The future of the Tse-whit-zen site remains uncertain. The state Department of Transportation abandoned its attempt to build a dry dock...

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The future of the Tse-whit-zen site remains uncertain.

The state Department of Transportation abandoned its attempt to build a dry dock at the site last December, after spending about $60 million.

While Port Angeles officials continue lobbying to reverse that decision, Gov. Christine Gregoire and state Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald have said it’s time to move on and choose a new site.

The Lower Elwha Klallam tribe considers the Port Angeles land, which belongs to the state, its ancestral and spiritual home. The tribe wants to rebury its dead on the site, as close to the original location of each grave as possible.

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“We stood our ground, and we are still standing our ground,” said Frances Charles, tribal chairwoman. “The ancestors need to be protected.”

Gregoire said the state should pursue a use that takes advantage of the Tse-whit-zen findings.

“Here’s an opportunity of a wonderful historic site, an opportunity for education and cultural purposes,” she said.

Some city officials and local legislators haven’t given up on the dry-dock idea.

State Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce, proposes exhuming any remaining graves at the site — no one knows how many there might be — and reburying all of the remains on another property.

Buck still wants to see the land used as a state dry dock, if not for the Hood Canal Bridge project as originally anticipated, then in the eventual replacement of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge in Seattle. He believes such work could provide jobs for years to come.

Buck and other lawmakers from the Olympic Peninsula tried several times during the 2005 legislative session to resurrect the project.

MacDonald said the transportation department is looking at whether anchors for the Hood Canal Bridge could still be built on an adjacent parcel.

The Legislature has already taken some steps to address problems highlighted by the project.

The state Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation was made a Cabinet-level department and given more staff. The transportation department had no archaeologists on staff when the project began. Now it has two.

Meanwhile, the department is looking for a new location for a dry dock to build pontoons and anchors for replacement of the east side of the Hood Canal Bridge.

The Port Angeles site is proving difficult to replicate. One leading alternative is Concrete Tech, an existing dry dock in Tacoma that wasn’t selected by the department the first time around.

— Lynda V. Mapes

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