Editorial: Keep Nichols on the island

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland plans to expand, and in doing so needs a master permit from Island County and various other permits from state and federal agencies.

The company provides 100 to 300 good jobs for Whidbey Island residents, depending on how business is going, and in recent years when business has been good it has held the title of Island County’s largest private employer.

The boat yard is located in the environmentally sensitive head of Holmes Harbor, so care must be taken to assure the expansion will not harm the environment. The end result should be a company that’s even less polluting than it is now in terms of boatyard runoff, noise, lighting, and use of the tidelands during boat launches.

The plans look good. A proposed rail boat launch system, for example, is environmentally much friendlier than the concrete slab now in place. However, concerned neighbors have organized to protect their interests, and Nichols Brothers and permit-givers must do everything reasonable to mitigate their concerns.

Hopefully the required permits can be granted with sufficent conditions and monitoring provisions to assure neighbors that they can continue to co-exist with this island-grown business.

Nichols Bros. is too important to lose in terms of jobs, but also in terms of the island’s culture. The Nichols family and their employees make the island a better place to live in too many ways to count. If they’re forced to leave, the island as we have come to know and love it will never be the same.

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