Open house scheduled on Woodard Bay changes

The state Department of Natural Resources has scheduled an open house 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at the North Olympia Fire Station for the public and neighbors to learn and ask questions about changes in store for the 800-acre Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area at Henderson Inlet.

The agency has secured about $1.1 million from the state Department of Ecology to start removing creosote-soaked pilings and other structures from the former Weyerhaeuser Co. log-sorting and log-rafting site this winter.

Plans call for removal of about 90 percent of the pilings, all of the trestle that spans Woodard Bay and about five percent of the pier that crosses Chapman Bay.

The restoration work has become complicated because the wooden structures have become habitat for an assortment of wildlife over the years.

The largest known maternal bat colony in the state roosts and rears its young under the pier during the spring and summer. Purple martin nest boxes are attached to some of the creosote pilings and harbor seals use log booms stationed at the old log dump.

DNR is trying to develop a plan that reduces potential public safety and environmental hazards from the deteriorating structures and pilings while preserving the most critical wildlife habitat, DNR officials have said.

The 600 creosote-soaked pilings at the Woodard Bay preserve are a source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound. Combined with the railroad trestle and pier, they also impede tidal flows and sediment transport in the bays.

The sharpest criticism of the restoration work has come from bat scientists and others who fear a partial teardown of the pier will disrupt the bat habitat.

The long-term plan includes building alternative roosting habitat at Woodard Bay for the bats, but there’s no money in the state budget for that work in the near future.