Port Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos speaks about the state of the Coupeville Wharf. Behind him are piles that have been severely eaten away by “marine boring organisms” over the years and need replacing. (Photos by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times)

Port Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos speaks about the state of the Coupeville Wharf. Behind him are piles that have been severely eaten away by “marine boring organisms” over the years and need replacing. (Photos by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times)

Port seeking money, community support to fix wharf

As part of its long-term vision to fix and stabilize the Coupeville Wharf, the Port of Coupeville is seeking nearly $1 million from Island County’s Rural County Economic Development Fund.

Port officials hope to receive an answer from the Island County in July in a best-case scenario, Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos said. After securing permits in the following year and having a crew work during the winter months, the project would ideally be done by the end of 2020, he said.

The wharf, which was built in 1905, is supported by long wooden piles that are over 100 years old. Marine wear and tear over the years has deteriorated the columns significantly.

One major problem with the current pilings is the amount of movement they allow, Michalopoulos said. The sway has caused structural damage to the wharf building, visibly warping the walls and roof.

New pilings would allow only enough movement to be safe in the event of an earthquake, and keep the wharf steady otherwise.

A commissioned study of the wharf in December 2015 showed that of the 248 piles supporting the building, 38 of them have significant damage. The report rated the pier’s overall condition as “fair to good.”

“From a structural point of view, the repairs are quite simple.

“It’s just a matter of getting someone in there,” Commissioner John Mishasek said at the port’s regular meeting on Wednesday.

Several community members spoke of their support of the port’s efforts to restore the wharf.

“We are in need of major repairs at the Coupeville Wharf. This has been neglected for too many years,” Vern Olsen, a member of the local musical group Shifty Sailors, read aloud from a letter he wrote.

Olsen spoke of the past failed bond, saying that there wasn’t enough done to persuade voters to support it.

Port commissioners considered a tax levy lid lift to fund the wharf restoration project, but they decided to postpone bringing this request to the public until 2020.

The port officials plan to get the “behind the scenes” footwork done on the wharf, which is crucial before moving onto the most visible and rewarding updates to the wharf, according to Michalopoulos.

The restorations will be split into multiple phases.

The first phase, funded by the $967,550 grant from Island County, would repair the pilings and caps.

Phase two would include major repairs to the main building, upgrades and creation of a more welcoming space for visitors.

“We’re not talking fresh paint,” Michalopoulos said.

The building needs that too, but the repairs the port has in mind include a down-to-the-walls engineering study and rebuilding effort.

“The community has to be involved, because they will ultimately be deciding if that building will be rehabilitated or not,” he said.

Michalopoulos said port officials do not expect that the wharf will have to be closed to the public while repairs to the pilings and caps are being done.

The port is planning to hold two public presentations about the state of the Coupeville Wharf and to talk about plans for restoration of the historic structure.

The port’s wharf presentations are 3:30-5 p.m. Tuesday, April 23 and at the same time on Thursday, April 25 at the wharf.

The port asks that people call or email in advance of their intent to attend.

Port officials are also discussing a citizens advisory group, which will provide feedback and suggestions to the port as well as work to involve and inform the public.

“This is part of a holistic approach to the wharf,” Michalopoulos said of the piling and cap repairs. “We can’t move forward without the support of this phase.”

An example of some of the damage to the wharf’s pilings. The rotting wood is full of holes.

An example of some of the damage to the wharf’s pilings. The rotting wood is full of holes.

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