Opinion

City's action on off-shore marina is growing near

Very soon the Bainbridge Island City Council will take up the matter of whether or not the city should establish and manage an offshore marina in Eagle Harbor along with determining its size and number of vessels it will accommodate.

The impetus for developing a marina (buoys only) has been to provide some number of permanent, legal mooring locations for long-term use by local citizens. Long-term use (simple definition) describes any boat staying in the harbor longer than 30 days.

Other than a thin ribbon of tidelands around the perimeter of the harbor (owned by adjacent waterfront property owners), Eagle Harbor belongs to the state and is subject to its use laws as established by the State Legislature.

State rules require that publicly owned property being used for private purposes can only occur through the approval of the state’s property manager, the DNR, and that fees for such use must be paid. Addi- tionally, DNR rules state that any proposed offshore marinas can only be developed by municipalities.

Eagle Harbor is heavily populated with boats on moorings or at anchor that have been in the harbor for longer than 30 days. In fact most have been in the harbor for several years.

Some of these boats are used as full-time residences (liveaboard vessels) and others are only used occasionally or not at all (long-term unoccupied vessels).

The DNR has been encouraging the city to actively manage this ongoing private use of public lands through the establishment of a municipally operated offshore marina that would, among other things, collect fees from long-term moored boats that would then be forwarded on to DNR in the form of a property lease.

Under such a lease, the city would commit to a fixed monthly payment to the state for the use of a designated (and very specific) portion of Eagle Harbor.

In that leased area the city would install new mooring buoys and rent them out to boaters wishing to stay in the harbor longer than the 30-day state and local mandated time limit.

The remaining state-owned portion of Eagle Harbor not leased by the city for use as a marina would be vacated of all long-term boats and any remaining illegally placed mooring balls not otherwise removed by their previous owners would be pulled out and disposed of.

A recent letter from DNR to the city has put us on official notice that a lease must be established with them before the end of this year. If not, all long-term boats in Eagle Harbor that are currently anchored or moored on state-owned property would have to find moorage in a private shore-based marina or a legally permitted private mooring.

So our council must decide if the city is willing to create and manage a boat marina. There is strong upland sentiment that some amount of traditional anchor-out lifestyle needs to be preserved even if it means that boat owners will be subject to a modicum of rules and will have to pay a monthly slip fee in order to stay in the harbor.

Plus, are boat owners willing to come into the marina as tenants? Or would they leave and make some other berthing arrangements?

A marina could take any one of several different forms with respect to its size and the vessel types it would accommodate.

Council is going to consider at least three variations that are rough derivatives of six ideas advanced to the Land Use Committee a year or so ago by the Harbor Commission.

The concepts are posted on the city’s Web site and council could either adopt one of them, come up with some new variation of its own or decide that the costs and responsibilities of operating a marina is not in the city’s best interests.

Whatever is decided, the volunteer members of the Harbor Commission are eager to assist in the implementation. The commission has been advancing a marina plan for years that would bring order to Eagle Harbor and put us in good stead with state law. In spite of the many setbacks hindering an earlier adoption, it appears the matter can no longer be delayed.

Bob Selzler is a member of the Harbor Commission.

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