Commissioners tackle Langley fuel dock

The idea is simplicity itself: Build a fuel dock at the Langley marina and transient boaters en route from points south to north will come.

And as long as they’re here, hopefully they will spend money in the town’s businesses to help fuel the economy.

Currently, there are no fueling stations between Everett and Oak Harbor. Langley, however, is on the direct route to La Conner, Deception Pass and the San Juan Islands.

But talk of the Port of South Whidbey building and operating fuel dock sputtered this week when one port commissioner questioned whether such a project could pencil out.

At their April 4 meeting, commissioners discussed whether the port should pay $11,000 to consultant firm Reid-Middleton for a financial feasibility study.

“Clearly we need research data to determine if this is a viable concept for the port to undertake,” Commissioner Lynae Slinden told fellow commissioners. “We need as many facts as possible and this is an important first step.”

Slinden said the fuel dock idea was resurrected during a conversation with Langley Mayor Neil Colburn on the way to a Council of Government meeting in Seattle.

“The mayor feels it would be advantageous for the port to own the facility, a demonstration project of specific interest to the port,” Slinden said. “We would also benefit from any future profits.”

Commissioner Rolf Seitle was unimpressed. He said he considers the fuel dock a money-losing proposition.

“So you’re having talks with the mayor that will cost $11,000? We have no indication the city is willing to do this. Is this new funding? I can’t agree to spend this money unless we have a firm agreement up front with the city,” Seitle said.

Seitle added that the cost of permitting and construction could never be justified financially.

Slinden reiterated that the proposal was preliminary, and a study was needed to explore the idea further.

“The mayor is for it, even to the extent of turning over ownership rights. But is it a good idea? I don’t know yet, that’s what Reid-Middleton can tell us,” she said.

Commissioner Geoff Tapert asked if the study could be modified to include the whole marina, not just the dock.

“As part of a financial analysis, how would it fit into the whole picture?” Tapert asked.

Seitle pointed out a study was done a year ago showing the total cost of a 200-slip marina could reach $18 million.

“What we need to know is what can be done with the fuel dock to make it economically feasible,” Seitle said.

In the end, the proposal for a consultant contract was tabled to the May 10 meeting.

On Thursday, Colburn said the project could be one way the city and the port might work together.

“We’re looking for ways to work together,” Colburn said. “We thought this is an idea to take back to the council and commission for their review. We’d be willing to co-sign to help the port get a state or federal grant.”

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