unproductive, the officer ended the call.

Because water is state property, WDFW is responsible with protecting fish habitat and issues permits for hydraulic project activity (HPA). Construction projects that effect bed or flow of water requires HPA permits. Purpose of the HPA permits are to set requirements and time frames to limit or mitigate impact on fish and their habitat.


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