Port will ask cruise line for help with mooring buoy cost

POULSBO — Starting in 2018, not one, but two, American Cruise Lines ships will be visiting Poulsbo.

Currently, the cruise liner “American Spirit” stops in Poulsbo; it carries about 100 passengers. A new ship, “American Constellation,” will carry almost twice as many passengers.

Having two ships in the Sound will enable the cruise line to offer 18 cruises during the 2018 season, including summer cruises. The cruise line will also add a longer cruise — the “Grand Puget Sound Cruise,” an 11-day round trip out of Seattle. In addition to Poulsbo, the Grand Puget Sound itinerary will include Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Friday Harbor and Anacortes.

Presently, the American Spirit anchors in Liberty Bay off Poulsbo’s Oyster Plant Park. Passengers are transported ashore by tender; they then board buses to downtown Poulsbo or the Suquamish Museum.

In a meeting in June, city and port officials agreed anchoring out is less than optimal for downtown businesses, as well as hard on older passengers. The landing at Oyster Plant Park is “really steep and too much for some of the older passengers,” Port Commissioner Steve Swann said.

City Council members and port commissioners agree that it would be a boon to the downtown economy if the cruise ships could anchor or moor at the Port of Poulsbo.

In order to make that possible, the Port of Poulsbo would need to install a commercial mooring buoy or install a floating breakwater dock in deeper water that the cruise ships could tie up to. (The first time a cruise liner came to Poulsbo, it couldn’t anchor because of wind and current, so the more sheltered anchorage off of Oyster Plant Park was chosen, according to city and port officials.)

A permanent mooring buoy where the cruise ships could tie off would cost about $80,000, according to Port Commissioner Jim Rutledge.

Mayor Becky Erickson said the idea of a mooring buoy has been floated since the cruise liners first came to Liberty Bay. She suggested that this could be funded by a city/port joint fund. City Council member Connie Lord said the fund is comprised of money the port pays the city to lease shoreline land; she questioned whether a mooring buoy would be an appropriate use of that money.

Port officials said they intend to contact American Cruise Lines to see if it would be willing to assist with the costs of the mooring buoy.

The other option — a new 12-foot-wide floating breakwater — is estimated to cost between $3.5 million and $6.8 million, according to a report prepared for the Port of Poulsbo by Mott-McDonald. These costs include repairing or replacing the current breakwater of some 1,100 creosoted logs, and expanding and relocating the current seaplane base. The seaplane base portion is potentially eligible for grant funding.

Suquamish has a dock capable of accommodating cruise ships. This was mentioned in a conversation during a July 13 tour of Seattle agencies. However, discussion would be premature, Suquamish Tribe spokeswoman April Leigh said. While it is possible logistically, the idea would first have to be endorsed by the Suquamish Cultural Cooperative Committee.

There has only been one conversation at a committee meeting about the idea, Leigh said. “The issue is where you draw the line between cultural sensitivity and tourism,” she said.

Meanwhile, in 2018, American Spirit and American Constellation will continue to anchor off Oyster Plant Park.

— Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tasla@soundpublishing.com.