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Oak Harbor marina clears first hurdle

A phased marina redevelopment project received glowing recommendations from community members at last Wednesday night’s Oak Harbor Planning Commission meeting.

With an ensuing stamp of approval from the commission for a Shoreline Development Permit, the City Council will now decide if the project can move forward as proposed.

The original marina redevelopment plan, which the city paid a consultant $145,000 to create, proposed more than $19 million in work on the facility. Funding, however, was the elephant in the room, which led to the phased approach.

Cac Kamak, city senior planner, said the first part of the plan, estimated at $2 million, would involve dredging the harbor in critical areas to improve depth and, by extension, navigability; and constructing a new main walkway with new utilities, as well as a handicapped-accessible gangway.

In addition, phase one would include construction of a new dock between the E and F docks.

Kamak said the existing marina has accumulated considerable amounts of silt since the last dredging in 1942.

“It’s really evident that the marina does need to have this dredging,” he said.

A hydraulic machine would dredge 208,000 cubic feet of material from the harbor bed. Barges would then transport the material to one of two state-approved disposal sites in Puget Sound.

The new docks would accommodate bigger boats with 75 new slips, ranging in size from 40 to 50 feet, filling a need identified by market studies.

“The trend is going towards bigger boats,” Kamak said.

Removal of sunken barges at the south side of the marina would help improve the water quality and free up space for a new multi-use float. The project must adhere to requirements of the state Department of Ecology’s Shoreline Master Program, including an extensive list of mitigation measures. Removing the barges, clearing out creosote piles that are currently used in the docks, and restoring approximately 800 feet of beach are part of the mitigation measures.

Harbormaster Mack Funk said other phases would continue as funding became available. Planning Commissioner Keith Fakkema asked if basing costs on estimates equated to the city “issuing a blank check.” Funk said the permitting process simply authorizes further planning.

“It’s up to us to find the funding,” he said.

Steve Powers, city development services director, echoed Funk’s clarification, adding that the issue up for discussion was whether the permit was consistent with the Shoreline Master Program. The project’s financial viability would be dealt with later.

A handful of marina users, including Al Koetje, who was mayor when the marina was built, vigorously endorsed moving forward on the redevelopment project.

“It’s a great asset to the community,” he said.

Dave French, a Coupeville resident but familiar face on the water, said the deteriorating condition of the marina was overshadowed in the discussions. Describing sections of the concrete docks that have seen better days and highlighting the recent section of roof that blew off during a windstorm, he underscored the dire need for maintenance.

“It’s one of the keystones of the city of Oak Harbor,” French said. “I think it’s very important that it’s endorsed.”

Steven Williford, a member of the Marina Advisory Committee, said the intent is to raise funding from marina tenants. The bond issued for the facility’s construction has been paid in full and a new bond could help finance the improvements.

The planning commission voted to recommend to the City Council approval of the permit.

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