Clinton dock in danger of floating away

A 20-by-30 foot float section of Clinton Beach Dock is in danger of floating away.

A South Whidbey dock that has been deteriorating for several years because of wear and tear from storm and wave damage is reaching its breaking point.

The Port of South Whidbey is formulating a plan to remove a large section of floats that is in danger of breaking away from Clinton Beach Dock. One of the floats, a part of the dock, recently lost a piling that was helping to keep it in place.

Repairs to the floats were made in 2018 for about $70,000. Stan Reeves, executive director of the Port of South Whidbey, said the repairs failed almost immediately and it was necessary to remove three of the middle float sections of the dock. He explained that the removal left a 20-by-30 foot section of floats accessible from the gangway and a 40-by-10 foot section that cannot be accessed by foot traffic.

The port left the section of floats that were accessible by the gangway open to the public and made periodic repairs to the pile hoop roller assemblies to keep them functional, Reeves said.

Over time, with multiple welding repairs, the steel reached a point where welding was no longer effective.

By 2020, Reeves said it became clear that the continuous wear and damage to the roller assemblies would require the removal of the floats altogether. The port closed the dock and raised the gangway.

In March, the port applied for a grant through the Island County Regional Transportation Planning Organization, or IRTPO, to remove the existing floats, conduct planning, engineering and design work, and then construct a new dock utilizing as much of the remaining infrastructure as possible.

Reeves said the port was awarded $319,000 toward this project from the IRTPO in April.

Reeves explained that the grant is funded through Federal Transportation Administration dollars routed through WSDOT, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and is typically used for surface transportation projects such as road improvements, bike trails and roundabouts. The Port’s project, he said, is outside the norm.

The Port had been negotiating with the Island County Public Works Department to help with the administration of the project, but it was determined in August that the county could not help in that capacity, Reeves said.

Instead, WSDOT, which owns the dock that is leased by the port, has offered to fill that role.

Over the summer, the Clinton dock continued to experience damage and the 20-by-30 foot float section is now in danger of floating away.

Reeves said the grant that was received is not intended to be used in an “emergency situation,” so the funds can’t be used to remove the floats under the provisions of the Revised Code of Washington.

However, he said dollars from the port’s general fund can be used to address the issue.

Reeves added that the grant funding that was meant for the removal of the existing floats will be reallocated to the planning and construction phases of the project that will involve a new dock.

The Clinton dock is the site being considered as the connection on the South Whidbey side for the passenger-only ferry study currently being conducted by the Puget Sound Regional Council. The study includes a profile of a route running from South Whidbey to Everett.

When the Clinton dock was originally constructed, its primary purpose was to serve as a passenger-only ferry dock for emergencies in the event the vehicle ferries could not use the Clinton Ferry Terminal, Reeves said. Its secondary purpose was for recreational boating.