"Liveaboards in, anchors outA new harbor plan calls for the use of buoys by boat dwellers."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:42 PM
"The Bainbridge Island Harbor Commission is once again weighing anchor on an effort to bring order to the quasi-chaos that is Eagle Harbor.The groups believes its plan preserves historic uses, including use by the liveaboard community.And this time around, the state may support it, a reversal of its previous opposition to the presence of liveaboards.Our policy now is that if environmental standards can be maintained, it's up to the local community to decide if it wants liveaboards, said Mark Mauren, Shoreline District Manager for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.The city has already decided that issue. The comprehensive plan refers to anchor-out living as an important element of affordable housing and island diversity, and the city has tried to support that community.Even so, the often haphazard location of liveaboards has been a confounding issue in attempts to regulate and manage harbor use.There has not been a well-defined anchorage plan, said Mayor Dwight Sutton. They've set their hooks pretty much where they wished.Ultimate decision-making power belongs to the state, which owns the land underlying Eagle Harbor. And former state Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher, whose term ended last year, maintained that state law does not permit liveaboards.To both satisfy the state and bring a semblance of order to the harbor, the Harbor Commission has drafted an anchoring and mooring plan, and is beginning the process of seeking public input. The DNR's Mauren has been a participating member of the drafting group.The plan marks out an area in the central harbor, roughly from the city dock westward to the foot of Wood Avenue, for moorage and anchorage. Both liveaboards and transients would be allowed in that area.The plan also calls for a 200-foot clear channel on the Winslow side of that parking area and a 150-foot channel on the south side.Boats would be allowed to anchor in that area for a short term without charge. After a short grace period - island harbor commissioner Tami Allen said that three days is a possible time frame - the owner would have to begin paying a daily anchorage fee. After 60 days, the owner would have to enter into a mooring agreement.And this is 60 cumulative days, Allen said. You can't be there for 59 days, leave for a day and come back.A major environmental component is, literally, weighing anchors. Anchors and anchor chains pivot around, and when they do, they scour the bottom, Allen said. It's a tremendous environmental insult.The plan minimizes the use of anchors, and wants instead to promote the use of mooring balls or buoys fixed with a helix screw anchor.The anchor is a giant-sized version of the spiral-shaped pegs that dog owners screw into the ground to anchor their pets. It is put into the harbor bed either by a diver or with a power auger. A cord runs upward from it to a buoy or ball, and the boat ties up to that.It's much better for the environment, because the only area of the bottom that is disturbed is the diameter of the screw, Allen said. And I would think the boaters like it because they don't have to worry about drifting.Plan calls for 125 buoysThe plan calls for installing 125 buoys in the designated mooring area, and generally requiring long-term users to hook up to them. Roughly 50 of the buoys would be for liveaboards, and the other 75 for unoccupied vessels.The city intends to charge enough for using the buoys to cover the costs of monitoring the harbor and providing on-shore services such as water, showers and pump-out facilities. Fees for liveaboards, which use the vast bulk of the services, would be in the range of $125 per month, Allen said.Another essential component of the plan is a zero-discharge requirement for all boats, transient and resident alike.We will tell the boaters that this is the requirement, and they will have to show how they intend to meet it, Allen said.Keeping a closer eye on the myriad boats in the harbor may also cut down on the problem of abandoned vessels, Harbor Commissioner Val Tollefson said.This gives us a mechanism for early identification of boats that are staying for a long time in the harbor, he said. It should prevent the regular appearance of boats that people bring over and leave here.Preliminary reaction to the draft proposal was mixed.I think it is a reasonable plan that manages the harbor in proportion to the way it has historically been used, said Paul Svornich, a liveaboard who and member of the Harbor Commission. But I can't speak for the liveaboard community, which is very diverse. I think there will be a lot of different views on this.Waterfront homeowner Kari Wright took issue with the inclusion of provisions for liveaboards.They never stopped to ask if that use is appropriate, but only how to make it happen, she said.Wright said that as a shoreline homeowner, she would prefer dedicating the area to recreational use rather than long-term anchorages.It's basically a marina unattached to the land, she said. Aesthetically, it's not very appealing. And the plan does not address the cost of providing the services to the liveaboards.Mauren agreed that before the state would sign off on any plan, the appearance issues would need to be considered.The city will have to decide what is an acceptable-looking vessel, he said.The draft plan is available at City Hall, and will be posted on the city's web site. The first public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 15 in the city council chambers.Although a number of issues still must be addressed, Tollefson believes the plan is something of a breakthrough for the liveaboard community.It is a vehicle for bringing the liveaboards into the scheme of things. It legitimizes and gives them status, he said. "