PORT TOWNSEND — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell got a close-up look at the Point Hudson jetty replacement project during a visit to Port Townsend, where she met with local officials, business community members and marine trades representatives.
Half of the funds for the Port of Port Townsend’s $14.1 million jetty project that broke ground on Sept. 14 came from a $7 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Cantwell, a Democrat from Mountlake Terrace, is chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“I’m happy to be here and happy that the Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency is able to help repair such a vital asset to the community as the marina is,” Cantwell said during her visit on Tuesday.
“I wanted to see first-hand how progress is going on, making improvements and talking about what else we can do to work on the infrastructure and to use our best assets to grow our economy.”
Cantwell watched as a derrick disassembled the north jetty boulder by boulder and pile by pile.
So far, 356 creosote-soaked piles weighing 300 tons have been removed from the site. Another 471 piles will be removed when the south jetty project begins next fall.
Some of the boulders have been used to create habitat for sealife displaced by the construction, such as starfish and rockfish.
The deteriorating jetties were constructed in the mid-1930s, underwent significant upgrades in 1969 and received minor repairs in 1996. Without the EDA funding, the project would not have happened, said Eron Berg, port executive director.
“This whole project we hope will revitalize the marina so that we can keep all of this economic activity going another 50 years,” Berg said.
“The marina to us is the intersection of where the marine trades and all of the tourism come together and anchors the two ends of Port Townsend culture.”
Cantwell listened to the assembled group whose concerns focused on ways to grow the local economy, improving infrastructure and solving a severe lack of housing that has impacted sectors across the city, from schools to healthcare.
“Something that I have been spending a lot of time on recently is to get a better understanding of how can we best access the federal funds that are available,” said Kate Dean, Jefferson County commissioner.
That assistance could help spur innovation and job growth in the maritime industry and the rural economy, she said.
A working waterfront is essential to Port Townsend’s economy, and repair of the jetties is critical, Mayor David Faber said. Other challenges face the city, however, that needed to be addressed and funded for it to be able to grow and thrive, he added.
“The economy is an ecosystem; it’s not just jobs,” Faber said. “One of those things we are consistently hearing from local employers is the struggle to find housing.
“One of the struggles we have as a city is the inability to build out the infrastructure necessary to build housing.”
Cantwell said she and her staff had taken a lot of notes during the one-hour roundtable.
“We’ll create a list of things we should be thinking about and we’ll take back [with us] what you’ve said about the ability and capacity right here in the community and share that information,” she said. “And we’ll keep track of the marina’s progress.”
In addition, having never gone to the Wooden Boat Festival, she said, “I’ll put the Boat Festival on the calendar.”
The EDA awarded two grants to Port Angeles entities this year.
In April, the Port of Port Angeles received a $7.3 million grant to construct an industrial park to support the local maritime industry, and in August the Field Arts and Events Hall received $1 million to establish a media lab to train technicians, stagehands and other workers.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.