A facelift of the public boat ramp at Possession Beach is finally coming this summer. The only catch is it could disrupt at least half the crab and salmon seasons for South Whidbey residents.
The boat launch at Possession Beach Waterfront Park will be temporarily closed from approximately June 12 through July 31 while the ramp is resurfaced with new recast concrete panels, Port of South Whidbey Executive Director Angi Mozer said. The ramp will also be raised by about 18, inches to match the beach’s current profile, to reduce sediment buildup which has caused headaches in the past. Other changes on the docket are a realignment of the floats from the north to the south side of the ramp, and a replacement of the toe end of the launch ramp.
The float’s current alignment blocks the flow of sediments along their natural path, Mozer said. Switching it from north to south will improve sediment flow, reduce the regular chore of removing sand buildup and improve overall usage of the ramp.
“By moving the float to the south side, it will be a much easier process for us if we have to clean it,” Mozer said.
The crabbing season on South Whidbey typically begins July 1 and lasts until the end of August or the beginning of September, while salmon fishing is scheduled to open from July 16 through Aug. 15.
The timing of the project is particularly frustrating for Clinton resident, Jake Olson, who uses the ramp all year long but is especially active during July and August. He makes up to six visits to the dock in a week during salmon and crabbing season.
“If they close all this, it eliminates tremendous amounts of territory that we can access,” Olson said.
Olson suggested pushing the project back into the fall where usage will drop significantly without interfering with the crabbing and salmon seasons. There a few reasons, however, why this may not be feasible.
The boat ramp revamp project was originally slated for December 2016 after years of delays, but it hit a couple of snags. Fearing potential landslides during the wetter months, Island County declined to issue a permit allowing the port to transport 256 tons of concrete down Possession Road, Mozer said. The road, which is on a significant downslope, has a weight limit of five tons, and the county would only allow the transportation to occur during the dryer summer months.
Additionally, the port’s construction permits prevent in-water work between March 15 and June 15.
“We went from the wet season right into the window where we’re not allowed to do in-water work,” Mozer said.
The price tag for the seven-week project is $496,000. The majority of the cost is covered by two grants from the state Recreation and Conservation Office, while the remainder — $124,000 — is from the port’s general fund.
Ed Halloran, port commissioner, said that it is a “terrific” project and that the commissioners are encouraged by what it will provide.
“We all feel it’s coming along quite well,” Halloran said.
There are several other port-owned boat ramps available for crabbers and fishers while construction is underway, including South Whidbey Harbor, Bush Point, along with two boat ramps maintained by Island County at Mutiny Bay and Holmes Harbor.
Mozer said “concerned constituents and customers are always welcome to attend to be able to talk to us in person.” Mozer also added that the port will unlikely be able to move the construction date, as it “would create significant cost increases.”
The port’s next regular monthly meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9 at the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District office on Maxwelton Road.