State Rep. Dave Paul secured $320,000 in the 2021 state capital budget for the Port of Coupeville to upgrade the wharf’s deteriorating substructure.
According to a blog post on his webpage, Paul worked to earmark the funds for the project after meeting with Port Commissioner David Day and learning about the wharf’s maintenance needs. Though the Port already had funds for other projects, such as replacing the roof on the wharf building, Paul felt the substructure needed to be prioritized.
“If we don’t fix the substructure, the roof’s not going to matter. The structure could fall into the water,” he said. “They didn’t have enough money for that, so we wrote that into the capital budget.”
The money will be used to replace and restore degrading piles, which are the beams that jut up from the water to hold up the wharf structure. Port executive director Chris Michalopoulos said many of the piles are rapidly approaching the end of their lifespans, if they haven’t surpassed them already.
The Port of Coupeville plans to add 14 new piles directly underneath the wharf building, plus eight new steel piles around the sides of the structure for seismic stabilization. These will help prevent the wharf from shaking due to seismic activity.
Around 36 piles approaching the end of their lifespans will also be jacketed and filled with resin, which could allow them to last for another century, according to Michalopoulos.
Substructure upgrades have been a long time coming. The Port has been working on securing funds and permits for this project for the last three years. Michalopoulos said the Port received a grant from Island County to put toward the substructure upgrade in 2018 and applied for a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2019.
Unfortunately, the permitting process has been complicated and slow-going. While the Port waited for the green light, the pandemic drove up prices for building materials, putting the project over budget.
The funds secured by Paul in the capital budget will make up the difference of the increasing cost of materials.
Michalopoulos said Port officials are ready to get to work on the project as soon as they get the go-ahead from the Fisheries Service, though it is unclear when that might be. They do not plan to close down the wharf to visitors during construction unless absolutely necessary.