Bulkhead repair tops list as Port makes future plans

A bulkhead in need of repair at the Port of Friday Harbor.  - Courtesy of Port of Friday Harbor
A bulkhead in need of repair at the Port of Friday Harbor.
— image credit: Courtesy of Port of Friday Harbor

By Steve Wehrly

The Port of Friday Harbor is using the pending update of the town's shoreline master plan to spur its efforts to plan and obtain permits for a variety of waterfront projects, most urgently the repair or replacement of the waterfront bulkhead.

Photos of the Friday Harbor waterfront, from the ferry dock to the U.S. Customs building, festooned tables and chairs at Ernie’s restaurant, at the airport, as the Commission and port staff worked on "must do" and "hope to do" lists of waterfront projects March 21 as part of a port planning.

Commission Chairman Greg Hertel opened the meeting by reminding everyone that the Town of Friday Harbor was preparing a state Department of Ecology-mandated update of its Shoreline Master Program. Changes in the current master program, which has not been updated since 1990, would be submitted to Ecology sometime next year.

Any permit applications filed before DOE approves of the master program would be judged under the current program.

“We need to be sure that our plans don't get stymied by the revised shoreline master program,” Hertel said.

However, Commissioner Barbara Marrett thinks that many of the projects the port is planning would satisfy both current and revised shoreline development guidelines.

Port Director Marilyn O’Connor, who has been attending the town's shoreline master program meetings, showed photos illustrating the “serious deterioration” of the bulkhead. She noted that getting the planning done and permit process underway this year would not only assure that the current shoreline master program would apply, but also provide an opportunity for the port to include planning for its needed improvements in the town's permitting process.

O'Connor presented a string of other photos that elicited a lively discussion of possible improvements that might be made in conjunction with the bulkhead repair: a walkway along the waterfront, beach access, more public-use spaces (including a possible performance venue and other improvements in Fairweather Park), a float for launching kayaks from a unused pier, a waterfront deck and other landscaping changes to open up views of the harbor, picnic tables and planters, bicycle parking, and for kids, maybe even a small aquarium, a sandbox or a wading pool.

O’Connor pointed to one simple improvement that could be made now, before the tourist season: redesigning the parking spaces near Downriggers Restaurant. The commission instructed port staff to prepare a plan of potential parking changes and a brief description of other “spring beautification” projects the port's budget can withstand.

When the discussion turned to planning away from the beach, commissioners and staff quickly came up with an extensive, and presumably expensive, list of projects which might be considered, including building a second deck on the upper parking lot, constructing new garbage, recycling and reuse facilities, and improving the electricity, water and sewer system infrastructures.

O’Connor assured there was enough flexibility in the budget to complete the spring projects and to begin more detailed planning for reconstructing the bulkhead and for making other improvements.

Asked later about funding for the many projects discussed, Hertel and Commissioner Mike Ahrenius agreed, “it will take some doing” to put the money together. Hertel pointed out the port has recently paid off several bonds, increasing the capacity of the port to finance future projects.


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