Marina free from lease Governor signs bill

After years of effort and one gubernatorial veto, the Oak Harbor marina is finally free from tideland lease fees. At least for a decade.

Gov. Christine Gregoire recently signed a bill into law that was tailored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano, to save Oak Harbor from having to pay yearly fees to the state Department of Natural Resources for the use of state-owned aquatic lands over the next 10 years.

It will save Oak Harbor $50,000 a year. It’s money that will be invested back into the aging marina.

“To me, the most important things are cleaning up Puget Sound and fixing the infrastructure,” Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik said.

Slowik said he’s very excited about the prospects of removing creosote-covered pilings from the marina, though he said it will be an expensive undertaking. Creosote is known to be harmful to the environment, as well as people.

“It would be a real benefit to the entire community, not just to the boaters out there,” he said.

In addition, the mayor said a vital infrastructure project has been identified at the marina. Most importantly, the electrical and water systems are in dire need of replacement. So much so, Slowik said, that he’s worried about fire protection at the docks. Also, the marina needs a new gang plank that conforms to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At the same time, the city has moved forward with permitting a much larger marina redevelopment plan that calls for more than $19 million of work on the facility. The plan includes new, larger docks and extensive dredging. A lack of funding, however, has prompted the city to adopt a phased approach.

Last year, the City Council chose the marina as the No. 1 project among a list of non-enterprise, quality-of-life undertakings. Slowik said it was a wise decision.

Harbormaster Mack Funk said the sizable savings provided by the law will definitely be a boon to the marina.

“As somebody who has worked legislative issues in all four corners of the state, I think Oak Harbor is very lucky to have Sen. Haugen’s leadership and team building ability. She obviously has the complete respect of her colleagues,” he said. “Our challenge at the marina will be to invest this savings wisely.”

Finally getting the tideland lease fee passed took the combined effort of local and state officials. Slowik and City Administrator Paul Schmidt both testified in state committees in favor of the bill. In one trip, they were joined in Olympia by City Council members Beth Munns, Rick Almberg, Jim Campbell and Eric Gerber.

The bill was sponsored by senators Haugen and Karen Keiser. Representatives Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Norma Smith, R-Clinton, helped the bill through the House and encouraged their fellow lawmakers to support it.

“This bill will allow the city of Oak Harbor to make important investments that will benefit not only the environment, but public recreational needs,” Bailey said. “This is good for all of Island County and those who use the marina for various reasons.”

The state Legislature passed a similar bill years ago, only to be vetoed by Gov. Gary Locke.

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