Liveaboard buoys approved

Eagle Harbor may soon have some new neighbors moving in as capacity for liveaboard vessels was approved earlier this week.

A total of 20 buoys will be added to the linear moorage already in place. This will allow for 10 more vessels to tie up in the harbor. After the additional buoys are in place, Eagle Harbor will have the buoy capacity to accommodate 24 liveaboard vessels.

This reflects a maximum potential occupancy for the open-water marina. City Manager Brenda Bauer said that for the time being, the city will only be installing limited infrastructure for tenants who are not currently on the linear moorage. Any work on the moorage will be occurring only after all permits have been approved.

The additional buoys are keeping with a city policy to preserve the open-water marina in the harbor — a unique feature, and community, that is anchored in the island’s history.

In the application for a conditional use permit, approved by Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith, it was stipulated that all available open-water moorage in the Eagle Harbor be designated as residential use. Any spots unused by liveaboard vessels can be used by transient moorage.

Now that the hearing examiner has made his decision, the Department of Ecology will review a permit application, after which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also review the proposal, before any additions to the marina can be made.

The City  Council approved the open water marina in 2010 with the intent to provide support for the local liveaboard community.

The city had spent nearly eight years prior to approving the open water marina working with the Department of Natural Resources to create the marina and accommodate liveaboards.

The council desired to preserve the local liveaboard community, but not necessarily expand it, according to Bauer.

“The project is intended to help to sustain the legacy community of long-term, liveaboard residents that contribute in a variety of ways to the community’s character,” Bauer said. “The project also aims to develop standards for the liveaboards that will improve compliance with sanitation and other state regulations, thus improving environmental conditions in the harbor.”

Bauer also said that with a more organized approach to the open water marina — and support of the liveaboard community that utilizes it — will make it more accessible for harbor residents and encourage more short-term visitors to the marina facility. It will also help the state and city identify compliant and non-compliant vessels.

The city expects to be working with the council in 2012 to form policies that will manage the open water marina and its ongoing leases.

Eagle Harbor has historically been the setting for a liveaboard community at Bainbridge Island — a factor that the hearing examiner noted in his conclusion as “an unusual historical use that does not fit neatly into a common regulatory pigeonhole.”

People living on their boats in the harbor dates back around 100 years, according to Paul Svornich, who was a member of the liveabaord community for 30 years. He has been a local advocate for liveabaords while in the harbor, and continues to support them.

“It was a vibrant community with families and every walk of life but now it is a remnant of that community,” Svornich said. “For most people on the island I believe it is a wonderful, unique representation of a lifestyle that is truly sustainable with an extremely small environmental footprint.”

Things have changed since the days when families could drop anchor in the harbor as they pleased. In 2002, the DNR created a rule to allow liveaboards only in areas managed by municipalities. Bainbridge Island stepped up and has since been crafting a structure to accommodate liveaboard vessels.


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