A decade-long break from paying “tideland lease fees” to the state Department of Natural Resources is over for the Oak Harbor Marina.
The Oak Harbor City Council approved a tideland lease renewal and a “filled tidelands” agreement with the DNR at a council meeting Tuesday night. The marina will have to pay about $30,000 in the first year; the cost will increase annually in an amount dictated by the producer and consumer price indices, Harbormaster Chris Sublet said.
Oak Harbor Marina is one of only two in the state that are owned by municipalities. The marina is run as an enterprise fund, which means it doesn’t receive tax dollars but is funded by fees charged to users.
At one time, the marina was on the hook for as much as $150,000 a year to lease the aquatic lands that are owned by the state.
During the council meeting, attorney Chris Skinner explained that 10 years ago former state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen was able to pass a bill that exempted city-owned marinas from having to pay the fee during a 10-year lease period that sunsets this month. While port districts with marinas don’t have to pay the fees, the cities “were being treated differently for no identifiable reason,” he said.
Mayor Bob Severns, Sublet and others have been lobbying and negotiating with state officials for months in order to cut the fee to a reasonable amount; the DNR originally asked for many times the agreed-upon amount, according to city officials.
In addition, the city is obligated to complete some environmental work over the course of the lease. That will include removal of fish pens, dinghy docks and sunken barges, as well as adjustments to a swing gate and log boom and a feasibility study on removing the broken boat hoist.
Sublet explained that the city also reached an agreement with the state for use of the filled tidelands, which are aquatic areas that were filled in with materials decades ago. Both the city and DNR claim ownership.
The Navy deeded the filled tidelands to the city in the early 1970s, but the state claimed that was illegal because the land should have been offered to the state first.
Under the new agreement, the state and city “agree to disagree” about ownership; the marina doesn’t have to pay a lease but will have to create a business plan, Sublet said.