Photo: David Zeigler, KP News

Puget Sound became a no-discharge zone in 2018 to prevent the spread of fecal contamination from recreational vessels, increasing the demand for sewage pump-out stations.

The Longbranch Marina received a grant Oct. 15 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to begin the planning and permitting process for a boat sewage pump-out station.

“There aren’t many pump-out stations in the South Sound that are relatively easy to get to,” said Marsha Kremen, president of the Longbranch Improvement Club. “There’s a need and we’ve been talking about it for some time, and then the county actually approached us and asked us to consider it and offered to help.”

The LIC owns the marina but leases the state-owned aquatic lands beneath it from the Dept. of Natural Resources. Pierce County has granted an easement to use what is technically a road as its parking lot. Operating since 1959, it is the only public marina on the KP and is required to provide public access to Puget Sound and act as a steward of the environment under the terms of its agreements with the DNR and county.

Kremen said there is some concern in the community that a pump-out station would increase vessel traffic in Filucy Bay, but pointed out the marina is already at capacity most summer weekends and that providing a pump-out station would mitigate that impact.

“We’re just starting with preapplication and figuring out our ultimate design,” said Brett Allen, an LIC member who volunteered to manage the project. “Then we’ll go in for shoreline permits. This phase is probably six months.”

There will be a vacuum pump and underground holding tank in the parking area, he said. If all goes according to plan, the project would be completed by 2023.

The planning and permitting is funded by the NFWF grant of $82,500, representing about 25 percent of the anticipated total cost of the project and allowing the LIC to apply for a 75 percent matching grant from Washington State Parks to pay for construction, and perhaps another ongoing matching grant for operation and maintenance.

Home resident Sheryl Low, a retired professor with 20 years at California State University, Northridge, and also an LIC member who moors her boat at the marina, volunteered to help with the grants. She said she spent most of the eight years as chair of her department writing grant proposals.

“I really think that the LIC through leveraging their relationships and friendships was able to have organizations approach us and suggest we apply,” Low said.

The Clean Vessel Act of 1992 provides federal funds for states to reduce pollution from recreational vessel sewage discharges, she said. In Washington, that money is funneled through the state parks to make grants to boating facility operators for the construction and maintenance of pump-out stations.

The Washington State Department of Ecology established a “no-discharge zone” for Puget Sound in May 2018, making it illegal for recreational vessels to discharge sewage from a holding tank. Up until then, vessels were allowed to dump treated sewage three miles offshore.

In 2002, Pierce County created the Filucy Bay Watershed Protection District to counter declining water quality. The northern portion of the bay was closed to commercial shell fishing and the county became the lead agency on water quality in Filucy Bay.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department monitors the water for fecal coliform counts and other factors affecting marine health. The bay is vulnerable to contamination because of limited circulation and freshwater runoff. Eight creeks drain into the bay. Currently the water quality in Filucy Bay gets a B.

A pump-out station at Longbranch Marina would be roughly equal distance between the existing stations at Penrose State Park on Mayo Cove and Zittel’s Marina on the far side of Nisqually Reach from the south end of the KP. Longbranch would be the only South Sound marina that could accommodate vessels over 50 feet.

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