Emergency declared at Libbey Beach

Libbey Beach, the idyllic destination turned potentially injurious hazard, was officially declared an emergency area Monday by the Board of Island County Commissioners.

Severe windstorms initially wreaked havoc on the beach in 2006 when the unprecedentedly inclement weather inflicted damage on the bulkhead.

Time, tidal action, and recent less severe notable storms have exacerbated the deterioration.

“The damage is ongoing,” Public Works Director Bill Oakes told the commissioners.

County staff placed fencing and warning signs at the popular beach’s entrance, but evidence has shown that people continue to gain access in spite of the danger.

“There’s been a lot of sloughing,” Planning Director Jeff Tate said. “And we still have people going around that spot in spite of the signs and fence.

He reported a condition that has worsened each week. Tate further lamented the public’s loss of a once widely used beach and park-like setting complete with a bathroom facility, picnic area and ample parking.

A shoreline exemption permit is ready to be issued, the planning director said. He recently explained the direness of the situation to the Department of Ecology and state Fish and Wildlife officials.

“I’m very uncomfortable with the liability and the changing conditions,” Tate said. “When you look at the condition and how it’s changing, it’s terrifying. I want to get this project going.”

Almost one year ago the county began looking seriously at a Band-Aid solution to the beach erosion quandary.

The beach’s location leaves it exposed to continuous tidal action from the west. Oakes said last March that connecting a 100- to 150-foot gap situated between two bulkheads would be a viable temporary fix.

Commissioner Phil Bakke said he has been visiting the beach periodically for the last four or five years. The former planning director confirmed the oversloughing of soil has created a dangerous area.

“It’s important to me to see this fixed,” he said. “I look forward to getting Libbey Beach Park opened again very soon.”

Contractors Jesse Allen Excavating and Construction of Stanwood would take on the project.

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