EDITORIAL: State permitting process unweildy

The Port of Coupeville has just finished a four-year project to expand the town dock.

Four years? This conjures up images of, perhaps, an enormous breakwater, hundreds of boat slips, and a massive parking lot. In reality, the port simply added a pair of 10 by 24 foot floats to lengthen the existing structure, and added four more moorage buoys. The addition took only a few days’ work by the contractor.

The sad reality is that almost the entire four years was spent obtaining permits for this minor project with no discernible negative impact on the environment. And it’s not an isolated case. The Port of South Whidbey spent four years getting permits to lengthen its Freeland Park boat ramp while adding a dock alongside it. Plans to build a new boat ramp and fishing pier at Bush Point are into their third year with no end in sight for the permit process. Meanwhile in Oak Harbor, the city is seeking permits for its proposed city dock. This is only a year along, so most of us will be receiving Social Security checks before we can take a walk on the dock.

All of the local agencies involved love the environment and want to protect it. They’re happy to replace eelgrass, create new clam beds, or do whatever is reasonable to mitigate the impacts of construction. All the state has to do is let them know what needs to be done. And that shouldn’t take four years.

If our legislators really want to make themselves useful this session, they should take a look at this sorry permit situation and fix it. Of course, we can expect any remedies to take several years to implement.

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