Preferred fuel dock site buoys boaters’ day

rboone@theolympian.comFebruary 5, 2013 

More than 100 people, mostly boat owners, largely voiced their support for a proposed fuel dock at the Port of Olympia’s Swantown Marina, although safety questions also were posed during the 90-minute meeting Monday night at The Olympia Center.

Also announced during the meeting, via a feasibility study produced by KPFF Consulting Engineers of Seattle, was that the preferred site for a fuel dock is at the tip of A-dock near the port’s public boat launch.

During the meeting, an engineering consultant went over three sites that had been considered for a fuel dock: a site near Hearthfire Grill at NorthPoint; a site on A-dock but closer to shore; and the preferred site at the end of A-dock.

The cost estimate for the preferred site is $1.7 million, compared with $2.5 million for the A-dock site closer to shore and $4.6 million for the site near Hearthfire Grill.

Advantages of the preferred site include better access, deeper water — it wouldn’t require a dredge — and more protection from open water.

The dock at the tip of A-dock also was originally designed for fuel. It currently is used as a pumpout station.

But the preferred site also comes with a hurdle: In order to build a fuel dock beyond 175 feet of the shore, it would require an amendment to Olympia’s municipal code, City of Olympia building official Tom Hill said during the meeting.

The 175-foot rule was created so that, in the event of a fire, crews could still reach the fire with their hoses, he said.

Although many voiced their support for the fuel dock, many also had questions about safety.

In response, Port of Olympia Executive Director Ed Galligan said the port has ordered a fire boat, “fully funded with a grant.” Scott Kuebler of KPFF added that the fuel dock design would have various safety features, including leak detection, and fuel dock staff would receive training, including in fuel spill response.

A fuel dock also would eliminate the need for boat owners to fill their boats on their own.

“It makes a lot of problems go away,” audience member Dan O’Brien said.

The area has plenty of pent-up demand for a fuel dock.

More than 10,000 vessels are registered in Thurston County, with 2,000 moorage slips, 80 percent of which are near downtown Olympia. The county at one time was home to four fuel docks. Now there are two: Boston Harbor and Zittel’s Marina at Johnson Point.

“I strongly urge the commissioners to approve this project,” Olympia Yacht Club member Jim Sheerer said.

But the conversation about safety wasn’t over. Carol Riley of the Olympia Area Rowing Association raised concerns about boat congestion and noted that rowers aren’t always visible in the water to other boaters. Galligan replied that the port was “equally concerned about safety.”

Up next: The port is accepting written comments about the proposed fuel dock through Feb. 18, then the port commission will decide whether to approve the fuel dock in March or April. If it’s approved, there is still a chance for public and written comment as the port works through the permitting process.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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