Those idyllic days of fishing on the dock at Lighthouse Marine Park are a thing of the past, it seems. Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws and county parks director Michael McFarlane confirmed that the county does not intend to repair and re-install the dock this spring despite previous assurances by Louws that the county was going to give it one more college try.
The confirmation came in emails this week to Point Roberts Taxpayers Association president Mark Robbins and the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) after Robbins questioned conflicting accounts of the county’s intentions. County parks design and development supervisor Rod Lamb had discussed plans for the dock at the PRCAC’s meeting in February but various attendees had different interpretations of the county’s direction. Some thought the county was going to repair the damaged dock and put it back in the water while others thought it was already a goner. Robbins’ emails to all and sundry resulted in the bad news being delivered straight from the horses’ mouths.
Last July, the dock was taken out after “stress cracking” was discovered throughout the structure, according to Lamb. “This was the third time it was in the water,” he confirmed, as reported in the September 2018 issue of the All Point Bulletin.
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 most recent damage caused the county to pull it for safety reasons.
In McFarlane’s email to Robbins, he explained that “after thoroughly examining the amount and type of damage suffered by the dock last season, a recommendation was made to the executive and county council that the dock not be installed at the park.” The decision, he said, “was not made lightly and only after lengthy discussions with the project engineer. While the damage could be repaired for around $50,000, the consensus was that the severity of the site conditions would likely result in additional stress damage … The exposed site, constant pounding by the surf and the lighter weight and grounding restraints are contributing to the damage. The recommendation was made in the interest of public safety and the high probability that we’ll continue to see major failures far beyond what would be considered normal maintenance.” McFarlane included a video showing the dock in high wave action to illustrate the conditions and safety concerns presented.
Robbins had questioned the decision as Louws had previously told the former chair of PRCAC, Jeff Christopher, that the county would give the dock one more shot. In his email to Robbins, PRCAC and others, Louws wrote, “I remember having the discussion with Jeff related to the dock and barring any major issues I committed to giving it one more attempt. After review of the costs, the proposed fix, and the likelihood of incur*ring the same challenges (costs) with the dock due to our inability through permitting to make it stronger, I agree with the recommendation of the parks department to remove [it] from Lighthouse Marine Park.
“As designed and permitted, it has not proven to be a viable system. I have made the decision with the council’s knowledge to put an end to what I am convinced would be a short-lived $50,000 repair. I’m sure this is disappointing to those who use the facility, as other alternatives are not as convenient, but I cannot in good conscience spend the money knowing that it would not solve the problem,” Louws wrote.
In response, Robbins expressed dissatisfaction with the county’s decision. “Speaking on behalf of the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association (PRTA), which has taken a special but unsuccessful interest in preserving and enhancing the assets at Lighthouse Marine Park in particular, in view of its importance to our tourist economy and our support of appropriate economic development in Point Roberts, this reversal on the part of the county is extremely disappointing. We have watched the removal of the whale watching tower, orca center, about 75 percent of the boardwalk, a six-year delay in replacing the old dock (which survived nicely for 16 years), failed installation of a flawed “new and improved” dock design, and reversal of support for a proper lighthouse in the park even if all construction costs could be covered by private and grant funding,” Robbins wrote.
“Now we are told that there will not be a dock for campers, visitors, and residents to enjoy for the first time in memory,” Robbins concluded.
The county intends to repair the dock and use it at another park facility elsewhere in the county.