Good vibrations on their way to Langley

The Port of South Whidbey commissioners may be feeling good vibrations later this month as old pilings are removed and new ones installed in a major upgrade of the boat ramp in Langley.

Ed Field, port operations manager, told commissioners Curt Gordon and Dennis Gregoire at a special meeting Tuesday that the piling work could begin as early as Nov. 19. But Field emphasized the exact date will be decided after conferring with Langley officials.

Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick said later he is good with whatever date works for the port. “They have to get that thing done and I’m tickled they’re taking the first step on the marina project,” he said. “It makes perfectly good sense.”

The old “thump, thump, thump” of pile driving is gone thanks to newer techniques that use vibrations to remove wood pilings and install steel ones. That should be good news for people sleeping in nearby homes and inns, as the work must be done at low tide and this time of year, the low tides are expected around 2 a.m.

Eleven wood pilings will be removed and four new steel pilings installed. A pair of 25-foot floats, presently under construction, will be installed along the ramp.

“People can keep their feet dry,” while launching and retrieving boats, Field said. Some permits start expiring in late December, so it’s important to get the work done soon. “It’s a huge vibrator with a clamp on it; it shakes the old piles out and vibrates the new ones in,” Field said.

The boat ramp improvements continue phase one of the port’s Langley Marina improvement plans. The first work completed was moving the Phil Simon pocket park from beside the bluff to the beach area.

The first major part of the marina expansion project is yet to come. Field told the commissioners he hopes to have all the permits in order to call for bids in January. A Corps of Engineers permit is being held up by a historical preservation and environmental review by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The port sold more than $800,000 in bonds last year to help fund the project, the total cost of which is estimated at $2.4 million.

The renovation proposes to recondition and reconfigure an existing 400-foot breakwater with pilings, run supporting utilities out to the dock and install a new 80-foot gangway that would connect everything to the existing marina.

Field said the breakwater, to which boats can tie up, will be split roughly in half. If a FEMA grant comes through, two boats will be purchased, one for the police and one for South Whidbey Fire/EMS. They would occupy most of one portion of the breakwater. The other portion could hold transient moorage and visits by larger boats, such as the Victoria Clipper which presently brings summer tourists to Coupeville.

The commissioners ordered two formats for the 2013 budget, one with the hoped-for FEMA grant of $1,086,717 and one without it. Gordon explained that no grant means no fire boat.

The commissioners passed the preliminary budget documents Tuesday but adjustments are still being made and they won’t be finalized until after a public hearing Nov. 13.

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