After more than four years, the Keystone Boat Launch at Fort Casey State Park will soon be fully functional again.
The in-water portion of the construction of a new dock concluded this week. Construction above water will continue through early spring, but state parks personnel said the facility will likely be ready to use some time in May.
The public boat ramp near the Coupeville ferry terminal suffered severe damage in December of 2018 when storm winds rammed a breakwater structure into the floating docks. Chris Holm, a state parks division manager and former area manager for Central Whidbey state parks, said the park obtained FEMA funding for both the design and construction phases of the repair project.
An arduous permitting process delayed construction. Parks staff kept the boat ramp partially functional by bringing in a string of floating docks during prime boating season, but without a breakwater in place, these docks had to be removed in the winter months.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen said when he visited the construction site on Wednesday that this was an example of a project that was ready to go but got held up in the permitting stage.
“A lot of times the work is just a matter of trying to chase down a permit that’s ready to go, sitting on a desk, so that the sort of projects like the boat ramp can get done,” he said.
Andrew Muñoz, public affairs chief for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the permitting for this project was also complicated by its needing a 408 permit in order to modify a federal structure — in this case, the breakwater. Muñoz said this is a permit that takes more time to coordinate internally.
Matthew Bennett, also with the Army Corps of Engineers, added that the legal review of the permit application took longer than expected, and Larsen’s follow-up with the agency helped get the process back on track. Like other agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers has been short-staffed, though Bennett said it has made five recent hires and has more future staff onboarding.
Last November, Washington State Parks announced that construction would finally begin on Dec. 1. Construction has been ongoing throughout the winter to get the docks ready for the upcoming boat season.
The $2.4 million project includes the replacement of the breakwater and docks, as well as the installation of steel pylons.
Holm said the Keystone Boat Launch is heavily used, as it is one of the only ramps on the west side of Whidbey Island. Its approximately 55,000 annual visitors include tribe members and local fishers.