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Bush Point confusion continues as opening day approaches

Workers put the finishing touches on a new concrete pad at the Bush Point boat launch ramp late last month. The ramp will open April 8 after floats are installed. - Ed Field photo
Workers put the finishing touches on a new concrete pad at the Bush Point boat launch ramp late last month. The ramp will open April 8 after floats are installed.
— image credit: Ed Field photo

Boat ramp will open for season on Saturday

There is good news for South End boaters — the refurbished boat launch ramp at Bush Point has a smooth concrete finish, from the apron down into the water at high tide.

And when the ramp opens on April 8 with the floats back in, drivers can ease their boats backward into the chilly waters of Admiralty Inlet more safely.

If only the takeover of the project by the Port of South Whidbey could move so smoothly.

Fully 10 years after work began on the rebuilt launch, the port still has responsibility for the Bush Point facility, but not control. That function remains with the state and port commissioners are hoping that will change soon.

“We have a long-term obligation to operate Bush Point,” Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle said. “We might as well own it. It certainly is more practical. I would be opposed to operating any facility we don’t control.”

Port officials have been disappointed over the years as they could only monitor, not direct, the process of correcting problems at Bush Point. Under the terms of the original agreement between the port and the state, the Department of Fish and Wildlife paid for and built the ramp and the port will manage and maintain it for the next 35 years.

Still, commissioners are uncomfortable at lacking direct ownership of the beleaguered project. But they don’t want to buy a pig in a poke, either.

“We have to be sure that we have full accountability from the state before any management transfer occurs,” Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden said.

That transfer appears to be in a curious bureaucratic limbo and is now undergoing an environmental review at the state level

“I haven’t seen the paperwork yet,” port manager Ed Field said, adding that the port can fix up the problematic project once it owns the facility.

“Once Bush Point is transferred, we can begin making certain improvements, like a urinal for the men’s room and a better turn-around for cars with trailers,” Field said.

Designed for environmental reasons, the pre-cast concrete structure grid was intended to provide traction for cars and boat trailers but started to deteriorate almost as soon as it was laid down. So the port sought and received permission from Fish and Wildlife for a solid concrete surface.

That work was finished earlier this month and the department authorized $9,000 as reimbursement.

“That funding won’t completely cover the work done on the grid or repairs to the pile hoop rings, but it helps,” Field said.

The port began working on Bush Point in 1998 as a response to boaters and fishermen’s requests for improved access to Whidbey’s west side along Admiralty Inlet.

A variety of delays over the years — a septic versus sewer connection problem, discovery of an offshore surf smelt habitat, tidal concerns, handicap-access needs and, more recently, degrading of the concrete grid system — slowed the completion of the project.

A restroom, fencing, parking lot paving, landscaping and a septic system were completed last year but winter storms washed away sand under the dock.

Boaters are more than ready for the repair project to come to a close.

Clinton’s Brett Sumner spent a recent weekend tuning up the outboard on his Boston Whaler.

“Nuts to all that stuff, let’s go fishing,” he said.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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