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Found bones add $173,000 to sewage plant expansion

The Port Orchard City Council last week approved paying an archaeologist nearly $75,000 to search for more skeletal remains in dirt removed from the construction site of the Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility on Beach Drive, bringing the total cost of delays and additional work required after Native American remains were discovered in April to at least $173,000.

According to City Engineer Larry Curles, $74,800 will be used to pay Bainbridge Island archaeologist Glenn Hartmann and a crew of eight workers from the Suquamish Tribe to sift through the truckloads of dirt hauled away by Port Orchard Sand and Gravel.

Hartmann estimated labor costs alone to be $68,000, with management, coordination and report costs adding $6,800.

Work on the first phase of the plant expansion project — estimated to cost more than $14 million when completed — was scaled back April 9 when a Strider Construction worker discovered fragments of a skull on the site. The area was roped off and ribs, a pelvis and other bones were also unearthed, all of which were later identified as being from a Native American, assumed to be from the Suquamish Tribe.

Although work has since resumed, Curles said Strider Construction claims those delays added $90,000 to cost of the project.

Washington state law requires that anyone who disturbs “native Indian graves through inadvertence, including ... construction ... to re-inter the human remains under the supervision of the appropriate Indian tribe.”

Although the law does not specifically require the city to search for more potential remains, Curles said he believed the city was following “the intent of the law.”

“We’re taking a reasonable approach,” he said. “I think a reasonable person would say that if you found a bone, it’s reasonable to assume there might be other bones nearby. And a lot of soil got carried away.”

Assistant State Archaeologist Stephenie Kramer agreed.

“In this case, only part of the skeleton was found, and we need to try and find the rest of the individual,” Kramer said. “It is pretty standard to have to sift through soil, and in this case it’s the only real option.”

Kramer said tribes are typically reimbursed for the cost of reburying unearthed remains by the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, which does not include the cost of sifting through the dirt.

For the remains found at the treatment plant, Hartmann estimated reburial costs at $2,500.

Curles said work on the plant — jointly owned by the city and Karcher Creek Sewer District — is being funded by a $16.8-million-dollar loan from the Public Works Trust Fund, which will be repayed through future facility revenues.

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