Sheep near Tarboo Ridge

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are common questions that the Tarboo Ridge Coalition is often asked about the proposed weapons facility at Tarboo Lake. If you have a question that’s not addressed below, feel free to contact us and we’ll get back to you. See also the Resources section for links to news articles, papers, and other information regarding the proposed weapons facility at Tarboo Lake.

READ more about Fort Discovery Inc.’s History in Jefferson County.

Why was the Tarboo Ridge Coalition formed and what does it stand for?

The mission of the Tarboo Ridge Coalition is to preserve the integrity of Tarboo Ridge and surrounding areas. However, in the summer of 2017 Security Services Northwest filed a pre-application with Jefferson County to develop a weapons training facility on a 40-acre property next to Tarboo Lake. The TRC believes that this facility poses a threat to the safety, environmental well-being and future development of our community. This complex would feature seven gun ranges, a shooting house, cabins, a clubhouse and two helicopter landing zones. Details about the proposed facility can be viewed in the pre-application that was filed with Jefferson County. (PDF, 300 pages, 29MB)

What is the history of Security Services Northwest and Fort Discovery, Inc with the Jefferson County community?

Security Services Northwest (SSNW) is a security company owned by Joseph D’Amico and headquartered in Sequim, Washington. SSNW offers a range of services, from residential patrols all the way up to private military contracting for clients such as the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, General Dynamics and Shell Oil. According to the website for Security Services Northwest, it is a “nationally-recognized supplement for Department of Defense anti-terrorism force protection.”

Fort Discovery was established as a training facility for military personnel, private individuals, law enforcement, and for SSNW’s employees, including SSNW’s Counter Assault Teams that are deployed as part of SSNW’s maritime security business.

Fort Discovery has long been controversial with nearby residents and businesses due to excessive noise from the heavy gunfire and explosions emanating from training sessions conducted at the facility. Many of the activities that occurred there were not legally permitted. Fort Discovery was shut down in the latter part of 2017 after a dispute with the landlords over a number of issues including the lack of permits for his activities, the lead pollution in the soil and a rally coin that was produced without landlord approval that contained the coordinates of the location.  Mr. D’Amico has stated his intention to relocate the “higher-intensity uses of Fort Discovery” to Tarboo Lake.

On September 27, 2017,  Philip Morley, Jefferson County Administrator and Michael Haas, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney, submitted a letter to attorneys Mr. Setchell and Mr. Overstreet regarding unpermitted structures and non-confirming uses at Discovery Bay. View the letter (PDF, 7 pages, 4MB).

On October 16, 2017, the Ark Group filed a complaint against Joesph D’Amico and his spouse and the marital community composed thereof; Security Services Northwest, Inc. and Fort Discovery, Inc. View the complaint. (PDF, 9 pages, 4MB)

Reference to the above quote “higher-intensity uses of Fort Discovery” can be found in this article in the Port Townsend Leader dated September 6, 2017.

Reference to the explosions referred to can be found in this September 2005 article in the Port Townsend Leader.

Proponents of the proposed weapons training facility often claim that those who are against it are trying to suppress their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. Is this true?

No. The Tarboo Ridge Coalition is advocating for the sensible regulation of gun ranges in Jefferson County. Proponents of the weapons training facility at Tarboo Lake tend to conflate the regulation of gun ranges with their right to bear arms. It’s been determined by the courts in Washington State that these are distinct and separate issues. The regulation of gun ranges by local government is not in violation of the Second Amendment and it is not the TRC’s intent to restrict anyone’s right to possess firearms. In fact, many in the TRC are gun owners.

Proponents of the weapons facility also suggest the location of the facility is in the “middle of nowhere.” Is this true?

No. While not densely populated, the area surrounding Tarboo Ridge is home to many businesses, farms, families and retirees who are seeking to live in a peaceful, quiet and safe community. Some 350 families live within three miles of the proposed weapons training facility. If there is a silver lining to the proposed weapons training facility at Tarboo Lake it would be this: It has united the community like nothing else. Opposition of nearby residents to the proposed facility appears to be unanimous.

What is the status of Security Services Northwest’s permit application for establishing a weapons training facility adjacent to Tarboo Lake?

SSNW has only filed a pre-application, which can be viewed hereSSNW has not yet filed a permit application.

What County restrictions may apply to the proposed plans in the pre-app?

Just like anyone else, whatever Security Services Northwest wants to build needs to be in compliance with the regulations and laws that define how property can be developed in Jefferson County. The proposed training facility as outlined in SSNW’s pre-application violates multiple provisions of the Jefferson County Unified Development Code. For example, the pre-application submitted by SSNW describes the facility as a “hybrid between a recreational use(s) and a necessary training facility for law enforcement.” Under current County code, the proposed site can be conditionally developed for small scale recreation and tourist uses. However, a commercial military training facility can’t be considered “recreational” in any sense. In fact, D’Amico has stated that it’s his intention to relocate the “higher-intensity uses of Fort Discovery to this location.” Other code violations that can be determined from SSNW’s pre-application include the retail sales of firearms, the siting of multiple gun ranges as well as the placement of two helicopter landing pads.

In addition to zoning issues, the location of a military training facility at Tarboo Lake would be totally out of character with the decades long effort to preserve the unique ecosystem of the area. Over the years millions of dollars in restoration efforts have been invested in neighboring Tarboo Valley and Dabob Bay. The noise and environmental damage produced by a nearby military training facility would likely compromise these hard-won efforts.

How is the proposed weapons training facility at Tarboo Lake a threat to public safety?

It is challenging on any gun range to assure that there will be no stray bullet activity. Stray bullets from the proposed shooting range pose a hazard to the general public accessing Tarboo Lake as well as passing traffic. The proposed weapons training facility is less than a mile from both State Highways 101 and 104, which is well in range of a stray bullet. A bullet fired from a .357 handgun can travel over a mile; a bullet fired from a .30-06 can go three miles. In addition, stray bullets also pose a danger to boaters and fishermen on Tarboo Lake, which is adjacent to the proposed training facility. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks the lake annually and it’s a popular destination for fisherman in late spring and early summer, as well as a popular destination for families swimming, boating and picnicking. Ordinance 05-1218-17, the ordinance declaring the year moratorium to study the placement of gun ranges in Jefferson County cites stray bullets as a concern.

Who owns Tarboo Lake?

The waters of the Tarboo Lake belong to the State of Washington. The State Department of Natural Resources installed and manages the public access ramp to the lake for boaters and the surrounding parking area. The Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks the lake with fish and monitors Opening Day of lowland lakes fishing season. And the road to the lake was built and is maintained by Jefferson County.

Tarboo Lake is a public resource. What recreation activities would be diminished or eliminated by the proposed activities there?

Area residents use Tarboo Lake for fishing, boating, swimming, picnicking, hiking, hunting, birdwatching, horseback riding and trail-ride animal training and other nature-related activities. The presence of a weapons training facility on the north side of the lake would certainly compromise all of these activities.

What is the danger of contamination of Tarboo Lake and Tarboo Creek from lead and other firing range contaminants?

It’s been well-documented that outdoor shooting ranges pose a significant threat to both humans and wildlife due to exposure to lead. The potential danger of copper and lead contamination from spent cartridges and bullets at Tarboo Lake is very real. At Fort Discovery it was not uncommon for a single training session to expend many thousands of rounds of ammunition. Without effective storm water control and a lead abatement and recovery plan, lead from spent ammunition will almost certainly leach into the soils and surrounding water supply. At Fort Discovery significant lead and copper contamination was reported on by the EPA in 2008. 

What are some of the environmental characteristics of Tarboo Lake, Tarboo Creek, and the surrounding forest?

The forty acres purchased by Fort Discovery, Inc is characterized as “an inholding forest resource”, surrounded by other forest land owned by Pope Resources. This forty acres has no direct access of its own to a public road or highway. These lands have both high conservation and commercial value. The forest land on the entire ridge from Highway 104 nearly to Quilcene has been untouched except for commercial logging, hunters, and fishermen at Tarboo Lake. Pope Resources, which owns most of the commercial forest on the ridge, reforest their logged areas.

Many millions of Federal, State, and County dollars have been invested in conservation efforts in the Tarboo sub-basin and Dabob Bay, which is fed primarily by Tarboo Creek. Tarboo Creek is listed as a contributor to the salmon spawning areas for Coho and Chum salmon in the DFW Conservation Plan for Dabob Bay. And the creek and the ridge surrounding Brown’s and Tarboo Lakes is a designated wildlife habitat and corridor. The area is a proposed wildlife corridor in the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan scheduled for further protections when funds are available.  The noise and environmental damage produced by a nearby military training facility would likely compromise these hard-won efforts.

How will noise from the training activities at Tarboo Lake make a difference to the rural quality of life in Tarboo Valley and surrounding communities?

Perhaps the most common complaint about outdoor shooting ranges is the noise they generate and they’ve only gotten louder over the years as guns with higher calibers and larger loads have become more popular. A single round fired from an AR-15—which the NRA calls America’s most popular gun—produces as much as 165 decibels*. At Fort Discovery it was not uncommon for a single training session to expend as much as 40,000 rounds of ammunition. So it’s easy to understand how a weapons training facility could dramatically alter the health and character of a place like Tarboo Ridge, not just for the families that live nearby, but for the livestock and wildlife that inhabit the area. (*By comparison, a lawn mower produces 90 decibels; a jet engine at takeoff 140 decibels.).

References to ammunition use can be seen in this January 8, 2007 article in Port Townsend Leader.