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Protesters take to the water, slow work at Glacier site
Several protesters in kayaks, canoes and other boats took to the waters off of Maury Island Tuesday and Wednesday in an effort to disrupt work at Glacier Northwest's pier-building site in the final days of the corporation's construction window.
Organizers of the flotilla said their effort on Tuesday was successful. They were in the water for more than five hours, forcing Glacier to stop pile-driving by kayaking directly adjacent to a huge steel tube a crew was working on. The crew eventually tied the tube down and suspended its efforts.
On Wednesday, however, crews continued to work directly above kayakers, prompting an outcry from organizers who said workers were endangering a peaceful effort.
"They're showing a complete and utter disregard for human life," organizer John Sellers said late Wednesday afternoon. "I'm just completely awestruck at how little regard they have for their own safety record and for Islanders engaged in a peaceful demonstration."
Pete Stoltz, permit coordinator for Glacier Northwest and the corporation's key spokesman, could not be reached late Wednesday. But earlier in the day, he dismissed the protesters' action as a publicity stunt. He also said they were breaking the law, entering an active work site where signs ask boaters to not come within 200 feet.
"We know this project has been intensely scrutinized for over 10 years. ... All the courts that have looked at it .. have determined that the decisions made were appropriate and that the project will not harm Puget Sound, endangered species or the Island," Stoltz said. "And these attempts to get media attention are simply an opportunity to broadcast more of these claims that are not supported by the facts."
The protest Tuesday involved a small flotilla of boats and kayaks. At its height, 15 boats were in the water and about 20 people were participating.
Some carried signs strapped to their backs: "What about our future?" and "Yes we can."
Several of the protesters were young people who have grown up on Vashon.
"I'm out here to protect my home and to protect the orcas and the salmon and the Sound," said Audrey Kellogg, 20, who was raised on Vashon.
Ravenna Koenig, home on break from Barnard College, said it was a bit nerve-racking to kayak right beneath the work but added that she felt no animosity towards the workers.
"They're doing a job, and we're doing what we think is our job," she said.
Stoltz said the company suspended its pile-driving on Tuesday because of the proximity of the kayakers.
"They're going right under heavy equipment," he said. "Obviously we stopped, because we can't take risks with people's safety."
On Wednesday, according to protesters, it was a different story.
At one point, kayakers were directly underneath steel platform suspended by a crane and holding two workers who were welding one of the pilings.
"Our Island is responding with courage and resolve," said Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign, one of the organizers of the protest.
The effort comes at the end of Glacier's construction window. The company has to stop work today because of in-water construction restrictions that go into place tomorrow to protect spawning herring and other fish.