Monday, March 5, 2012

New dock at Bloedel Donovan afloat this spring

The Bellingham Shoreline Committee gave its recommendation of approved for addition of a floating, non-motorized craft dock on Lake Whatcom in Bloedel Donovan Park on Feb. 23.

Future site of the rowing dock
Photo by Mikey Jane Moran
The dock project is being funded by the WhatcomRowing Association and will be installed in Spring 2012. The dock will be open to all users of the park.

It will be more of a hang out dock, a jump off the end dock,” said Lindsay Mann-King, Program Director of the Rowing Association.

The Rowing Association is retrofitting a 12.5 foot by 56 foot floating dock previously owned by the Western Washington University rowing team. Bob Diehl of the Whatcom Rowing Association said the dock will be placed in the area adjacent to the existing boat launches.

Diehl said the dock is a much needed addition to the park as the other docks are too high off the water to launch rowing shells and other man-powered crafts.

Originally, the city was going to install lower docks in the park to accommodate rowers, but due to budget cuts they had to postpone the project. The Rowing Association then decided to pursue building a dock of their own for the use of the whole rowing community.

It will be a safer, more useful launch for boats without motors,” said Steve Sundin, environmental planner for the City of Bellingham.

Keeping the lake in mind

Rowing Association members hope the new dock will encourage the use of non-motorized boats on the lake.

One of the 'charges' of the park dept is to encourage and foster more non motorized use of the lake and this is exactly what this float is intended for,” Diehl said.

Non-motorized boats are a good way to promote stewardship on the lake according to Sundin. Sundin said in general, kayakers and canoers have the “opportunity to cruise the shoreline and their eyes are closer to the shore” so they develop an appreciation for the shoreline. He said he believes this appreciation can lead to better care of the lake.

Environmental concerns were very important during the approval process. The dock will be retrofitted so that 45percent of the surface is made of grated material to allow light to pass through according to the city.

To comply with various regulatory requirements, we have completely modified it to make it more 'fish friendly',” Diehl said.

Solid docks promote unnatural fish behavior according to a U.S.Department of Energy study conducted in 2002.

Sundin also said the dock has been “gutted” and float tubs, air filled compartments, will replace Styrofoam floats that pollute the water.

Invasive species were also a major concern in the permit approval process, said Diehl. According to a 2011 study released by the LakeWhatcom Management Program, Asian Clams are currently infesting the lake and can crowd out native species.

While clams are not carried on the bottom of boats, any new introduction of other invasive grass species from boats could be putting the lake at risk. While the city does not consider the dock a considerable risk, Diehl said as one of the conditions of their permit the Association must distribute educational materials on the risk of spreading non-native species.

All agencies involved in our permit do not see a danger here, but want the public to be aware,” Diehl said.

Mann-King of the Whatcom Rowing Association said the dock will be a great opportunity for the Rowing Association to focus its educational efforts.

Part of our commitment to the community is teaching students about their local watershed,” said Mann-King who stressed protecting the lake is especially important because it provides drinking water to Bellingham citizens.

The proposal is in the works

While the dock will be available for all citizens to use, it is funding from individuals, not the city, that will make building this dock possible.

Diehl said the Rowing Association received many contributions from residents and local suppliers, as well as a grant from the NW Rowing Council. Together these donations have allowed them to retrofit the dock at a fraction of the cost of a new one. Still, the project has been costly.

Of course, anything you do near the water presents challenges and all the expense to prepare the shoreline permit has been big burden for our volunteer, non-profit group,” said Diehl.

The project has been in development for several months. It must now gain the approval of the Bellingham Parks Department and earn the Department of Ecology's Hydraulic Project Approval according to Diehl.

For a very small project, this has taken a very large amount of time and resources to accomplish,” Diehl said.

But with the permit on its way to final approval, Mann-King said all of the pieces are coming together.

“It's more just getting some work parties together,” said Mann-King.

Silver Beach residents can look forward to using the dock in the upcoming spring and summer. For more information on the project, contact the WhatcomRowing Association.

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