Council weighs moorage plan

An ordinance that would pave the way for an “open water marina” in Eagle Harbor will get a second look by the City Council tonight.

City Harbormaster Tami Allen said passage of the ordinance wouldn’t automatically lead to a marina.

Rather, it would leave open a legislative door that is set to close this fall, with a deadline imposed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

“This has to be done before we can even consider applying for a shoreline permit for an open water marina,” Allen said.

Though the shift to a marina would impact all boatowners – an estimated 75 vessels are either anchored out or tied to permanent mooring buoys in Eagle Harbor – it would have the most direct impact to the island’s liveaboard population.

The marina would encompass the same area in the harbor now used for anchoring and mooring. It would allow liveaboards to stay under a new set of regulations and fees, including monthly rent of about $150 per month for a 30-foot vessel, Allen said.

The new marina would accommodate 50 boats, 13 of which could be liveaboards based on the maximum percentage allowed by DNR in a given marina.

The struggle between liveaboards, the city and state, and some shoreline property owners has carried on for years. The city is worried about the environmental impacts and costs of dealing with derelict vessels in the harbor, which sometimes sink or are imperiled and must be removed at the city’s expense.

A new state law now reimburses the city 90 percent of the collection and disposal costs of derelict boats, and the council last year increased the vessel removal program’s operating budget from $10,000 to $166,000.

That, along with plans for the marina, has many liveaboards feeling their lifestyle is threatened. The plan has angered some off-island boaters as well.

“Both state and local authorities are active in claiming the right to control the use and collect fees for the enjoyment of areas that belong to all the people,” said Suquamish resident William Whiteley in written comments to the council. “I am frankly shocked at this latest attempt to limit the use of these waters to rich people only.”

The shift would come via a proposed amendment to the city’s Shoreline Management Master Program, which currently doesn’t allow for open water marinas.

A public hearing for the ordinance is scheduled for 8:10 p.m., though a final decision won’t likely come until October.

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