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BIG news lurks on the horizon for Waterfront Park’s rock wall

POULSBO — The City of Poulsbo and Port of Poulsbo should soon know if needed upgrades to port facilities and Waterfront Park will go forward on the preferred timeline.

Sometime during the first quarter of 2004, the two entities are expected to hear whether or not they are the recipients of a Interagency for Outdoor Recreation Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG), funds from a federal pot of money administered through the state. Receiving the $5.1 million award could set in motion more than $5 million in projects — including the replacement of the port’s aging breakwater and the Poulsbo’s sloughing rock wall — in the fall of 2004 as hoped.

An announcement was originally expected this month but has been delayed.

The BIG funds were applied for earlier this year on behalf of Poulsbo and the port by Parametrix, which was hired in November 2002 for the preliminary design, permitting and grant applications for several waterfront projects. The City of Poulsbo and Port of Poulsbo split the $150,000 consulting fee. Though their projects remain separate, the two entities are partnering in order to have a better chance at grant money.

“The partnership, I think, is fantastic because we’re helping each other,” commented Port of Poulsbo Manager Ed Erhardt. “I personally see nothing bad, only an excellent relationship with this process.”

Parametrix estimates a total price tag of more than $5 million for the entire project. The cost of the Waterfront Park improvements, on the city’s side, may be more than $1.6 million while the port’s projects total the remaining nearly $3.4 million. Right now, all eyes are on the BIG grant to cover the costs. Phil Struck of Parametrix reported last month to the Public Works Committee and said he feels good about the port and Poulsbo’s chances.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Struck commented on the grant application. “We’ve gotten some very good feedback from the state but it’s contingent on federal funding and they still haven’t heard what it will be.”

The partnership may, if anything, be the saving grace for the grant’s chances. In 2002, the port applied for and was rejected for $875,000 in BIG funds, which would have covered half the cost of repairing the park’s wall.

Kathy Byrne-Barrantes, who served as the grant writer for the proposal, said at the time that one of the main reasons the money was denied was because of a weak partnership between the port and City of Poulsbo.

The nearly 30-year-old rock bulkhead at Waterfront Park officially belongs to the City of Poulsbo. However, as it has sloughed off into Liberty Bay over the years, it has caused concern for both the city and port. Poulsbo has lost an estimated 1,000-square-feet of park land and has structures like the Kvelstad Pavilion and community fire pit in jeopardy due to the movement. The sliding rocks and debris are also encroaching upon the port’s facilities, including the current location of its guest moorage office and dinghy tie-up area.

Under the strengthened partnership this time around, the two share in consulting and permitting fees and some of the port’s mitigation, including removing its creosoted-pilings breakwater, will count toward the handful of projects as a whole.

“The breakwater is starting to deteriorate but it’s not an emergency,” Erhardt explained. “But it’s good to do it now before we have a problem and we might as well do it now when we can help the city get the wall. It’s all one big project with all these little pieces that have to fit together.”

If the BIG funding is received, the port and city will have about two years to spend their portions. Both hope to be working in about November 2004, however, the port’s portion would be phased over a couple of years because of regulations with working over water.

If the grant does not come through, City Engineer John Stephenson said there are other sources available, although none are as large.

“Of course, (the priority is) to look for other grant funding but another option would be to issue bonds,” Stephenson said. “If we were not successful in grant funding, it would be up to the city council to prioritize these needs along with the other needs of the city.”

Erhardt said the port’s contingency plan for the grant runs along the same line. Port commissioners would be responsible for deciding what the port would be able to do alone.

The breakwater, which was built in the early 1960s, would be a top priority.

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