Submarines and geoducks, diver training and eelgrass.
The Washington state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Wednesday once again joined with the U.S. Navy in a shoreline-easement agreement to protect priorities for each organization.
The easement, a 32-mile sliver of underwater bedlands along the eastern side of Hood Canal, complements a similar arrangement made in 2014 on the western side of the canal.
That deal drew scrutiny as part of Naval Base Kitsap’s plan to stealthily limit development around its area of operations.
The new arrangement blocks industrial construction such as wharves, piers and platforms, according to DNR. But the 55-year easement will still allow the construction of private recreational docks and won’t impact boating, fishing, public access or existing structures, such as marinas.
The easements prevent possible development and noise pollution that could interfere with training and other exercises by Naval Base Kitsap. The Navy uses the canal there to test diver training and unmanned vehicles, as well as the readiness of its submarines.
The Navy paid $342,000 to DNR, which manages the seabed, for the easement signed Wednesday. That figure came from an independent appraisal commissioned by the Navy, which DNR staff reviewed and agreed to, according to DNR spokesman Joe Smillie.
In a statement, Capt. Alan Schrader, commanding officer of the base, said the agreement will allow the Navy “to continue training and testing at Naval Base Kitsap for decades to come.”
The state likes the arrangement as a way to protect wild geoduck, eelgrass and salmon, the latter of which is food for orcas, according to Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.
“I think over the last four-plus years, there has clearly been a focus on Hood Canal and recognizing its value as an ecosystem,” Franz, who oversees DNR, said Wednesday.
There have been no significant challenges to the easement agreed upon Wednesday, she said. Franz added that she isn’t aware of any planned projects that the arrangement might stop.
The 2014 agreement covering seafloor on the western side of Hood Canal didn’t go smoothly.
A report in The Seattle Times documented how the DNR accepted $720,000 from the Navy for 50-year control of that area, though a prior state-approved appraisal valued the deal at $1.68 million. The lower value allowed the Navy to sidestep congressional scrutiny of the deal.
A company developing a pier project sued Washington and the Navy to overturn that agreement, which halted their plans. A federal court dismissed the suit.
In another challenge brought by the company, a Jefferson County Superior Court ruling — later upheld by an appeals court — found that DNR had the authority to grant the easement to the Navy.
Franz said there are no other easement deals currently planned with the Navy for the Hood Canal area.