Next part of Point Roberts public boat launch moving ahead

A long-awaited project to replace the aging boat launch at Lighthouse Marine Park is finally taking another step as crews prepare to start pile driving.

As a result, Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department is temporarily closing the boat launch and surrounding area as well as the day-use parking at Lighthouse, which is at 811 Marine Drive.

The closure will be from 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, until 7 a.m. Oct. 7.

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board provided a $240,000 grant for the project in 2011. The county contributed the remaining $80,000 from the real estate excise tax.

The project still had to be designed and engineered as well as go out for permits, but the hope back then was that construction would start in November 2012 and be completed a few months later in February.

The project has taken until now because permitting took longer, the first bids to build the project came in too high, and bad weather prevented an earlier pile-driving effort within the window allowed for working in the water. This year, the parks department is pushing up against the mid-October deadline for working in the water because crews also had to wait to make sure surf smelt weren’t spawning.

“This is really about the permit restrictions on which we can construct our projects. It’s like threading a needle,” said Rod Lamb, the parks department’s design and development supervisor.

Parks officials said the project has been a high priority for people in Point Roberts.

A replacement has been needed since 2008, when the dock that had been there at least 16 years was pulled out for a concrete ramp, from which it was difficult to launch a boat.

The project will replace the wooden pilings with steel pilings, install a new dock and fishing platform, restore the concrete ramp and make other improvements.

Once the new pilings have been driven, the project is done until May because it’s a seasonal boat launch, Lamb explained.

Lamb hoped to have the project completed and open to the public in June 2015.

Point Roberts has grown to more than 2,000 full-time residents and businesses that increasingly rely on the tourism made possible by the park and its boat launch, according to the parks department.