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Liveaboards may enjoy a second life in Eagle Harbor

Eviction might not occur for Eagle Harbor liveaboards after the state Department of Natural Resources injected new hope into the effort to preserve the community by postponing eviction if the city signs a lease by Dec. 22.

The DNR agreed with the council about a viable option presented in a Dec. 3 letter to overhaul the percentage requirement that had long crippled any hope of creating an open-water moorage and anchorage area to preserve the historic liveaboard community. The council asked for a stay on the trespass and eviction process while the city worked to find a solution.

City management will present a lease option for an open-water moorage and anchorage area to the council at the Dec. 15 council meeting. Once a lease is signed the city can authorize up to 16 residential boaters to rent space in the bay while attached to linear moorage or buoys.

DNR notified the registered owners of some 58 vessels in November, including liveaboards, that they had until Dec. 15 to remove their unauthorized vessels from the harbor to avoid accumulating fines.

The most recent DNR letter was the third in a series of communications between DNR and the city in an effort to make an 11th hour rescue for what seemed like a doomed anchored-out community.

Through the letters both the city and DNR expressed several decades worth of toil and effort to resolve this longstanding issue within the community, including policy changes and collaboration to find a way to preserve the Eagle Harbor community.

The recent DNR communication to postpone the trespass process applies only to the residential vessels and not to the other abandoned vessels in the harbor.

The council opted not to enter into a lease back in September for a number of reasons, including the high costs required by the statewide percentage of residential and transient slips in a marina. The statewide regulation limits the number of residential slips to 10 percent of the total number of slips within a marina.

The city had approved a 25 percent residential use limit, but would still be required to install and maintain 36 to 48 additional buoys for transient use in order to preserve 12 to 16 buoys for anchored-out residents.

The city wasn’t willing to invest roughly $72,000 to $96,000 for installation, maintenance and management costs for transient buoys that its feels will likely remain unused.

The council addressed the DNR in a Dec. 3 letter regarding an alternative Franz found to change the percentage requirement through a Shoreline Substantial Development Conditional Use Permit (SSDCUP). DNR “agrees this is a viable option and we are ready to immediately enter into a lease with the Cit with the SSDCUP being pursued as a condition of the lease,” according to the letter.

The city will be required to obtain proof of registration and the registration numbers of the residential boaters and provide them to DNR, and to meet all other provisions related to moorage management such as garage and sewage.

“Thank you for continuing to work with DNR to create a solution for our shared goals of preserving a piece of Washington’s cultural heritage and a cleaner Puget Sound,” stated the letter.

Without the high costs of funding the transient buoys, the estimated expense to build the infrastructure would be around $8,000 for moorings, according to Franz. DNR had secured $40,000 from the State Legislature to install the buoys, but it is unknown if that money is still available. Members of the community also spoke up regarding their willingness to offer financial support at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The short deadline of Dec. 22 gives city management only days to complete lease options. A large part of the lease was completed in September in preparation for the original Oct. 1 deadline. City management has already started the process to get the lease prepared and have spoken with DNR Deputy Supervisor Bridget Moran to ensure the lease can get done in a very short amount of time.

In September the costs for sewage and garbage were thought to be too costly for liveaboards, and might have jeopardized the viability of the marina.

Councilor Kirstin Hytopoulos thought those costs will be significantly lower now since some of those issues have been resolved.

“To me this is quite amazing because I was just resigned that we had tried everything,” said Mayor Bob Scales. “Through Hilary’s work they have reconsidered and now are giving us a 100 percent residential option. There are sill a lot of details to be worked out, but now we can move forward instead of watching DNR do their thing. I didn’t think this would happen.”

Finding a lease rate that liveaboards can afford is still a concern, but that number won’t be presented until the Dec. 15 meeting. All of the council congratulated Franz on her diligence to continue working to find a solution despite the bleak outlook.

“I am very hopeful that we will be able to preserve this history and the liveaboards who have meant so much to this community,” said Franz.

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