Updates from the Port of Friday Harbor

  • Fri Sep 13th, 2019 3:11pm
  • News

Change is afoot at the Port of Friday Harbor, the biggest news being the recent announcement that they have entered into a purchase of sale agreement to buy Shipyard Cove, which is adjacent to the Jensen Marina port property.

“The reason this is exciting is that it will allow us to use the existing locations more efficiently,” Todd Nicholson, executive director of the port, said.

Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 4 p.m. at the San Juan Island Grange Hall, the port is holding a special meeting regarding the pending purchase.

Nicholson explained that during the ‘50s and ‘60s environmental laws were not as stringent as they are today. As more was discovered about the importance of shorelines, and the effects of chemicals — like cleaning products — the Environmental Protection Agency rightly and wisely, Nicholson said, created laws to mitigate the damage, and even outlawed some of those products. However, small privately-owned marinas have struggled to keep up with the expenses of some of those new requirements. Ports, with access to an array of grant funding, have the financial ability to do shoreline clean-ups and restoration, he explained. The port also needs to be solvent and responsible with funding, does not seek to maintain a large profit margin like a private entity, Nicholson added.

The port will be doing a market analysis of what Shipyard tenants currently pay, versus moorage elsewhere. The port will also take into account what is needed for Shipyard to be sustainable. Any changes in fees, as well as costs such as security deposits, will be clearly communicated to those tenants, Nicholson added.

“The lesson learned from Jensen, was that we need to be clear about any changes,” he said, noting that should fees be raised, the port intends to do so slowly in order to give people time to adjust.

Currently, the port is working on a 90-day feasibility study, which includes site and infrastructure inspections, as well as an environmental site assessment.

This assessment is not an Environmental Impact Statement, Nicholson said, but looks at historical uses of the area, like whether there is evidence of middens in the area.

Once these studies are complete, Nicholson said, the first task will be to reexamine the Jensen Marina masterplan and create one for both properties, combined.

Conceptually, a few things the port is planning include moving the Jensen barge landing to the Northwest, onto Shipyard, where it will be in deeper water. Currently, the ramp sits in the mud on low tides and is virtually unusable as a result, Nicholson said.

By moving the barge pier to Shipyard, it could function as a true barge landing, with the ability to bring in bulk amounts of material, he added. The port is also considering reroute truck traffic from Shipyard crossing a portion of Jensen’s, exiting almost directly across from the new county road which crosses over Pear Point. Trucks would not be entering Friday Harbor via Warbass Way.

The port is also looking at investing in a new travel lift, used to lift boats out of the water from the barge ramp. Instead, a sealift may be purchased, which serves as the same function, but due to its more efficient design, is able to be stored easier.

“Because we have limited space, the ability to save 30 percent room in storage is a big deal,” Nicholson said.

The port would also like to expand the docks from the Shipyard Marina, to include approximately 50 more boat slips.

The cost of replacing Jensen’s infrastructure and rebuilding it would have been more expensive than this proposed expansion, Nicholson noted.

“We have the opportunity to have more slips for less cost,” he explained. Because the dock would reach into deeper water, some of these slips could accommodate larger boats, which, Nicholson said, is lacking on the island.

“If an area like this is going to get cleaned up and redeveloped, it’s going to be by an entity like the port,” Nicholson explained.

Because of the additional property, Nicholson noted, the upper shoreline of Jensen’s most likely will be a public access area, which was one of the recommendations in the current Jensen Master Plan. Overall there will be more opportunity for marine businesses, he continued.

“What the community gets out of it is more marine businesses, like marine repairs, wooden boat building, and having an operational boatyard with a functioning barge ramp,” Nicholson noted.

Airport Master Plan update

The staff has been working on revising the Friday Harbor airports master plan over the last year or two. One sticking point, Nicholson noted, was that the Federal Aviation Administration wanted the port to buy back land in the surrounding area that was not aviation-related. However, because that was a financial hardship for the port, they were able to designate non-aviation areas instead. One of these areas is the Skagit Valley College campus. The port board and staff are now hoping to lease land either to expand the college campus in some way, or intellectual property business, like small computer-based companies, or retreat centers, perhaps even a commercial composting facility.

“It really depends on who we can get, and what makes sense,” Nicholson said.

Several electric car charging stations were installed. Three powered kiosks are now up and running as well.

“I would love to see a permanent larger farmers market there,” he said. “One that would be open every day of the week.”

The kiosks are a test, he said, and if the vendors are successful, the port would add more.

The plan is currently being reviewed by the FAA, he added. There will be a final presentation and approval by port commissioners during the Oct. 23 port meeting.

Friday Harbor Marina

The line of dumpsters along the main pier of the Friday Harbor Marina will be gone, as port staff will be putting a trash compactor to the north of the administration building.

Nicholson said he would like to have kiosks along the top of the dock where the dumpster currently is located. The kiosks would feature local artists, he said, similar to Roche Harbor, as well as more touristy items like shirts and sunglasses.

“It just adds vitality and fun to a facility,” he said of the kiosk vendor atmosphere.