Coupeville closer to expanding its wharf

In the realm of bureaucratic hangups, the Port of Coupeville's moorage expansion project rates a royal pain in the neck, with each forward step hitting one more hitch in the permitting process.

Even so, any hint of progress is a welcome event, and the port commission recently received notice that the port may begin construction on the Coupeville Wharf sometime after July 19, though an exact date has yet to be set, Port of Coupeville consultant John Coyne said Thursday.

The Moorage Expansion Project, which has been in the works since August 1998, will add about 100 feet to existing moorage at the Coupeville Wharf, including two 10 -by-24-foot floats anchored to three new pilings on the east side and an 8-by-50-foot dock secured to existing pilings on the wharf's west side.

Also, the project would install new electrical hookups, lights and an additional fire main.

However, Coyne said, construction permits don't cover all aspects of the project as originally conceived. The commissioners withdrew their plans for a marine pumpout facility and moorage buoys, and it's uncertain whether pursuing these plans will further hold up the project.

As originally conceived, the entire expansion project had an estimated price tag of about $60,000, though this figure also took into account the cost of additional buoys and the septic pumpout station.

For the last four years, the project has been stalled in the permitting process, with various applications to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife held up over concerns about the impact wharf construction could have on local salmon habitat.

But now that the commissioners finally have received approval from Fish and Wildlife, it would seem they are much closer to getting the green light.

The approval did not include the port's buoy design, a fact that seems to baffle Coyne. He said questions have been raised by Fish and Wildlife over the specifics of the design, even though it follows the buoy design guidelines that have been accepted for the state parks.

The port commission currently is exploring with Fish and Wildlife officials the feasibility of restoring the buoy portion of the project, though nothing has been done formally. Coyne indicated that there's hope for reinstating the plan as originally submitted.

"I believe that Fish and Wildlife will accept the buoy design that was submitted," he said.

Coyne said permitting the buoy design will likely require some biological surveys of the areas where they would be installed.

As for the installation of a marine pumpout system, which would hook up to the town's septic system, Coyne said "that's not something that we're avidly pursuing right now."

The HPA permit opens a window on construction through Feb. 14 of next year, a time frame that Coyne said should pose no problem for the port. He added, though, that it remains to be seen when the port can actually begin construction after the official approval date of July 19.

There is the question of timing on when to bring in a pile driver to place the additional pilings needed for expansion.

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