Eroding wall could build a partnership

POULSBO — While seeking a partnership to repair one wall, Port of Poulsbo Commissioners last Wednesday began the process of tearing down another that has stood between them and City Hall for several years.

Despite a history of giving a cold shoulder when the other’s help was needed, continuing erosion problems at Waterfront Park might put an end to such attitudes. With this in mind, the commissioners and Poulsbo City Council members decided to skip a technical discussion on how best to mend the sloughing rock wall and focus on mending their ailing relationship, instead.

The quarter century’s old structure has created a dilemma for both entities during the past few years, jeopardizing moorage space and docks at the port as well as the Sons of Norway fire pit and Kvelstad Pavilion in the city-owned park.

“We all know we have to do something,” said Commissioner Tony DeCarlo, who was acting as spokesman for the port during the session. “If we don’t do something, we’re going to lose the park and the marina.”

The amenities, he added, were scenic and much-used features that helped bring tourist revenues to Little Norway each year. While the millions of dollars generated by visitors cannot easily be measured, the cost of building a new breakwater and repairing the rock wall can — $2.6 million.

“We know it’s a lot of money but we need it,” DeCarlo said, noting that state and federal grants would help shave the final expense down to a more workable level.

The two entities missed chances to do just that last year when some $1.8 million in attainable funds went to other agencies. A lack of partnership and a joint plan cost the port and city an $875,000 request to the Interagency for Outdoor Recreation Program for Boat Infrastructure Grant (BIG) money and $500,000 in Salmon Recovery Funding Board money, which had a contingency for a $400,000 match.

Neither group wants to repeat the blunders.

The port is again applying for the BIG but this time they’ll have the city on board. Council last week agreed to do its part and commit as a partner by assisting with the permitting process and helping uncover other funding sources that may assist the project.

With permits taking anywhere from 12-18 months to attain for such a project, port commissioners made it clear that the sooner the two got things rolling on the project, the better.

“We’re all aware of the danger it poses to our community,” DeCarlo said.

“By partnering we increase the chances of getting the BIG grant.”

DeCarlo estimated that there were $1.4 million in available grant monies for the renovation plan, leaving $1.2 million to the port, city and another unnamed party. The left over funds, DeCarlo said, could be split three ways. But if the third part isn’t discovered, the city and port would each be stuck holding a $600,000 bag.

“So, the worst case scenario is that there’s only two people on the dance floor?” Councilman Ed Stern asked.

Commissioner Mike Winters conceded the point, but added that other groups, such as the tribes, Lemolo Citizens Club and Fred Hill Materials, had also expressed interest in the project.

“We are a partner,” Councilman Dale Rudolph said. “We need this at least as bad as the port needs it. We all belong to the port and we all belong to the city.”

But before committing over half a million dollars, the city council agreed that additional discussions with the port would be required. They did, however, put the joint permitting process in motion — something that could cost upward of $150,000 to complete.

“You can’t get a grant unless you have the permit,” DeCarlo said, noting that the port found itself caught in the catch-22 situation last year.

Along with the permits, the port is trying to appease environmental agencies that will have a say in the approval process. According to DeCarlo, replacing an existing creosote log breakwater that surrounds the marina with a more fish-friendly barrier would improve the two governments’ chances of landing grant funding. It would also increase the port’s moorage space.

“This will make the project more appealing,” he told the council. “The breakwater is the primary impetus in getting these funds.”

The addition, DeCarlo said, would also only add about $600,000 to the overall project cost. Even so, this cost could mean big changes to other proposals the port and city have been eyeing.

“We all have our favorite projects but we need to put this right up at the top,” Rudolph said.

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