Libbey Beach Park awaits work

"If you've visited Libbey Beach Park west of Penn Cove during the past year, you've noticed a steep drop off to the beach, warning signs and a fenced-off construction site. But the construction itself, which involves removal of the old boat ramp and the building of a new way to reach the beach, is still waiting for approval. The park's boat ramp continues to erode and deteriorate with each passing storm, said Island County Parks Director Lee McFarland this week. Most of the concrete ramp currently lies in pieces on the beach. The objective now is to clear out what's left of the ramp and put in a pedestrian-only pathway, all while doing as little shoreline construction as possible.It's a heavily used park and we want to get access back in there, McFarland said.There's no good way to get to the beach at Libbey Beach these days. A chain-link fence blocks off half the access and on the other half, a couple unplanned paths lead only to the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the water.The rules that allowed a boat ramp at the site in the first place no longer exist. Much of the permitting hold-up has been because of an increasing number of rules and procedures for any new development along the shoreline. McFarland said the new rules don't allow the county's Public Works Department to just go in and replace what was there. New guidelines by the state's Department of Ecology warn against using traditional hard-armoring construction, such as concrete bulkheads to ward off erosion. In addition, the recent federal listing of certain types of salmon as endangered species has meant all shoreline building proposals are highly scrutinized. The project also needs to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, because some of the work will have to be done seaward of the ordinary high tide line.We have a design and hopefully it will be acceptable, said McFarland.The design includes construction of a timber wall and boulder berm to halt erosion, and the filling of already scoured-out sections of beach with cobble, gravel and sand. The plans also call for installation of a catch basin to capture water runoff.McFarland said it won't take long to do the work once permits and plans are approved, but it now looks as if construction will have to wait until next summer.A public hearing on the project was scheduled for Aug. 14 but has been pulled from the the Hearings Examiner's agenda. A new hearing will likely be scheduled for later this month, McFarland said. Public comments are welcome at the time of the hearing or in writing prior to the hearing. Written comments should be addressed to the Island County Public Works Community Development Division. "

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