Dredging for options | Words From The Watefront

The Port of Poulsbo is currently in the process of rethinking the long-planned capital improvement project that would not only replace the failing vertical piling breakwater but significantly expand public access, moorage and seaplane usability.

Commissioner Saunders originally brought up an issue at the May 3 port meeting, expressing his concern at spending millions of taxpayer dollars on an expansion plan that will likely be unusable in the future due to the silting up of Liberty Bay.

The port is obtaining, for free, approximately 900 feet of floating dock from Elliott Bay Marina, which is going to be incorporated into the plan. This alone will save taxpayers significant dollars, into the millions.

However, due to the silting issue, usage of those docks is likely to change.

As Saunders explained at the June 7 meeting, “The main focus is to get rid of all the pilings. The current design, we have a really cool design, which is only going to last 10 or so years the way it is going, breaks only half [of the vertical pilings] away. I want to remove them all.”

Commissioner Mark DeSalvo concurred. “Anything that improves the flow of the bay will help [stop silting] and keep it cleaner,” he said.

Commissioner Saunders has met with the community advisory committee on capital improvement projects (CIP committee) to discuss alternatives to the original design developed by the previous commission. One of those changes, first and foremost, is to use the gifted docks as a total replacement of the existing vertical breakwater.

Removing the pilings entirely and replacing them with a breakwater created from the floating docks will allow greater water flow which should, in theory, mitigate some of the silting within the marina itself.

A floating breakwater is a preferred option in that it is environmentally friendly and creosote-free, thus contributing to a healthier Liberty Bay. There are many considerations to be addressed and the CIP committee is working on gathering as much information as possible before reporting to the commission. There are many regulatory issues that must be met, Department of Natural Resources restrictions and guidelines as well as engineering considerations. The CIP ommittee will meet with the design engineer to discuss options and the best use of the gifted docks from Elliot Bay Marina. One of the big considerations and desires still is improving public access to the docks.

While replacing the vertical breakwater with a floating breakwater is indeed a positive move towards helping with the silting issue the port is facing, it will not solve the problem.

Carol Tripp, port business manager, is pursuing another avenue, one long ignored, and that is dredging.

Ms. Tripp explained at a recent Port of Poulsbo Commissioners meeting, “the board has been told no, no, no for dredging for so many years, and I really don’t know that is an accurate statement anymore. Port of Kingston was able to dredge. I don’t understand why the port has not looked vigorously into it. The documentation is available. It is a matter of finding and courting the resources, finding the people you need to talk to, finding out what you really need to have. I believe it is a matter of really making a serious attempt at it. We are at a point where this marina is so shallow that we need to be investing some serious time, and it is not even necessarily money at this point, it is time. We need to get very aggressive in our approach. And again, I think the board has been told no for so many years, historically, because I don’t think anybody has wanted to invest the time into it. It is time to seriously look into [dredging].”

At the June 7 meeting, the commissioners decided that Tripp should begin to pursue permission for dredging.

While dredging is costly, it is obviously necessary to maintain a usable depth in the marina. Maintaining a usable depth will ensure the flow of dollars into not only the Port of Poulsbo, but the city of Poulsbo and the downtown businesses, which benefit fiscally to a significant degree by having a destination marina. It is hoped that the port and the city can work together to solve this problem by dredging, installing a floating breakwater, repairing the city-side seawall, and finding ways to further mitigate man-caused upland sediment flow into the bay.