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Multi-Generation Native Defends Port Townsend Mill's Water Use

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Multi-generation Port Townsend, Wash., USA resident Tom Camfield submitted a letter to the editor of the Port Townsend Leader (Port Townsend, Wash.) published earlier this week titled Our Water, Our Paper Mill, Our Past, Our Present. The following is what Camfield wrote in defense of the historic mill which has existed for nearly a century:

"How time flies. It's been 88 years since my grandfather came to Port Townsend in 1927 to help build the local paper mill. And during that project, National Paper Products Co. entered into a long-time water-use lease with the city. The lease, by underwriting a bond issue, allowed construction of the water transmission line from the Quilcene River, which replaced the inadequate line from Snow Creek which already had been failing and was an increasing health menace.
 
"The mill also assumed maintenance of the transmission line. When the original wood-stave line eventually  showed signs of having outlived its usefulness, it was replaced with modern longer-lasting pipe. City residents along in the '50s or so voted almost unanimously to renew the water lease with the mill. I recall too a time during my childhood when a forest fire threatened the transmission line. It was mill workers, including my father, who became fire-fighters. My father was away for days before dragging home somewhat blackened.
  
"Now we have a community composed in large part of relative newcomers, many of whom apparently feel no personal need for a paper mill--where two generations of my family retired and two more generations worked part-time helping finance their college educations... and provided my son with the beginning of an exceptionally successful engineering career with Procter & Gamble, from which he just retired. It’s an easy thing for those who know nothing about the intricacies of mill operations, its interludes of financial stress in modern years, its major role in the community in so many ways, its periodic upgrading of operations—to pull cheap shots at it out of thin air, as reported in the August 5 Leader.
 
"This mill is not some evil creator of gross profits at the expense of the local public. That has been obvious from the realities of both the past and present as chronicled in the local press. While spending millions, (much of it back when a million dollars was really something) to both sustain a profit margin and conform to or exceed legally mandated environmental requirements, our mill has pulled itself up by its bootstraps a number of times. And the steady payrolls of hundreds of workers since the beginning ot the Great Depression have steadily nourished our community. The mill also was a major contributor when our current hospital was constructed years ago to replace old St. John’s that had been operated by Catholic nuns. This was among other charitable activities the mill was consistently involved with.
 
"Paper mills, like newspapers who were one of their largest customers, have faltered and closed in cities and towns all over the country during the modern era. Port Townsend is fortunate to have both still thriving at present. The Port Townsend Leader heralded the mill’s arrival in the ’20s with its only news "extra" edition since 1889. The headline was 'Paper Mill Assured.' That succinctly said it all for a town in the post-World War One doldrums, with its rotted water supply line, general infrastructure deterioration, etc."
 
"Leader writer Allison Arthur for some months now has been thoroughly investigating and reporting on our local water situation in connection with the statewide drought of 2015.  And If I remember correctly, a week or two ago her front-page story quoted details of actions being taken at the local mill, as described by its manager. Included was a description of measures already completed (e.g. reduced water usage via acquisition of major new equipment) or planned (e.g. possible early annual maintenance shutdown).  
 
"Yet at the August 3 City Council session, council member Michelle Sandoval said: "I think the mill really needs to come out publicly and say what they are doing." I call that a cheap shot by someone who apparently sees the mill only as user of 10 million gallons of water a day—as a vague entity that can somehow further reduce that usage suddenly and magically with a mere wave of the hand. Sandoval is quoted by reporter Robin Dudley as stating to City Manager David Timmons, "You are being the spokesperson for the mill . . . it should be the mill spokesperson. I want to hear if from them. 
 
"So our City Manager is being characterized as some sort of small-town reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain? Or is it just that mill management is being issued an imperial command to appear and pay groveling homage? Give me a break! 
 
"Ted Shoulberg spoke: 'Why isn’t there being a public discussion about asking the mill to  . . . share sooner?' It’s not a matter of sharing; that’s gone on during a marriage of 88 years. The mill’s share now is less than it used to be. The Chimacum area and Indian Island have been others involved in the sharing. I can’t mentally grasp the vague and frivolous concept that the mill could continue operating with, say, half as much water. I have to have more detail to be able to envision trying to run a paper machine half time or at half speed as some form of water conservation. I’ve worked on those machines, and elsewhere in the mill—way back in 1945-’46.
 
"Let’s not snark around trying, in some twisted way, to make the paper mill the scapegoat for the lack of a winter snow pack in the mountains. President Obama is coming out soon with an environmental package aimed at alleviating, with international cooperation, the real causes of global warming with its disappearing glaciers, various weather changes, etc. 
 
"I also support the local golf course, a lesser but notable water user which is even older than the paper mill. It, too, has come close to death more than once over the years—and property developers continue to slaver over that green expanse in the middle of the city.  I know for one thing that if the course’s greens are allowed to dry up and die, they can’t be resuscitated merely by a belated application of water. They are not composed of quack grass. 
 
"I stand firmly with the paper mill, the newspaper, and the golf course (where I caddied in my younger years, back in 1941 and ’42). I also spent 10 years on City Council through the ’70s (plus 15 years reporting the city hall beat for the Leader), but I don’t hold quite the same allegiance to local government."
 

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