Deteriorating Jensen’s shipyard boat ramp poses risk to island propane delivery

The Jensen and Sons Shipyard ramp has seen better days.

Worn down with time and age, it is now buckling. But it is not just any boat ramp — it is the island’s gateway to propane and oxygen for oxygen tanks.

“No ramp, no fuel,” said Greg Hertel, a former Port Commissioner who is still involved with the shipyard.

He went on to explain that the same ramp has been at the facility for at least 30 years. Now, the lower section is slumping.

Executive Director of the port, Todd Nicholson, said the port acquired Jensen in 2018 along with the adjacent Shipyard Cove.

“It is the singular point on San Juan Island that receives and can receive all of the gasoline, diesel, propane and oxygen for the hospital,” Nicholson said. “It also serves as the primary distribution point for the barges to take off construction materials and other materials from San Juan Island to the outer islands.”

The United States Coast Guard has also banned carrying fuel trucks on passenger ferries, canceling out that as a backup option for the ramps. The facilities for off-loading fuel over the water from fuel barges have also been taken out, leaving the current ramp as now 100% of how the automotive, heavy equipment, home heating and marine fuel get to the island.

Nicholson estimates that the ramp only has four to six years left. If anything were to happen to it, there would not be many options for propane delivery at that point, but there are a few. The ramp at Jackson’s Beach and Roche Harbor is an option if needed, but both are in shallow water, making it difficult to accommodate the landing craft delivering fuel.

The port decided on a conceptual replacement ramp designed on the western edge of Shipyard Cove. The water will be deeper, safer and more accessible than the current ramp. It will also not be constricted by the tides, unlike at Jensen.

The design cost and permitting will cost around $200,000, which the port has started working on acquiring. The process will take between 18 months and two years to complete. After that, construction is likely to take up to 18 months to finish. The construction cost would be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, Nicholson said.

“The port will be looking at a variety of different strategies to be able to fund the project,” he said. “We will typically start by trying to acquire both state, county and federal grants.”

Gap funding would also be funded out of the port’s capital improvement funds or potentially some kind of joint project with the county.

Due to the severity of what could ensue with a shoddy ramp, for the port, it is not a matter of if it will get the funds to complete the ramp, but how.