Users ask for more float length at Possession Beach

Tom Jones of Arlington throws a line to Bob Briggs, a Freeland resident, to winch the boat onto the trailer at the Possession Beach Waterfront Park boat ramp.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Tom Jones of Arlington throws a line to Bob Briggs, a Freeland resident, to winch the boat onto the trailer at the Possession Beach Waterfront Park boat ramp.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Port of South Whidbey Commissioners sang the same song regarding the Possession Beach boat ramp at a special meeting Tuesday.

Hearing comments, suggestions and concerns from eight people in the crowd, the port officials reiterated their focus for redoing the ramp built in 1987: they want to get more use out of the ramp while reducing their maintenance costs. The project is estimated to cost between $350,000 and $450,000.

Basically, the redone boat ramp and pilings will replace the existing structures. The main difference, as proposed by the port district’s preferred plan, is moving the floats to the south side of the ramp — the driver’s side when backing in a boat to launch. Another change will be the grade of the ramp itself to help mirror the natural slope of the shore at Possession Beach, the southern-most end of Whidbey Island.

Some of the work is expected to reduce environmental impacts. Instead of four groups of four pilings each for the floats, there will be six galvanized steel pilings. The overall idea, Coastal Engineering representative Joel Darnell said, is to make it a simpler permitting process which involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Island County, and several departments in Washington state.

“This is a boat ramp to serve the users … and it’s been there for 25 years,” Darnell said.

Bob Snyder, a Clinton resident, recommended that the port look at lengthening the floats two feet to match the added length of the concrete ramp. Expanding the footprint of the boat launch could be problematic, Darnell said, during the permitting process.

Port Commissioner Curt Gordon said the board could look at ways of extending the expansion from the concrete abutment — a fixed structure — to the floats by two feet, thus pushing the floats out two feet farther.

Rather than break up the existing concrete ramp, Darnell said the plan is to use it as a base. Several pre-cast, 8-inch thick, tongue-and-groove panels would be laid on top and locked in place. By comparison, typical sidewalks are 4 inches thick. The concrete panels would have a flat-top and V-grooves for traction, which will also use the current to help move sand off its surface.

“We want to work with the waves, let the waves do the action,” Darnell said.

Despite a desire to redo the ramp, a port employee said people are able to launch at low tides already. Wayne Nance, the Possession Beach boat launch manager, said the benefit of moving the floats to the south will help buffer northbound waves and make it easier for people to launch and tow their boats.

“I’m always helping folks trying to get their boat on,” Nance said.

The 32-foot wide ramp, Darnell said, is technically wide enough for two boats to simultaneously launch, and if the port ever decides to install a second set of floats to the north of the ramp, it would have room.

Port officials hoped to have any changes to the plans ready by Aug. 22, after The Record went to press, before sending it off for permit review. Darnell said the Corps of Engineers process could take as long as a year.


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