Contract aims to thwart brush poachers
July 4, 2008 · Updated 11:07 AM
They are the unwanted, the low-paid workers who sneak in at night or early in the morning and spend the day bent toward the ground, their fingers picking salal and huckleberry.
They do it on private land in Bremerton, without permission.
Whatever they collect, they hawk to distributors, who sell the material for floral arrangements.
After 22 years, the city has had enough.
The Bremerton City Council approved a contract with a harvesting company, Raymond Evergreens, Wednesday, June 14 to curb the problem.
The new contract means Raymond will go into areas off a 5-mile stretch of Belfair Valley Road to clean out brush formerly harvested by poachers.
The program should start within two weeks, said Forestry Manager, Bill McKinney.
The timing is perfect because September marks th e prime harvesting time.
During the fall and winter months its a daily occasion, he said.
Putting legitimate workers where the poachers go will deter unauthorized harvesting, he said.
The city of Bremerton will pay Raymond Evergreens to harvest the plants, and the company will write the city a check after they count their crop.
The city will mark harvestable areas.
I would be happy if this first year we made $10,000, McKinney said.
McKinney envisions five to 10 workers who will pick off the tips of the plants, and destroy as little of the property as possible.
The workers will be supervised by the owner of the company, McKinney said.
One potential problem is monitoring the harvest according to City Council members and McKinney.
This is going to be something very difficult for the city to control as far as what they harvest and what we get paid, Councilmember Mike Short said.
Like any other forest product, the program will use an honor system, McKinney said.
Were not going to be out there every day counting how many pounds of brush they put in their truck, McKinney said. There is some level of trust there.
Although most Bremerton residents will never see the plastic bags or defecation illegal pickers leave behind, harvesting occurs on water utility lands, and some groups have been found dangerously close to Bremertons main water supply the Union river.
Besides the threat of contamination, Forestry Manager Bill McKinney said, The alternative to not controlling the land is the state could say Hey, you need to filter your water.
Currently the city water flows from the river into the pipes which connect to peoples houses, but if the Department of Health mandated it, adding a filtration system would cost $15 million, with $1 million annual maintenance.
The source of the money? Higher water bills.
Monthly water bills would double if the new filter was installed, according to Water Resources specialist Kathleen Cahill.
Currently, Bremertons average monthly water rate is $11, the ninth lowest of 208 state systems, according to a 2001 report by the Association of Washington cities.
McKinney said controlling the water utility land sends a message to the Department of Health that Bremerton is serious about controlling their lands.