News

Agency proposes to take out abandoned wharf

The state Department of Natural Resources has offered to pull out the old wharf next to the Langley marina at no cost to the Port of South Whidbey.

Port commissioners, however, said last week the proposal needs a closer look.

On the surface the offer has merit, commissioners said, and they’ve asked port staff to make a counter offer that would preserve mitigation opportunities that might be lost if the project moves forward before the marina is rebuilt.

The Department of Natural Resources has been removing

derelict piers throughout Puget Sound under a governor-mandated program to help improve the marine environment.

Several of the projects have fallen through or been put on hold, so DNR manager Lisa Kaufman asked port manager Ed Field if the port would be interested in having the agency remove the piers, especially since they will be pulling out an old pier at the Tulalip Reservation near Marysville, just across Saratoga Passage from Langley.

Field said commissioners are trying to keep their options open while getting a better handle on the costs and potential impacts of accepting the offer to remove the wharf.

As part of the $8.2 million makeover of the Langley marina, the port needs to remove the abandoned wharf that juts out near the present boat dock.

There are several reasons, The wharf is in the way of the port’s proposed new marina; its creosote-soaked piers are a potential environmental hazard and it’s a civic eyesore for the city of Langley and visitors to the small boat harbor.

But port commissioners are worried that removing the wharf now will hurt the port later as it’s looking for ways to offset environmental impacts from the expanded marina. Pairing the removal of the wharf with the marina makeover could help alleviate some of the environmental concerns involved with an expanded marina.

“The downside is the potential loss of mitigation rights,” Field told commissioners. To secure required permits, state and federal agencies require project managers to accumulate environmental credits to be used in the future.

For example, the old dock prevents sunlight from reaching the harbor’s seabed and biologists believe that can be harmful to marine life; its removal could allow mitigation credits to be used toward the new dock which will shade a different area of the harbor.

“Many new piers built today use glass blocks to let in additional sunlight,” Field explained.

Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle said the port might offer to pay DNR for the wharf’s removal, thus saving future mitigation opportunities.

Field said that both the cost of removal and whether the credits could be saved are unknown factors.

But Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert argued for accepting the DNR plan.

“It’s a bird in the hand and we should take advantage,” he said. “We should seize the opportunity and cross the mitigation bridge later.”

He added that getting rid of the unsightly and unsafe pier —coupled with the environmental aspects and cost savings to South Whidbey taxpayers — outweighs any future uncertainties.

However, Tapert agreed that port staff should investigate the idea’s pros and cons.

“We need to leave the door open for now and quantify what the project is worth,” he said. “We may find we need to mitigate the relocation of the breakwater at some point down the road.”

The port officially takes control of the marina in January 2009.

The next Port of South Whidbey regular meeting is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct.8 at the Freeland Library.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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