Port of Port Townsend to apply for $2.3 million grant

Dissenting commissioner wants to take more time

PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of moving ahead to apply for a $2,345,833 grant to acquire a variable-width travel lift for Boat Haven.

The grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Disaster Reliever and Recovery Program, intended to assist communities impacted by natural disasters, would cover 80 percent of the total cost of the $2,932,292 300 CII Marine Travelift.

The port would provide a 20 percent match of $586,458 with Industrial Development District levy funds. This was the second reading of the resolution, which had been presented to the commissioners at their May 24 meeting.

In voting against the resolution on Wednesday, Commissioner Pam Petranek said she was concerned about the cost of the lift and confident there would be other funding opportunities down the line.

“My No. 1 responsibility is to our constituents, and I don’t have a green light from the majority of them,” Petranek said, reminding the board that it had already approved about $1 million in adjustments to the 2023 budget and she was reluctant to add another half-million to that amount.

“I’m not going to be pressured just because there’s a particular grant. I’m hearing concern from our constituents about going over budget. We need to take our time.”

Commissioner Carol Hasse, who joined Pete Hanke in approving the resolution, said that she, too, had heard criticism, but that she was confident applying for the funding was in the best interest of the public and Boat Haven.

“I’m very confident that we should go forward with this,” Hasse said. “These grants might not last if the administration changes. This is probably the best deal we’re going to get.”

Hanke said he saw far more upsides than downsides in acquiring the Travelift.

“The money is a big deal, and I don’t want to saddle taxpayers with a bigger bill,” Hanke said.

At the same time, he said it was in the port’s best interest to take advantage of funding opportunities when they presented themselves when the port could acquire equipment that would assist in its operations.

“Eventually this money runs out, and we aren’t going to see grants like this in a long time,” Hanke said.

Unlike a standard fixed-width hoist, the variable-width Marine Travelift can expand and retract depending on the size of the vessel, allowing it to block them closer together. The new lift would replace the port’s existing 27-year-old, 300-ton Travelift that requires significant maintenance that makes it unavailable for its operations.

Port staff have warned that if it breaks down or a part is needed, it could take up to two months to bring it back online again.

Deputy Director Eric Toews said the port should not pass up a funding opportunity for equipment its capital plan had identified as a need.

“It’s a very good fit for us and an opportunity to address a critical need, and makes more efficient use of limited space,” Toews said. “A variable lift would add efficiencies — even a handful of additional spaces would provide more space for more boats and more jobs.”

Toews reminded the commissioners that applying for the grant did not mean it would necessarily receive it.

“These grants are highly competitive and there is no guarantee of success,” Toews said. “We need a Travelift, and this opportunity has presented itself. It’s in the public’s best interest and in our best interest to address these vulnerabilities.”

Stormwater project

In the morning workshop, Matt Klontz brought commissioners up to date on the status of the $4.8 million Boat Haven stormwater improvement project.

A new system is needed, Klontz said, to comply with increasingly strict state Department of Ecology permitting standards, particularly for copper, a metal commonly used in the marine trades that has been found to negatively impact anadromous fish like salmon.

In 2021, the port secured $1,988,500 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which it matched with $661,500 in IDD monies, but it needs to pursue more funding to close the $2.5 million gap, Klontz said.

“There is a funding grant opportunity through the Washington state Department of Ecology in the fall. I’m very optimistic our project would score well,” Klontz said, citing its contribution to a cleaner marine environment and its use of green stormwater technology.

The Port of Port Townsend will replace its aging and high-maintenance stormwater system with a biofiltration system that removes pollutants from water by diverting runoff through a series of temporary ponds filled with dense vegetation before it is slowly filtered down through layers of media like sand and gravel and then discharged.

The port hired Kennedy Jenks, the engineering firm behind the Port of Port Angeles’ stormwater system, to design its system as well.

The port’s current system is in compliance, but its permit from the Department of Ecology expires in August 2027.

The goal is to have a stormwater system that can meet stricter permitting standards, can be maintained by port staff and can be expanded to accommodate growth.

“The existing system is challenging and labor-intensive to maintain,” Klontz said.

The stormwater improvement project at Boat Haven is the first of 13 projects commissioners will review at each of their upcoming monthly workshops.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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