Port 'hasn't forgotten Harper Dock'
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:06 AM
"The closure of Harper Dock doesn't just affect this county, it affects several counties, said Marlene Heytfelt, speaking on behalf of her husband, Jim, and other Harper community members at a Port of Bremerton meeting Friday. The Heytvelts, both active members in the Harper County Community Park Improvement Club, want to see the rotted pilings at the end of their dock fixed fast. They've waited long enough, she said. After all, teenagers, families and recreationists from Pierce, King and Kitsap counties converge at Harper every summer to fish and catch squid, she said, and they don't want to be turned away any longer.Harper Fishing Pier lets anyone without a boat fish, and fish well.During one season, a lucky fishermen caught a 25-pound salmon at the end of the dock, Heytvelt said. Now no one is allowed past bent line 12, she noted.We will not accept being at the bottom of the port's project list any longer, Heytvelt said. We want to see progress on this project, and we want to see it now.Port of Bremerton commissioners and officials agreed with Heytvelt, saying they, too, wished improvements at Harper Dock could proceed as originally planned. But their hands are tied.We're willing and ready to go, said Steve Toms, port harbormaster. But we're waiting for the appropriate permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.Toms said he called the Corps several weeks ago and, at that point, the Harper Improvement Project was number 91 on a list of 900 permit applications.We plan to keep calling and checking, and we're willing to work with you in any way we can, Toms said.Port commissioner Bill Mahan echoed Toms' position, and told Heytvelt and the rest of Friday's audience that the port hasn't forgotten Harper Dock.I know you're frustrated, but I think you're upset at the wrong people here, he said. The Corps is a federal agency and, in my experience, employees there haven't responded to outside pressures, even from U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.One reason for the slow down in the permit process, Mahan said, is that the Corps is grappling with the Endangered Species Act.And it stands to reason that the 90 applicants ahead of us would also like to see theirs pushed through to the top as well, Mahan said.Those answers didn't satisfy Heytvelt, however, and she noted that many residents and Harper dock users want action soon. She knows this because they've all e-mailed Jim Heytvelt.We aren't ignoring the Harper Dock, countered port commission president Mary Ann Huntington. I was just down there with Steve Toms last week, wondering when the project would get started. I would also like to hear from these people who have been e-mailing you. As of yet, I haven't heard from anybody.Ruth Oaks, a retiree who lives across from Harper Dock, says she has seen several teenagers and fishermen break past the safety barricade.Something needs to be done soon, she said, before someone gets hurt.To some people, it might sound stupid to get angry over something like this, but a lot of people are upset and are kicking down the barrier down there is frustration, Heytvelt said. Then they turn on us.Heytvelt also said she and others are worried that the $100,000 budgeted for the project would go away, but port executive director Dick Brandenburg said that money won't be used for anything else.According to port officials, Harper Dock was constructed with wood pilings sometime during the 1920s and the Port of Bremerton is responsible for maintaining the dock. Wood pilings, in general, carry a shelf-life of 40 years, give or take a few.When asked why port officials didn't, notice problems with the dock before last year, Brandenburg said the problem caught his attention when neighbors complained.Apparently, many Harper residents noticed that when teenagers hung out at the dock, playing music and dancing, the dock would shake and roll.So last spring, the port asked engineers with Sound Marine Services to inspect the structural integrity of the timber support pilings at Harper Dock. We weren't expecting the problem to be so widespread, Brandenburg said. The engineers told port staff instead to shut down the dock from bent line 12 to bent 30.Since that time, port officials secured permits from the state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, as well as shoreline and building permits. All that's left, they say, is the much-needed go ahead from the Corps of Engineers.Once started, construction calls for replacing the 30 deteriorated wood pilings, with new treated, wood pilings."