Does new fuel dock need more study?

Port commission discusses proposal; boaters say they need a dock closer to Olympia

rboone@theolympian.comFebruary 25, 2014 

Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn, the newest member of the commission, took center stage at Monday's meeting, asking her colleagues to consider more analysis for a proposed fuel dock that would serve recreational and commercial boats in the area.

STEVE BLOOM; STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn, the newest member of the commission, took center stage at Monday’s meeting, asking her colleagues to consider more analysis for a proposed fuel dock that would serve recreational and commercial boats in the area.

There currently is no fuel dock at the port; the two closest are several miles north at Boston Harbor and Zittel’s at Johnson Point.

Gunn raised the idea of further studying the proposed fuel dock because she has several concerns.

Among them: wanting to make sure the process is as transparent as possible, that it protects Thurston County taxpayers, and that a fuel dock would not unfairly compete with small businesses, such as the fuel docks at Boston Harbor and Zittel’s.

“I think there’s a lack of evidence that the operation will be economically viable and not subsidized by taxpayers,” she said, adding that there’s no market analysis of fuel consumption or boating trends.

The commission discussed but didn’t take action on the proposal. Several people in the audience, most of whom were boaters, reiterated their support for the fuel dock.

Commissioner Bill McGregor said he was supportive of more analysis, but said it was premature because the port is awaiting more data on the fuel dock process currently underway, including an economic feasibility study.

The port set in motion its plans for a new fuel dock in early 2013, and the commission is not expected to vote on whether to approve construction until May 2015, with work beginning that fall, according to an estimated timeline shown at Monday’s meeting.

Frank Gorecki, a member of the port’s citizens advisory committee, defended the port’s fuel dock process so far, saying it was following “best practices.” But he also agreed that “nonadvocate review or independent assessment by a credible organization” would be worthwhile.

Former port commissioner Jim Wright, who served on the commission 33 years ago, recalled plans for a new fuel dock then, he said.

“It’s been a long time in coming,” Wright said.

Some residents said Monday they fear a new fuel dock would put the one at Boston Harbor out of business; others said the Boston Harbor fuel dock is too small and not safe for large boats.

Steve Wilcox of Olympia said he supports more analysis; he recalled when the immediate Olympia area was home to three fuel docks in the early 1970s, and they all closed because they couldn’t cover their costs. If boat owners are concerned about access to the fuel dock at Boston Harbor, they should try going to Zittel’s, he said.

But that’s part of the problem: Boston Harbor and Zittel’s are too far away, another resident said.

Also Monday night:

 • The commission approved a plan to seek bids for renovating several hangars at Olympia Regional Airport, estimated to cost $675,000 to $725,000.

 • The commission approved spending $50,000 as part of an interlocal agreement with the city of Olympia to assess habitat restoration on West Bay.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com

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