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Bush Point boat launch work finally gets started

Jeff McElliot, part of a work crew from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began demolishing structures at Bush Point Thursday to make way for the new ramp and floats set to be completed by July 15.<p> - Jennifer Conway
Jeff McElliot, part of a work crew from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began demolishing structures at Bush Point Thursday to make way for the new ramp and floats set to be completed by July 15.

— image credit: Jennifer Conway

Construction of a new boat launch and floats at Bush Point began with a crash this week as workers began clearing publicly owned shoreline property.

Construction crews with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began Thursday by tearing down an old steel hoist system and two small buildings located near the shore.

For Dennis Keefe, a former owner of some of the property, seeing the buildings come down to make way for new construction was exciting. He had operated the boat launch and mercantile building in the early 1990s, but never had much time to use them for personal reasons. While watching the tractor demolish the structures and taking photos, he said he looks forward to using the new facility.

“This is a great spot for fishing,” he said. “It’s crying for a boat launch.”

Keefe still owns the historic mercantile building, which he is remodeling as he has the time.

On Friday, Fire District 3 burned a nearby structure, formerly used as a bath house for camping. The area will become parking for boat trailers.

The goal, according to Fish and Wildlife project engineer Kristen Kuykendall, is to have the launch and floats and in working condition by the time the salmon start running.

“Our goal is to have a functioning ramp by July 15 for the fishing season,” Kuykendall said.

Before beginning construction at Bush Point, Fish and Wildlife had to find and improve a site to create a near-shore fish habitat to make up for what will be lost during construction. Kuykendall said the mitigation took place in Penn Cove this summer, where approximately 130 feet of bulkhead was removed and graded back to a more natural state. Several big leaf maples, alders and dune grass were planted this week by Fish and Wildlife crews.

From now until March 15, Kuykendall said her agency plans to finish several parts of the project, including grading and graveling of a parking lot, grading of the lower launch level, and the first portion of pouring and installing the concrete boat ramp. A transition ramp will be constructed from the bulkhead at the launch site to beach level.

Between March 15 and June 14, Kuykendall said, in-water construction will be restricted due to fish migrations. June 15 to July 15 has been set for the installation of the piles, floats, and the second portion of the launch.

Once the $600,000 project is completed, Kuykendall said, it will be handed over to the Port of South Whidbey. She said it will be under the port’s discretion then whether to remove floats during the winter months, as it does at its Possession Point Beachfront Park. She said strong currents in the winter will decrease the longevity of the floats.

The floats are intended to be used as an aid in launching and recovering boats, but can also be used for fishing. Whether fishing off the floats will be allowed is up to the Port.

“During heavy boating times, it would definitely be a conflict,” Kuykendall said.

Though much of the preliminary work is being done by Fish and Wildlife, the whole project is funded by the state Office of the Interagency Committee, which funds programs which facilitate recreation and habitat conservation activities.

According to Kuykendall, the project suffered several setbacks over the past seven years. Several coastal and biological studies had to be completed, including studies of surf smelt spawning habitats, impacts to shellfish and eel grass, wave studies and drift studies. Since Bush Point is considered a rough water area, the float and pile design were reviewed by an independent engineer. Island County had to review landscaping and stormwater designs, and the Army Corp of Engineers reviewed biological studies as well.

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