The dock that rocks continues to vex the Port of South Whidbey.
Located below the Clinton pier, the moorage provides a spot for boaters to tie up north of the ferry terminal. A metal gangway leads down to it from the pier, which is a popular site for fishing and crabbing.
But there’s a huge gap in the L-shaped dock because two damaged floating concrete sections were hauled away for safety reasons.
The dock keeps cracking, crumbling and crashing into itself from the constant action of waves and tides, said Stan Reeves, hired as port executive director in July.
“This has been a very long-term problem,” he said. “It’s kind of been a problem since we leased it from the Washington ferry system. There’s been a series of repairs over the years. Preventing the oscillation is key.”
The dock comprises four floats. The joints that connect the corner sections continually break off. The port hired an engineering firm and construction company to fix the dock earlier this year.
“Three days later, the dock kind of fell apart,” Reeves said.
Reeves is trying to figure out how to fix the mess he inherited, which includes discussions with the engineering firm, Moffat & Nichol, that designed the latest repair.
Combined Construction, hired to complete the repairs, ended up earning almost double its estimate. That’s because it both completed the so-called repair, then got paid to haul away the busted repair job to Possession Point.
The latest round of short-term fixes cost the port almost $70,000.
And what it’s left with is a dock with a big gaping hole.
Original construction repairs cost $27,175, Reeves said.
“Then we paid Combined Construction $19,651 to take (the dock) apart and haul it away,” he said. “That total came to $46,826, which is primarily taxpayer money.”
The port also paid $14,246 to Moffat & Nichol to assess the long-time problem and provide three options for repairing the dock. The port chose the least expensive option, which the firm stated would last two years.
Moffat & Nichol also billed the port $11,065 for the actual repair job. Of that invoice, $2,800 remains unpaid, Reeves said.
Bruce Ostbo, vice president of Moffat & Nichol, said in an email that the company is “working closely and cooperatively with the port on the Clinton Dock project.”
Port Manager Pat Kisch said the dock is used mostly during shrimping season. Port commissioners see the dock as a way to bring business to Clinton from boaters looking for a meal, groceries or to attend an event. But they’ve also questioned its value and purpose.
The dock was originally built for ferry personnel and for emergency access during disasters.
Ed Halloren, port commissioner, said there’s six years left on the 25-year lease. The port paid for the ramp leading down to the dock.
Time and again over the years, wave damage has caused pieces of the concrete sections to crumble off; some chunks even sank to the bottom of the sea, Kisch said.
“We have to prevent the docks from knocking into each other,” he said “because every time the ferries came and went, the waves caused the two sections to run into each other.”
Crabbing and fishing are not permitted on the dock, only the pier. But that restriction isn’t regularly enforced and is often ignored.
Reeves said he’s felt the dock’s instability.
“If you stand on the dock when the ferry is there, it really moves,” he said.
“I’m not ready to blame this on (Moffat & Nichol),” he added.
“There’s more to the issue here and it’s a matter of just getting to the real problem, which has nothing to do with Moffat & Nichol but with how the dock was originally constructed.”
The section of the dock nearest the gangway is safe to use, Reeves said. But it appears gulls frequent it more than boaters.
“We need to figure out what our recourse is,” Reeves said. “We still don’t know what the heck happened.”