Tourism concerns postpone dock's overhaul

The proposed overhaul to the deteriorating Sidney Dock has received priority status from the Army Corps of Engineers, which means work could start as early as this summer.

Nevertheless, Kitsap Transit, which owns the dock, still expects some delays — mostly due to the upcoming tourist season. Transit officials originally hoped to have the permits in place by late spring and start work soon thereafter. However, following a plea from the Kitsap County’s Economic Development Council, Kitsap Transit decided to push the project back into late summer.

Although Sidney Dock is only used to access and moor Kitsap Harbor Tours foot-ferry vessels, the dock is located immediately adjacent to Port Orchard Marina – a hot spot for visiting boaters.

Kitsap Transit spokesman Darryl Piercy said the agency wanted to avoid chasing away a potential source of tourist revenue by launching major construction so near the marina.

“We did take that to heart,” Piercy said. “We feel there would be some disruption.”

Kitsap Transit has also adjusted its dock blueprints, as well. The original plans called for ripping out the existing dock facilities and replacing them with more passenger-friendly, handicapped-accessible structures. The creosote pilings and crumbling wooden decking will be replaced by steel supports and molded concrete walking surfaces.

A new, prefabricated concrete ferry-access float will connect to the new, shorter dock with a longer gangplank, making it easier to access by wheelchair.

The new float will also have moorage space for all the new ferry boats — provided by Kitsap Harbor Tours, the new contracted ferry operator — and a shelter that will allow patrons to wait at ferry-loading level. The current facilities force boarding passengers to wait above on the dock, slowing turnaround times.

The new elements will reduce environmental impacts on the surrounding marine habitats by reducing shading of the water — an essential element in promoting marine plant growth — and eliminating the toxic creosote pilings.

The plan appeared to work fine on paper, but when transit officials studied it more closely, they discovered parts of the dock would bottom out during extremely low tides.

As a result, they changed the orientation of the dock and extended the gangway to 133 feet — almost twice as long as similar gangways in neighboring Port Orchard Marina.

The upside of the change, Piercy pointed out, is that the ramp will be even more wheelchair-friendly now; even though it’s longer, the angle of ascent will be shallower.

“This is also more environmentally friendly,” he said. “The shading takes place well outside the negative-10 (foot) zone.”

The project, which has been approved by the Port Orchard City Council, is being funded by a $1.98 million Federal Transit Authority grant.

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