Thanks to a $248,000 grant from the state capital budget, the Longbranch Marina may be getting major upgrades sooner than expected.
Clark Van Bogart, president of the Longbranch Improvement Club, was thrilled when he got the news about the funding, he said. The LIC negotiated its new 15-year aquatic lands lease in 2017. The LIC worked with the Washington Department of Natural Resources to prioritize a 30-year plan to make recommended and affordable environmental and public-safety upgrades. The plan started with the most critical to least critical issues and moved from shallow to deeper water.
“Between 2009 and 2017, the LIC invested more than $312,000 in the marina for environmental protection and public-safety measures, including wharf replacement, removal of five noncompliant boathouses and replacement of seven creosote-soaked pilings,” Van Bogart said. “Much more work needs to be done, and with cost estimates in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the necessary work would have taken many, many years to complete without this grant.”
After LIC members read about projects included in the 2016 state capital budget, they thought the marina upgrades would be appropriate for a capital budget request. The recently established Longbranch Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that also provides funding for youth scholarships, activities and other needs on the Key Peninsula, was the ideal vehicle for submitting the grant application.
“I had a lot of help—technical, historical and editorial—from a number of fellow LIC members,” said Van Bogart, who wrote the grant application. “Receipt of this grant puts us at least eight years ahead to make the upgrades we agreed to. We can then begin to focus on other projects that were nine to 10 years down the line. The real winner is water quality in Filucy Bay.”
This grant will cover the cost of replacing 1,000 square feet of the marina’s ﬂoating dock with materials that allow light to pass through to improve eelgrass health for fish habitat, and removing exposed Styrofoam flotation hazardous to fish. It will also cover the expense of replacing creosote pilings near the end of their useful life, rebuilding the now-unusable dinghy dock and building three new finger piers.
There is much preliminary work to be done before the money can be put to use, Van Bogart said. Federal, state, county and shoreline jurisdictions are all involved in the permitting process and must be submitted in the right order, and some take quite a bit of time for approval. In addition, there is a “fish window”—the time when work can be done that won’t negatively affect native fish.
“We have worked hard to develop good relationships with DNR, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Pierce County,” Van Bogart said. “That should help us get everything in place.”
Marina history goes back more than a century. In 1885, a wharf was built to accommodate ferries serving south Puget Sound. The Mosquito Fleet transported families and agricultural products to and from Tacoma, Steilacoom and Olympia. A ferry, the SV Elk, served until the late 1930s, when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge rendered the service obsolete.
When Pierce County refused to lease the ferry dock to a private for-profit venture, the LIC stepped in. County engineers supplied plans and LIC members provided the lumber, labor and funding to build a floating pier, installed in 1959. About one-third of the floating dock space is dedicated to public guest moorage. It is made available on a first-come, first-served basis for both day and overnight users. The wharf continues to be owned by the county.
In late 2009, the county condemned its own wharf and advised the LIC that necessary county funds were not available for its replacement. The county blocked access to the marina, essentially cutting it off completely from land for a period of time. The late Geoff Baillie, then president of the LIC, was the moving force to get the wharf permitted and replaced, with costs covered through a loan and promissory notes. Access was restored, saving the 2011 boating season at the marina.
Van Bogart said the LIC is exploring the possibility of building a pump-out station in the future. The state is interested because the station at Penrose State Park on Delano Bay is not accessible at low tide. State officials also don’t want the water quality in Filucy Bay to deteriorate from its present level, which is in the acceptable range. Although the state will cover up to 75 percent of the installation and operating costs, there would still be a significant funding gap. If building a pump-out station does move forward, the LIC would probably want to incorporate toilet and shower facilities.