Lighthouse Marine Park dock puzzling engineers

Lighthouse park. Photo by Louise Mugar

By Meg Olson

Whatcom County parks engineers are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to design a long-lasting dock for Lighthouse Marine Park.

In July, the dock was taken out again after “stress cracking” was discovered throughout the structure, according to parks design and development supervisor Rod Lamb.

“This was the third time it was in the water,” Lamb confirmed. The dock was originally launched in 2015 to replace the old wooden dock that was removed from service in 2009. It failed after a month in the water and the county spent $27,000 in materials to repair it, sharing the rest of the costs with the dock manufacturer and installer. It was back in the water in mid-2016 and survived the 2017 season before the current damage caused the county to pull it for public safety reasons.

So why can’t a new dock be built to withstand the same conditions the old wood and floatation foam dock put up with for 16 years with minimal annual maintenance? “It’s different than the last time,” Lamb said. “There are new requirements the old dock didn’t need to meet,” such as allowing light to penetrate to the water below.

Lamb said engineers were reevaluating the design and costing out alternatives. “We will do some analysis,” Lamb said. “There are forces acting on the dock system as it grounds out that are concentrating the load and we have to find out how to change it so they’re not concentrated.”

Lamb didn’t speculate whether the dock would be back next year. Once engineers come up with a fix, the county will need to approve the funds to make it happen.

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