Leader Article of February 12, 2020

The City of Port Townsend and the Port Townsend Paper Company have agreed to extend the terms of a more than 60-year-old operational water lease, which was due to expire in March, to allow more time for a renegotiation.

The current lease, which has been in place since 1956, allows the PTPC free use of water coming from the Big and Little Quilcene rivers besides whatever amount the city needs for its own water uses.

Kevin Scott, general manager of the paper mill, told The Leader in June 2019 that the mill consumes 10 to 12 million gallons of water a day.

Port Townsend residents have expressed concerns that the city is getting the short end of the stick with this deal, and they would like to see the company pay its fair share.

City Manager John Mauro has said he understands why residents feel strongly about this issue and that he is working to negotiate a fair deal for everyone.

When asked at a Jan. 30 community meeting if he believes there should be public input on the terms of the lease, he said he does believe the public should be allowed to weigh in, although ultimately, lease agreements are the city’s decision.

Previous City Manager David Timmons said last year the city would no longer allow free use of the water in the next long-term contract.