A sale to preserve 104 acres of farmland along the Dungeness River is set to close in the coming weeks.
The North Olympic Land Trust and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe are moving forward with a purchase agreement — or “buy, protect, sell” process — of the River’s Edge property adjacent to the Dungeness River and Dungeness Valley Creamery, Land Trust executive director Tom Sanford said.
Once complete, the Land Trust would own 64 acres of farmland and the tribe 40 acres by the river as the groups look to preserve farmland and restore floodplain habitat, said Randy Johnson, Jamestown’s habitat program manager.
“The goal is rather than allow it to become a residential development, we would strive to partition the land into two areas,” he said.
One portion would be preserved as agricultural land, he said, while the other, a strip of property along the Dungeness River, is where the tribe would relocate the existing Core of Engineers’ dike farther to the east from its current location, about 300-400 feet on average.
That shifting would give Dungeness River back some of its lost flood plan, Johnson said, which is “a critical component of the river’s ecosystem.”
The property owned by the Mclane-Wallacker Trust is subdivided into 11 residential home sites.
Sanford said they’ve secured $408,000 in the past four months from 250 donors along with an approximate $600,000 loan from Sound Community Bank for the sale.
In total the project costs an estimated $1.4 million, with the tribe securing state grants for its portion of the purchase.
“It’s been a massive lift by a community that cares a lot,” Sanford said of the donations.
Purchasing the land has been a concept for decades, he said, but they’ve been exploring it deeper since late 2018.
The Mclane-Wallacker Trust also gave the entities some time to purchase the property before selling it for development, Sanford said.
Johnson said the tribe must still secure future grant funding for setting the levee back.
Cost estimates are still forthcoming to relocate the levy, Johnson said, but would likely start in 2021.
They’d target a construction partnership with Clallam County for its lower Dungeness River levee setback project to reconnect a section of the lower Dungeness River with its natural floodplain, too.
The county’s portion includes moving an 0.8-mile section of the east dike further east.
Resource managers say moving the levees will help the habitat and support recovery of protected and endangered fish like the Chinook salmon, summer chum, bull trout and steelhead.
Johnson said the projects could connect, but “it’s too soon to know whether that indeed can happen.”
He said the current levee would fail with a 100-year-level flood, but if it’s relocated, they’d build it to accommodate a 500-year-level flood.
To connect the tribe’s 40 acres with the county’s acreage, they’d need to buy land with the Dungeness Valley Creamery off Towne Road, which sits between the projects.
The Land Trust, tribe and creamery continue to discuss options, they said.
“The goal of all parties is so that the size of the creamery property would not decrease,” Johnson said. “If the tribe purchased 20 acres from the creamery, then the idea is the creamery would receive 20 acres from the Land Trust.”
Any land trust agreements require state approval from the Recreation and Conservation Office, he said.
Ryan McCarthey, co-owner of Dungeness Valley Creamery, said they are interested in the acreage but he’s unsure on the logistics of the sale and/or land swap just yet.
“We’d like to add on,” he said.
If the creamery was to purchase the property, McCarthey said it would provide more space for its Jersey cows and to produce feed for them. The opportunity to expand could happen, too.
“We could see ourselves in the next five years do some type of expansion,” he said.
The Land Trust, with the group Friends of the Fields, helped preserve about 38 acres at the creamery’s location in 2008.
Sanford said they plan to place a conservation easement on its 64 acres of farmland before selling the conserved farmland for farming.
If the sale goes through, the dike will remain open to the public as a recreational trail along with the tribe’s property, Johnson said.
For more information about the River’s Edge project, visit northolympiclandtrust.org/our-work/rivers-edge.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.