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Port wants meeting with F&W on island

"The Port of South Whidbey commissioners will seek a meeting on the island with Department of Fish and Wildlife officials in an effort to get the Bush Point boat launch and fishing pier project on track.Whidbey's anxious anglers have been waiting for several years for the new facility, which is already funded. But Fish & Wildlife assistant engineer Owen Loshbough told The Record last month that work definitely won't begin this year, and he couldn't guarantee the facility would be ready by 2002.John Bartholomew, a member of Puget Sound Anglers, was instrumental in the mid-'90s in the effort to persuade Fish & Wildlife to purchase the old Bush Point rail boat launch and associated parcels of property. He appeared at Wednesday's Port of South Whidbey meeting to encourage the commissioners to push ahead with the project.The port isn't involved in funding the project but has agreed to manage the property once the new boat launch and pier are built. It's already managing the land and one house that was included in the purchase.Bartholomew raised concerns that increasing costs could jeopardize the scope of the project. He urged commissioners Jan Smith and Gene Sears to do everything possible to see that both a boat ramp and a pier are built, even if it means cutting corners. Commissioner Jim Hawley was absent.This is very important to all the fishing public, Bartholomew said, mentioning the concrete launch, an adjacent float and the pier.If cost becomes a problem, Bartholomew said the width of the proposed two-lane boat ramp could be reduced, planned flush restrooms could be replaced by chemical toilets, and gravel could take the place of pavement. Bartholomew worried that Fish and Wildlife might get set on one plan, find out it's not environmentally feasible, and then have to start the whole process over. Don't let them start redrawing plans, he said.Fisheries' Loshbough said in March that the state engineers were concerned about the small amount of beach area to work with at Bush Point, but he didn't rule out doing the entire project. He said the final plan would have to await the results of a biological assessment which is still being awaited. He also added that the department's six engineers have a backlog of 200 projects to work on.The port commissioners expressed sympathy with Bartholomew's concerns. Smith said Bartholomew and others have helped alert state officials to the need to get moving at Bush Point. However, she's seen no immediate action. The project, she said, may be lost in the morass of bureaucracy -- our frustration is your frustration.The commissioners asked for a meeting with Fish and Wildlife and were told to go to Olympia. They rejected the idea, saying state officials should come to Whidbey Island to meet with people here. The hope is to get Jeff Koenig, director of the department, as well as Loshbough. "

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