Up to 20 planes expected in Poulsbo for May 13 fly-in

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo will move some floats to the north side of F dock to accommodate as many as 20 seaplanes that will visit for a fly-in on May 13.

The floats, “comprising a couple of hundred feet” in length, will be returned after the event to the breakwater, where they serve as unimproved moorage. But Port Executive Director Brad Miller said he hopes the event will be a test of the viability — and the economic benefits — of having an improved seaplane base in Poulsbo.

“It’s kind of like a rendezvous,” Miller said. “They will stay the night, they’ll stay in local hotels, they’ll eat in local restaurants, they’ll buy souvenirs in local stores.”

It will be a test-run of sorts for the Port of Poulsbo, which is replacing its breakwater with a new floating breakwater and wants to incorporate improvements that can accommodate seaplanes and smaller cruise liners. Doing so “opens the door to some grant funds from WSDOT,” Miller said, referring to the state Department of Transportation.

Port officials want to extend D dock to the proposed floating breakwater, where deeper water would make overnight moorage for smaller passenger ships, like the M/V American Spirit, possible. Currently, the M/V American Spirit stops for the day in Poulsbo, and must anchor out and take its passengers to shore by tender.

Port officials also want to move the seaplane base to the proposed breakwater.

Bruce Hinds, former president of the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association, met with port officials to discuss improvements that would facilitate more seaplane flights. The Port of Poulsbo has had a seaplane base — on the north end of the marina — since the 1980s but, Hinds said, landing there is not easy. A plane has to maneuver up to the dock to avoid striking a dock piling with its wing. “If the wind’s blowing, it’s real tricky,” he said.

Miller said he’s talked to an airline that has said it would put Poulsbo on its schedule if the demand is there. Currently, to fly to destinations such as the San Juan Islands, you have to travel to Kenmore Air’s base at Lake Union.

At least one resident worries about noise from increased flights over Liberty Bay.

“Airports are built away from towns for good reasons: planes are noisy and planes take over regions around airports,” Michael Maddox wrote in a letter to the editor of Kitsap Daily News.

“In Victoria, Canada, planes monopolize attention as they roar into the air. If you’re a visitor, it’s exciting to watch takeoffs and landings initially, but then they start to interfere with your walk beside the bay, your dinner outside in the sun, your conversation with friends. Think about the effect that this airport-in-their-backyard must have on Victoria’s residents — flight after flight, day after day.

“Liberty Bay shouldn’t have any seaplanes. The bay is small, boats and kayaks traverse it, and many homes are located alongside it. Each decision to increase noise and congestion in Poulsbo leads to policies and actions that increase noise and congestion in Poulsbo.”

Hinds countered in an online response to Maddox’s letter, “Poulsbo thrives on tourism and the traffic from the port is a major benefit. I don’t see a major influx of seaplanes converging on your little town and you’re not going to be inundated by constant noise. Planes land with little to no power (noise) so you may not even hear them land. Leaving, they produce less noise than a JetSki or speed boat and for a much shorter time. You will get a few planes that bring in tourists and may even be able to catch a flight on Kenmore.”

James Mange of Poulsbo added, “The effort to increase seaplane traffic isn’t a ‘decision to increase noise and congestion,’ it’s a smart move to improve the economy of Poulsbo. Does a little occasional noise come with it? Of course. I live on Liberty Bay, and I’d love to see more seaplane traffic. The planes often fly directly over our house, especially on take-offs, and I have yet to be ‘overcome by the plane’s noise and movement.’ ”

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