Half of the incorporated area of the City of Bremerton is forest land, and a good portion of that (around 13 square miles) belongs to the Bremerton Water Utility. Beginning in 1917, forest lands were purchased to protect the source waters for Bremerton's drinking water supply. Acquiring land to both provide and protect water quality has continued to the present. Ownership of almost the entire Union River watershed above Casad Reservoir, allows the Water Utility to manage activities that maintain a safe, economic source of drinking water for Bremerton and the surrounding area.

More than two million trees, mostly evergreens such as Douglas fir, are growing in the Water Utility's forests. These trees and the forest stands they form provide benefits to our water supply, such as protection from erosion and cooling shade for streams. They also provide wildlife and fish habitat and economic returns through carefully managed, sustainable harvest. Revenue from harvest helps with capital projects to improve the water supply system for both current and future needs.

Although the Forestry is one of the smallest divisions within the Public Works & Utilities Department, its area of responsibility is one of the largest. The Water Utility's forest lands cover approximately 8,300 acres or 13 square miles, which includes the Union River watershed. This is over 40 percent of the incorporated area of Bremerton and the source of all its surface water and most of its groundwater supply. These lands lie west of Gorst and extend toward Gold Mountain near Mason County.

Forestry is responsible for:
  • Water quality protection through best management practices and physical security of the watershed
  • Management of the forest resource in a professional manner within the constraints of regulatory mandates
  • Support for the operations of the Water Utility through revenue generation using sustainable harvest principles
  • Management of the Biosolids Program for beneficial use to reduce cost and enhance growth on permitted forest lands
  • Maintenance of forest roads to provide access for water supply, forestry and biosolids operations
  • Cooperation with local Tribes, state agencies and other groups to protect and enhance salmon and wildlife habitat
  • Management of communication site leases on City lands
  • Operation of Jarstad Park near Gorst Creek
In 1986 the Bremerton City Council adopted a management plan for the Water Utility's forest lands. This was updated and revised in 1996. Addendums were made in 2000 and 2006. These documents provide guidance for forest and land management activities with respect to the primary concerns of water quality and quantity protection. 

A Natural Revenue Source
Revenue from timber harvest contributes to the capital improvement program of the Water Utility. Since 1980, timber harvest operations have provided average revenues of approximately $750,000 per year. Other land activities, such as communication site leases, evergreen brush harvest, wood salvage and gravel leases, add an average of another $300,000 annually.

In the late 1990's, the Forestry division implemented a program that identified portions of Douglas fir stands exhibiting symptoms of laminated root disease. The program used color aerial photographs scanned with a computer program that could differentiate tree crown shading. Areas of dead and fading crowns were mapped and field checked, and the trees in these areas were scheduled for harvest. Between 1996 and 1998, a majority of the annual timber harvest consisted of salvaging trees that would otherwise have been lost to the disease. It also allowed containment of the disease by stopping its spread through live root systems to adjacent healthy trees. During this period, over $3,600,000 was received for salvaged timber, revenue that would have been lost without this quick action. In addition, significant future revenue would have been lost from trees affected by this disease if no intervention had taken place. Many of these disease pockets have been managed since harvest to encourage the growth of hardwoods, particularly western red alder. This species is disease resistant and has become a valuable product, often commanding higher prices than Douglas fir.

Additional Sustainable Measures
Besides salvage, other methods of sustainable management include selective use of even-age and uneven-age harvests. Uneven-age harvests consist of thinnings and selective harvesting for pole quality timber. These create greater revenues for the City Utility while minimizing the number of trees harvested annually. The University of Washington College of Forestry completed a Forest Management Analysis for the City's forest lands in May 2006. This document provides guidelines to adjust our annual harvest levels to match the targeted sustainable yields and harvest regimes identified in that plan. This will ensure we always correctly balance forest health management and water quality protection, as well as provide a source for ongoing revenue to the Water Utility.

Reforestation of harvested areas is also a responsibility of the City's Forestry division staff. About 30,000 trees are planted annually on Water Utility lands.

Other duties include management of the City's biosolids program, which beneficially utilizes 100 percent of the Bremerton Wastewater Treatment Plant's output on our own permitted forest lands. This not only helps us grow trees and improve soil quality, but it also saves the City over $400,000 each year in disposal costs that would be incurred if this resource were not recycled.

Watershed Protection
Forestry works with the Bremerton Police Department to coordinate patrol and surveillance of the Bremerton Watershed. This helps protect the quality of the water accumulated in a special 3,000 acre zone of forest land that constitutes a protected watershed behind and adjacent to Casad Dam. Over 50 miles of forest roads and associated stream crossings are maintained by the Forestry division.

The division operates Jarstad Park near Gorst, and also cooperates with the Suquamish Tribe and the Kitsap Poggie Club with the salmon rearing program and annual Kid's Fishing Day at Gorst Creek. The salmon rearing program produces over 2 million Chinook annually. The division has been an active participant and sponsor of the family-oriented Kid's Fishing Day and has hosted the event on Water Utility lands for over 10 years. The division is also involved with numerous other educational and community events.