Port gave the tribe a payoff
August 12, 2008 · 9:57 AM
Last Thursday, I went to watch the free concert at Port Orchard’s waterfront park. Prior to the show, I went for a walk along the breakwater of the Port Orchard Marina.
As I got out to the water, I found the final 200 feet or so was roped off from public access.
Tribal fishing boats and crews were utilizing the roped off section of the breakwater.
The next day, I called the Port of Bremerton to inquire about the situation. I was told the fishing boats belong to the Suquamish Tribe and that their presence at the Port Orchard Marina was the result of a deal struck between the Port of Bremerton and the Suquamish Tribe over the Bremerton Marina expansion project.
I asked them to mail me a copy of this agreement.
Readers will remember that in 2006, the Port of Bremerton surprised many with a 250 percent tax increase to fund an expanded Bremerton Marina.
The outrage was compounded by the fact that our local daily paper, The Kitsap Sun, in its own words, “missed” the story and the port was able to sneak through the increase with little or no public debate.
Well, according to the paperwork I just received from the port, there is another aspect to that story that was also “missed,” and that, like the tax increase, was sneaked in with little or no public debate.
Here are the details:
In exchange for the Suquamish Tribe “not opposing” the Port of Bremerton’s marina expansion permit to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the port commissioners agreed to:
• Cede 200 feet of moorage on the Port Orchard Marina breakwater to the Suquamish Tribe. In a phone conversation with a Port of Bremerton official, I was told the last 200 feet of the breakwater were for the “exclusive” use of the Suquamish Tribe.
At least on the day I was there, public access was not allowed.
• Make an annual payment of $7,000 to the Suquamish Tribe’s “Fisheries Enhancement Fund.” his payment is to be adjusted for inflation and, according to port meeting minutes of Oct. 11, 2006, is set to run “in perpetuity.”
• Make a one-time cash payment of $10,000 to the Suquamish Tribe’s “Net Damage and Repair Fund.”
The agreement is dated Dec. 8, 2005 and is signed by Bill Mahan, port commissioner, and Leonard Forsman, tribal chairman.
I could find no report of this agreement in The Kitsap Sun’s archives.
As a resident of this county, and particularly South Kitsap, I am angered by this “agreement.”
As a citizen of this country, I am troubled with the process by which it came to be.
And at the present, I am wrestling with which I find more appalling — that we have a government that is willing to do such things behind the public’s back, or that we have a press that is willing to let them.