The Port of Olympia hosted a public meeting Tuesday on a proposed fuel dock for Swantown Marina — the 17th such meeting on the topic since 2011, according to a port official.
But after years of discussion and analysis, the ball is finally starting to roll toward a construction date. That’s because on Monday, the three-member Port of Olympia Commission will weigh whether to seek bids for the project.
On Tuesday night, the port hosted about 50 people at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, once again providing an overview of the work done on the proposal to date. Port department heads from finance, engineering and Swantown Marina spoke about the fuel dock, as did port Executive Director Ed Galligan.
Galligan cautioned that seeking bids for the fuel dock doesn’t mean the project has been approved, but bids will give the port a better idea of the capital costs, he said. The engineer’s estimate to build the fuel dock is $2 million.
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Still, the port could award the construction contract in August.
The Olympia area was home to four fuel docks until the two closest to the city shut down. Many boaters say the two remaining fuel docks, at Boston Harbor and Zittel’s Marina at Johnson Point, are too far away. The lack of a nearby fuel dock is thought to have encouraged the hazardous trend of boaters hauling their own fuel in cans to fill their boats. A new fuel dock, port officials have said, would address that problem.
The fuel facility is proposed for A-dock at Swantown Marina, which is near the boat launch. Fuel tanks would be buried underground west of the dock with fuel lines running to the end of it — a 100-foot section currently occupied by a pump station. The pump station, which is used to pump out toilets on boats, would remain.
But the new section also would be outfitted with pumps for retail and commercial gasoline and diesel. It also would have safety features to guard against spills, a trained staff, and operate 8 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week, said Bruce Marshall, the port’s harbor director.
Hours would be extended in the summer, he said. And even when the fuel dock isn’t open, port staff will be on hand around the clock for safety purposes, Marshall said.
Tuesday’s meeting did not have a public question-and-answer session — meeting attendees were encouraged to talk to department heads after the meeting — but concerns about the fuel dock have been raised in the past, including questions about the safety of nonmotorized boats in the area and whether the fuel dock will pay for itself or be subsidized by taxpayers.
Port Finance Director Jeff Smith provided the financial analysis Tuesday.
The port examined five annual fuel volume scenarios, he said. In each of them, the fuel dock pays for itself over 30 years, but it won’t happen right away because depreciation will be high in the early years of the dock’s operation, compared to the cash generated by it, Smith said.
Still, the cash will pay for the fuel, the principal and interest on the construction loan — with financing provided by Thurston First Bank — and operating and maintenance expenses, Smith said.
The sweet spot for the port is to sell at least 277,500 gallons of fuel a year, he said.