PORT TOWNSEND — Members of the Washington Scuba Alliance want to build an artificial reef to provide marine habitat when the Point Hudson jetties are replaced.
Members of the group met with Port of Port Townsend commissioners last week seeking permission to explore the creation of an artificial reef using the rocks from the Point Hudson jetties.
Nam Siu, a diver and marine biologist for Marine Surveys and Assessments, said the jetties around Point Hudson are a popular site for divers because of the diversity of marine life, including giant Pacific octopus, that they shelter.
“It’s my go-to dive site,” Siu said. “It’s nice since it’s so accessible. You can park at the maritime center and use their bathrooms. It really is an easy in place for local divers.”
Replacement of the marina breakwater, which protects some 51 mooring slips and the entire marina from wind and waves of Port Townsend Bay, has been a port priority for several years.
The new $5 million jetties proposed for Point Hudson would be steel filled with concrete, rather than the deteriorating wooden pilings and rocks used currently.
Those new jetties would make it much harder for marine life, said Jim Trask of the Washington Scuba Alliance.
“Marine life will be cut down by half once those jetties are gone,” he said.
“Once those jetties are gone, there’s not going to be much to see there so what we’re trying to do here is save an absolutely wonderful dive site,” Trask said.
According to a study done by Reef Environmental Education Foundation, or REEF, more than 100 species live in the rocks of the Point Hudson jetties.
The Washington Scuba Alliance proposes creating an artificial reef on the north side of Point Hudson.
Because the site would be only a few hundred feet from where the jetty currently sits, Trask said rocks could simply be picked up with a crane and dropped back into the water to form the reef instead of being loaded onto a barge.
“We basically brought this to the port commissioners to get permission to explore this option,” Siu said. “We’re hoping we can get this project done without slowing down the Port’s timeline or costing the Port any money since we’re hoping to volunteer.”
Port Commissioner Pete Hanke gave the divers permission to explore this option. No date was set for when they would report back to the commission.
This wouldn’t be the first artificial reef built with the help of the Washington Scuba Alliance. The group completed a similar project in 2007 at Salt Water State Park.
Trask said their plan would save the port money because they wouldn’t have to pay to haul the rocks away, and would contribute to the tourism industry in Port Townsend.
“We already have people in here from California, Idaho and other places in Washington because this area is so accessible to divers,” Trask said.
Port Director Sam Gibboney is working with the Northwest Maritime Center and the city of Port Townsend to plan the replacement of the jetties, she said.
Most recently, the port decided to apply for grant money from the state Recreation and Conservation Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 32 percent of the costs, or $1,455,000. Awards are expected by spring 2018.