Oak Harbor awarded $1 million grant to help pay for marina dredging

The dredging of the marina is one of Oak Harbor’s top infrastructure priorities.

Island County awarded the City of Oak Harbor $1 million in grant funds that will help fund the dredging of the entire marina.

During a meeting on Jan. 2, the council authorized Mayor Ronnie Wright to sign the Rural County Economic Development Interlocal Agreement, accepting the funds and committing to providing 10% matching funds, or $100,000.

The dredging of the marina is one of Oak Harbor’s top infrastructure priorities, according to the city’s website, as it removes accumulated sediment that reduces the depth of the seafloor.

Dredging is critical for the marina to function and it should be conducted every 10 to 15 years, according to a grant presentation from June 2023. Previously, the marina was dredged between 2010 and 2011 (though only half was dredged), and between 1996 and 1997.

In 2023, according to information presented during a city council workshop on Sept. 27, 2023, the depth in some areas of the marina was close to half of what it should be, while in others it met requirements.

Last June, the city applied for the Rural County Economic Development grant, asking for $2 million for the dredging project. The county commissioners, however, awarded $1 million for the dredging of the marina, a capital project that will take place in fiscal year 2025 and is expected to be completed by June 1, 2026.

According to information presented by City Administrator Blaine Oborn at the meeting, workers are in the process of identifying areas to dredge, creating dredge design options, identifying potential mitigation options, conducting a feasibility study, determining permit process and requirements and identifying marina redevelopment options.

Dredging is expected to make all slips usable in all tidal conditions, allow for larger boats with deeper drafts and for more events, and increase revenue and jobs.

Initially, this grant was expected to offset $4.5 million in bonds budgeted to pay for the dredging, but during the meeting Oborn said the cost “ballooned.”

According to information provided by Executive Services Administrator Sabrina Combs, the initial estimate of $4.5 million was based on the partial dredging of the marina in 2010 and 2011. The new cost estimates, calculated by the city’s consultant, range between $8.7 million and $11.4 million, which include more extensive options than what was performed previously, as well as higher mitigation costs and a 25% contingency, Combs wrote.

The Rural County Economic Development Infrastructure Investment fund is managed by the county and is used to help the economy. The program in fact offers grants like the one received by the city to support public facilities that will help with the creation and retention of jobs.

The program is supported by sales taxes from a rebate back to Island County of Washington state’s share of 6.5% of sales-and-use taxes, meaning it doesn’t increase taxes.

Community members are invited to attend a Marina Dredging Project Open House event on Jan. 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Hall where they can ask questions about the project and review options.