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City council votes to start pier project

"By the end of the year, Oak Harbor residents will have a pretty good idea if there's going to be a municipal pier built on the waterfront.The City Council unanimously approved a contract with Seattle-based consulting company Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage to begin the arduous permitting process, soil testing and surveying of the site off Bayshore Drive.The work will be funded largely with a $150,000 grant from a federal transportation program aimed at alternative modes of travel, with a local contribution from the real estate excise tax.At the meeting Tuesday, City Planner Tom Burdett said the city seems to have a pretty good chance of success at getting the permits from state and federal agencies necessary to build the pier.Burdett said the consultants, who have been involved in similar projects, are optimistic about the pier. They say it is a very permittable project, he said. They say it has a high degree of success.The only unknown, he said, is the environmental permit, which is somewhat questionable because of the listing of salmon as an endangered species.All the permits will be submitted by the end of the year, he said, and by then the city should know if the project is going to fly.But by accepting the grant, Burdett said the city is pretty much locking itself into building the pier. The grants come with the condition that the city must build the dock within the next 10 years or pay the money back.Over the last two years, the volunteer community members on the municipal pier committee did extensive research and held public meetings in order to create the preliminary design. In concept, the pier is a Y-shaped structure with one permanent leg extending 300 feet out from the Flintstone Park area.Former Mayor Steve Dernbach appointed the committee to build the pier, which he said could be the key to revitalizing the downtown area by luring tourists.But in looking into the project, the committee found that it could also be a very viable link in a future foot-ferry service between Whidbey Island and the mainland. The grants, in fact, are based on the assumption that the pier will someday be a hub of intermodal transportation.It will be able to dock a ferry, commercial cruise boats, personal boats and even seaplanes.Under the time line, the pier could be finished by the end of year 2002 if everything falls into place. The city is largely relying on its ability to secure transportation grant money to fund the project. After this year, the city hopes to get a $200,000 transportation grant for the next year-long phase, which will involve final design, bidding and contract award.To fund the $3.7 million dollar construction of the pier, Burdett said he hopes to secure yet another transportation grant from the federal government. That would require a local match of at least $500,000."

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