Here are my annual picks for the Heritage Turkey Awards, examples of the worst in Northwest heritage and historic preservation during the last year.
The Wreck of the Silver Slug
Winner: The Kalakala's keepers
For: Good intentions, poor follow-through
The Silver Slug hangs by a slender thread, the biggest maritime heritage tragedy unfolding here. (It's on the Fyddeye Guides' list of 10 Most Endangered Ships of 2011.) This historic, iconic art deco ferry is moored and sinking at Tacoma's Hylebos Waterway. The U.S. Coast Guard says it has been working with Steve Rodrigues, the Kalakala's owner, for the last 10 months to secure the leaky boat, which is taking on water and bottoming out at low tides. They have declared the vessel an imminent navigational hazard which sets it up to be seized by the Army Corps of Engineers. Coast Guard Lt. Ian Hanna says that Rodrigues has given them contradictory information and has been "unwilling or unable" to follow through on plans to secure or move the ferry. The Port of Tacoma is afraid the Kalakala could sink at any time, and predicts dealing with a one-boat blockade could cost the Port $23 million a month in lost business. Ironically, the Kalakala might have been better off berthed in a less crucial port. The next step is grim: The Corps is seeking federal funding to remove the Kalakala. If taken by the Corps, it would be dry-docked and scrapped at an estimated cost of $1 million- $1.5 million, not including environmental unforeseen issues such as dealing with PCBs, asbestos, etc.). Some historic parts might be salvaged as part of mitigation. Rodrigues also faces potential Coast Guard fines of up to $40,000 per day for his failure to comply their requirements. The slender thread: If the feds seize the Kalakala for demolition, Rodrigues would have 30 more days to comply before the vessel would be broken up. But given that he has not been able to do so to date, there is little grounds for optimism.
Fort Under Attack!
Winner: U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, Boise, Idaho
For: Demolition of 1885 building and poor planning
Every year, the Idaho Historic Preservation Council gives out "Orchids" to honor historic preservation success stories. But it also bravely gives out "Onions" for heritage failures. This year, it lobbed a well-deserved one at the Department of Veteran's Affairs in Boise for its poor management of the historic Fort Boise. The VA's Boise Medical Center occupies the old fort, which was built during the Civil War in 1863 as a home for the U.S. Cavalry left to secure the frontier. The city of Boise grew from that seed, so there's no place that is more historically significant locally. Now the VA is expanding. That's understandable, but the Onion citation says the award was "for the cavalier treatment of and absence of proper planning for historic landmarks in their care which has resulted in the construction of unsympathetic new facilities without adherence to federal law, demolition by neglect of one of the oldest extant buildings in the state, and the proposed demolition of Building No. 13 dating to 1885." Just before Christmas, the endangered Building No. 13 was torn down. This is a case of a fort, and National Register site, being attacked from the inside out. Add a Turkey to that Onion.
Watch for Indian Burial Grounds!
Winner: City of Oak Harbor
For: Failure to follow the heritage roadmap
You'd think everyone would have gotten the message by now: do ground-disturbing work in an area known to have yielded Indian artifacts and human remains, and you'd better be ready to deal with the consequences. If you're not, you could get slammed with delays, cost overruns, and a black eye for damaging heritage and ancestral graves. (Remember the Washington Department of Transportation's fabled Port Angeles graving dock fiasco? That cost taxpayers at least $70 million.) The last thing you should be is surprised when something (or someone) turns up. So, the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation warned the city of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island to be prepared when it began work on the $8 million Pioneer Way renovation project: Have a plan and an archaeologist on hand to monitor the work. Oak Harbor went ahead without heeding the advice and found itself in a jam. It uncovered at least seven sets of human remains, and thousands of bone fragments including an undetermined number in fill dirt that was removed from the site and must now be screened. Reporter Justin Burnett of the Whidbey News-Times reported in November that overruns had reached $565,000 for "unexpected archaeology" and another $150,000 in additional costs. While no one is threatening to put anyone in jail, tougher human remains laws have made the willful disturbance of grave sites a class-C felony. Look before you fire up the backhoe.
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