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‘What trout?’ airport asks

Termites in your walls. Rats in your basement. Trout in your stormwater system?

Maybe not. The Port of Bremerton is currently trying to figure a way to deal with a recent state Department of Fisheries’ announcement that cutthroat trout could be living upstream of Bremerton National Airport’s stormwater detention pond.

Port officials say there’s no way trout could be living in the airport’s stormwater collection system — there’s just not enough water.

“There’s no perennial flow there,” said airport operations manager Fred Salis-bury. “We’re trying to figure out why they believe that.”

Salisbury believes the trout in question likely live in a large wetlands area by Bremerton Raceway. However, that wetlands drains into a separate basin, Salisbury said, and has no impact on the retention pond in question.

Nevertheless, state fisheries is demanding the port re-engineer its stormwater facilities to take the fish into consideration — a step the port is reluctant — and perhaps financially unable — to take.

The port’s runway re-alignment project, which prompted this review of the airport’s stormwater systems, falls under several jurisdictions. Although the state fisheries and the national fisheries departments usually oversee separate turf, because the port is seeking federal funds for this project, both agencies are involved. This is creating quite a bit of conflict, Salisbury said.

State fisheries, which believes trout exist upstream of the retention dam, wants the port to rip out the retention pond to allow for safe passage of the fish. National Marine Fisheries (NMFS), which doesn’t believe trout inhabit the collection system, wants the port to expand the retention pond and collection network to allow for more stormwater storage.

Although the port, when it built the pond in the early 1990s, factored into its plans the runoff created by the eventual realignment, standards have changed since then. NMFS released a new set of rules in 2001 calling for tighter restrictions on outflow rates. In other words, the port now has to ensure its pond can hold more water so the water can be released more slowly than before.

Salisbury said 50 percent of the airport’s runoff ends up in the storage pond on the southwest side of the main runway.

“That’s a lot of water,” he said.

In an effort to please both parties — at least partially — the port is working on an alternate solution. Instead of expanding the retention pond or tearing it down, the port proposes building a second collection and treatment facility upstream of the current facility. The new facility would treat the wastewater actively, using filters and storage basins, to help meet the new higher standards for outflow water quality.

The current system treats stormwater passively using naturally occurring means of water purification.

Although a second treatment system could add an estimated $750,000 to the final cost of the project — currently estimated between $3.75 million to $4.5 million — Salisbury said there are several advantages to handling the problem that way.

First, he said, expanding the current retention pond could be prohibitively expensive, depending on the amount of work needed. Similarly, tearing the current stormwater system apart and creating an entirely new one would likely be so costly — many times the estimated cost of expansion — as to make it unfeasible.

Finally, Salisbury said, by installing a second treatment facility upstream of the existing pond, the port would effectively remove state fisheries’ claim to jurisdiction, making the trout issue a moot point.

explanation

Nevertheless, Salisbury was adamant the port is not dismissing state fisheries’ concerns. He expects the port will eventually want to undertake a complete redesign of its stormwater management systems — just not right now.

“We’ve got to be sensitive to their concerns, and we are,” Salisbury said. “But that’s going to take a long-term solution. It’s not going to be done overnight.”

The proposed realignment has been in the works for some time. The port plans to dig up approximately 147,000 square feet of the runway and 49,000 square feet of the adjacent taxiway and then pave a similar area south of the runway, effectively moving the runway several hundred feet to the south. The move was required by the FAA, which stipulates a minimum 500-foot by 1,000-foot area of clearance at both ends of the runway.

Currently, the north end of the runway comes within only a few hundred feet of State Route 3, posing a safety risk for both planes and cars.

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