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Port moves forward on plan to move floating dock to Langley

Lynae Slinden -
Lynae Slinden
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FREELAND — They’re getting close, but no one’s passing out cigars yet.

Port of South Whidbey commissioners used a special meeting Thursday to authorize $55,000 to get the Langley marina ready to be the temporary parking lot for the port’s new floating dock.

If the Langley City Council agrees, the breakwater will be towed to Langley from Port Orchard on Oct. 18.

Langley City Administrator Walt Blackford told the city council Wednesday night that the city hasn’t gotten enough answers from the port on permitting, liability and safety issues.

Blackford added that Mayor Neil Colburn would authorize initial prep work on the dock where the breakwater will be tied up before the city council signs off on the idea.

Port manager Ed Field was instructed to send a “hold harmless” letter of agreement to the city. The letter is expected to answer Langley’s concerns over the project while detailing the port’s intention to accept all liability if something goes wrong.

The port needs to move quickly, port officials said.

The 400-foot dock — purchased from Bremerton for $350,000 — was disconnected and towed to Port Orchard for short-term storage by Boyer Logistics. But the company has said it needs its moorage space for Alaskan barges and wants to get the breakwater out the way.

Originally, the port had applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to store the dock in Holmes Harbor for a year before it would be towed to Langley for permanent installation.

But the deeper the engineers got into the site investigation at Holmes Harbor, the better Langley looked as a temporary holding spot. Plus, officials said towing the dock directly to Langley would save money and time.

Field said that while the federal government is ready to give the port a 12- to 15-month permit, Island County has stepped in to say there may be shoreline issues involved.

“If Langley flatly refuses to let us go direct to the marina, the county will help out at Holmes Harbor,” Field said. “Commissioner Phil Bakke understands the importance of the project to South Whidbey.”

The cost to bring and store the breakwater to Freeland is roughly the same as Langley. It would require another move next year, however, which would raise the total cost of getting the dock to the Langley marina.

For now, however, Holmes Harbor is the back-up plan.

The port will tie the breakwater to the existing boat dock palisade in Langley, then stabilize it with resilient “camels” and truck tires until it can be permanently installed. It would lie roughly parallel with the shore, northwest to southeast.

“Tie lines will allow for tidal changes and the breakwater should be safe,” engineering consultant Greg York said.

On Friday, port officials were scheduled to conduct an on-site survey of the marina with representatives from the state Department of Ecology to determine the project’s long-term feasibility.

Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden was encouraged by what she heard.

“With the city stepping up on a decision, we should be able to move forward,” she said.

Commissioner Rolf Seitle noted the importance of a quick decision.

“We need to engage the contractor now so the prep work can be done,” he said.

The agreement between the port and the city will see the port taking ownership and control in January 2009.

Seitle floated the idea of taking over the marina in June 2008, instead.

“It would be good to capture what revenue we can next summer when boating season begins,” he said.

Slinden strongly disagreed.

“That would be detrimental to the overall plan,” she said. “I don’t want to go there. The small amount to be gained isn’t worth it.”

Commissioner Geoff Tapert agreed.

“Six months isn’t going to make that much difference,” Tapert said.

Seitle, though, said there could be other benefits.

“The sooner we are in charge, the sooner we can assume authority over events,” he said.

The port’s next regular meeting is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Freeland Library with a preliminary budget discussion at 7 p.m.

Michaela Marx Wheatley contributed to this report.

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

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