Hope appears for pier

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen announced this week that he secured $1 million in federal funding for the Oak Harbor municipal pier in a House spending bill.

“The municipal pier is a key element in the revitalization of downtown Oak Harbor,” said Larsen. “This is an important investment in the community and I am proud to be able to help with this great economic development project.”

If the Senate approves the earmark in the spending bill for the departments of Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, it will be the third grant the city has obtained for the construction phase of the $7.4 million pier. The city already has more than $800,000 in federal transportation funding and a $240,000 state grant for the unique, Y-shaped pier. City officials continue to search for more grants.

“A million here, a million there, pretty soon we’ll have some real money,” said Harbormaster Dave Williams, who is the city’s representative on the pier committee.

It took city officials and patient members of the pier committee more than seven years to procure all the necessary permits for the project. More than $700,000 in grant and city money was spend on the effort so far.

Final design and engineer is supposed to be complete in August.

Williams said construction should begin in 2007 or the permits will begin to expire.

The pier is envisioned as a vital transportation link for passenger-only ferries, a place for tour boats to stop, a recreational facility for boaters and seaplane pilots, and a major tourism draw that has been folded into the overall downtown tourism plan.

At a recent City Council retreat, member of the council and the mayor chose the pier as the top priority among a long list of multi-million-dollar projects.

Larsen’s staff said he will work with senators to protect the pier funds, but it’s hard to tell what the Senate will decide.

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