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Harbor plan moving forward

But liveaboards say a $150 per month moorage fee is unfair.

Of all the views offered by Eagle Harbor, perhaps the most striking are those held by, and about, its inhabitants.

There’s the view from the shore, where some neighbors have complained for years about liveaboards, claiming they pollute the harbor literally and aesthetically.

Then there’s the view from the water, where liveaboards tout the advantages of their lifestyle and its historical significance to the island.

Whatever the view, one thing is certain: changes are afoot that could drastically alter the liveaboard landscape.

“It would be the beginning of the end of this lifestyle,” said longtime liveaboard Ray Nowak, of the city’s plans to create an “open water marina” in Eagle Harbor.

The marina, which would encompass the same area now used for anchoring and mooring, would allow liveaboards to remain in Eagle Harbor under a new set of regulations and fees.

The most controversial part of the plan is tied to the costs of renting space in the harbor, said Harbor Master Tami Allen.

Liveaboards now pay nothing to stay in the harbor, but the plan would require them to pay rent – about $150 per month for a 30-foot vessel, or half the cost of mooring at a private marina, she said.

The changes would come via a proposed amendment to the city’s Shoreline Management Master Program, which currently does not allow for open water marinas in island waters.

The amendment, set to go before the City Council for a first reading tonight, wouldn’t assure the creation of a marina; it would, however, open the door to the creation of one in the future.

That door is set to close in November, with a deadline set by the state Department of Natural Resources, which manges the land beneath state waters.

“This wouldn’t guarantee anything,” Allen said. “It would just allow us to have the option of a marina in the future.”

The plan aims to strike a balance between DNR, liveaboards and shoreline residents who have long been at odds with one another.

Vessels in Eagle Harbor are subject to numerous city regulations, including specific regulations regarding moorage and anchorage, but specific anchorage locations have not been established.

One problem, Allen said, is that buoys in the harbor were established at different times under different regulations. That lack of uniformity makes it difficult to enforce what’s now on the books.

The new marina would accommodate 50 boats.

Of those spaces, 13 would be alloted to liveaboards. That number corresponds the maximum percentage of liveaboards allowed by DNR in a given marina.

The city estimates that some 75 vessels are either anchored-out or tied to permanent mooring buoys in Eagle Harbor.

Though it would place more stringent regulations on all boats in Eagle Harbor, Allen said it would have the greatest impact on liveaboards.

The liveaboard population fluctuates, but it generally consists of 12 to 15 boats, according to Allen and Nowak.

Some of the vessels used by liveaboards are seaworthy vessels, Allen said. Those liveaboards would be welcome to stay, as long as they continue to comply with the rules.

But other vessels, she said, are in disrepair and threaten the harbor.

Because it often incurs the costs of disposing of sunken vessels, the city has in the past year taken a more aggressive tack in dealing with derelict boats.

With word that a new state law would reimburse the city 90 percent of the collection and disposal costs of derelict boats, the council last year increased the vessel removal program’s operating budget from $10,000 to $166,000.

Some liveaboards have argued that those efforts are part of a larger agenda to rid the harbor of liveaboards altogether.

That agenda, they say, would be furthured by the establishment of the open water marina, which could force out many current liveaboards.

Nowak, for one, said he wouldn’t pay to stay in the harbor, and he suspects many of his neighbors wouldn’t either.

Like Nowak, liveaboard Ryan Landworth said the marina would harm the liveaboard community.

“If cultural diversity and affordable housing are priorities of the council,” Landworth said, “they should revisit how and why they got to where they are with a plan that will so greatly affect a minority community on the island.”

Allen said the plan is designed to help liveaboards in the face of ever-increasing state regulations.

“Because it’s free, there aren’t a lot of liveaboards who want to see this done immediately,” she said.

Foremost, she added, should be the health of the harbor.

“A lot of people are looking at this in relation to the liveaboards who are out there right now,” she said.

“But we need to be thinking about where we’ll be five years from now.”

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