There was a party going on at the Port of South Whidbey meeting Tuesday night, even it it was only in the head of Port President Curt Gordon.
“There should be champagne or something,” Gordon said. “This is a big deal.”
His comment came in response to Port Operations Director Ed Fields’ announcement that he had “good news.” Just the day before, the Army Corps of Engineers had approved the port’s expansion plans at the Langley Marina.
“I got the call and was down there in one hour,” Field told Gordon and Commissioner Chris Jerome. Commissioner Dennis Gregoire did not attend the meeting.
The port has been waiting literally for years for the Army Corps permit. It means that port engineers can begin detailing the design, then the port can call for bids from contractors.
The final Corps permit had been anticipated for several months, but apparently needed a kick in the pants from higher officials. Fields said help was found in the offices of Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Rick Larsen.
“Our representatives were working for us at the Corps,” Field said.
Rep. Larsen visited the marina Thursday where he was given a quick tour and shown drawing of the expansion plans. They were talking on the marina’s walkway, to which was tied 400-feet of breakwater-style dock that can now be arrayed to accommodate more boaters visiting Langley.
The three sections of dock, purchased from Bremerton for $350,000 in 2007, will be arranged in a long triangular fashion, with the higher breakwater sides facing north and south where the strong winds come from.
Field told the commissioners the bid documents should be ready in two to three weeks. “It’s a fairly complex job,” he said. Access to the new dock must be provided, along with anchors, electricity, water, lighting and other accoutrements.
One last holdup is a $750,000 Federal Emergency Management Grant to purchase two emergency boats, one for South Whidbey Fire/EMS and another, perhaps, for the Sheriff’s Office. If received, it will require a slightly different docking arrangement. The commissioners hope to get the final word from FEMA in a week or two. Gordon asked Larsen for help during his marina visit.
The newly enlarged marina will be finished and ready for the 2014 boating season working with just the Army Corps of Engineer permit. However, the project will have to be shifted into high gear if the FEMA boat grant is received, as it will require project completion by Dec. 31, 2012, Field said.
The existing marina will accommodate about 38 boats, while the addition is expected to provide space for about half that number while allowing whale watching and other tourism boats to dock in Langley.
The revisions are the latest in a project that has been repeatedly sent back to the drawing board in recent years. The port took over the marina from the city of Langley in 2009, and an early proposal envisioned a $15 million rebuild that would create spaces for 117 to 245 vessels, as well as room for float planes.
The port asked voters to approve an $8.2 million bond measure to help pay for it, but voters rejected the proposal. Last year, the port used its bonding authority to sell $850,000 in bonds for the smaller project, which is estimated to cost about $2.4 million. The port also has a $1.2 million economic development grant from Island County and $300,000 from the state Recreation and Conservation Office.