Port of Coupeville scrambles to maintain wharf

Dealing with continuing funding problems, Port of Coupeville commissioners are now struggling to find money needed for two important maintenance projects at the Coupeville Wharf.

The south side of the historic wharf, located at the end of the pier, needs to be renewed and two moorage floats require repair.

“These are two jobs that I’m struggling to find money for,” Port Executive Director Jim Patton said Wednesday.

The port did receive funding from the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing to pay for the wharf’s exterior project. However, he said the port has to come up with $9,000 in matching money to cover its share of the project. He said the building needs a rain curtain installed underneath its wooden exterior. A plan has to be developed detailing how to retain as much of the building’s original wood as possible.

In addition, Patton said severe storms in recent years have damaged two wooden floats to the point that they are listing. They need to be pulled from the water to be repaired and he estimated the cost at $10,000.

Finding money to pay for the two maintenance projects is only part of the problem. Patton has to schedule the projects so they don’t take place during the rainy winter yet are finished in time for the spring boating season. The floats are needed to accommodate the deluge of visiting boaters along with the tourist-packed Victoria Clipper.

The port has been scrambling for cash for years because of the costs involved in paying for the Greenbank Farm. Meanwhile, its cash reserves have dwindled. The port is scheduled to pay $104,380 in 2012 to pay off bonds and approximately $50,000 to the Greenbank Farm Management Group to manage the farm.

Those two payments comprise a significant portion of the port’s operating budget. Preliminary numbers for 2012 show the port will receive $365,000 in tax money, $30,000 in rent, $6,000 in fuel sales and between $17,000 and $20,000 in moorage fees.

Port officials could see some relief for its funding problems thanks to a county program, but even that is not going smoothly.

The port is tentatively set to receive at least $400,000 in Island County Conservation Futures funds in exchange for a conservation easement on the non-commercial property at the publicly owned farm. The funds would be dispersed in $50,000 yearly increments.

However, development of the complex  conservation easement has stalled and Pat Powell, executive director of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, has been brought in to help resolve the impasse.


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