Commission Meeting Minutes 9-28-20

Commission Meeting Minutes 9-28-20

(Via Zoom)    September 28, 2020

Jim Orvis, President
Angela Harris, Vice President
David Preston, Secretary
Bruce Faires
Steve Johnston

Bob McChesney, Executive Director
Brandon Baker, Marina Manager
Tina Drennan, Finance Manager
Brittany Williams, Manager of Properties and Marketing

Bradford Cattle, Port Attorney


President Orvis called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.


All those in attendance participated in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag.






There were no public comments.


Ms. Williams reviewed that Makers presented the Public Access Plan at the end of 2019, and an internal Public Access Plan Committee outlined a plan for implementing the plan over the next two years in January of 2020. The project stalled due to the pandemic, but the committee (Mr. Baker, Mr. Menard, Mr. McChesney, Ms. Williams, Commissioner Harris and Commissioner Johnston) reconvened on September 17th to refine the timeline. Following that meeting, she and Mr. McChesney met with Ms. Drennan to incorporate budget discussions into the timeline.

Ms. Williams explained that the results of the North Promenade Engineer’s Survey were not available when the initial timeline was created in January. When the results were presented in May it became apparent that addressing the seawall would become the catalyst for making changes on the boardwalk. The seawall needs to be replaced before the boardwalk surface is replaced. It also makes sense to do some of the larger projects when the boardwalk surface is replaced. Staff estimates that this work could start in 2025 or 2026, so the first few phases look at projects that can be done before that time. She reviewed the updated timeline as follows:

Phase 1 (2020)

• Planter Box Planning. Earlier in the year, the Commissioners agreed that planter boxes would be a great first step and something that would make a really nice and obvious aesthetic change to the look of the boardwalk. A small group will meet this week to choose the locations and figure out what product will be ordered.
• Garbage/Recycling. A top priority will be changing the enclosure at M Dock, which impedes the boardwalk. In addition, the garbage/recycling location at Q Dock is currently out in the open and needs to be enclosed. The small group will also meet this week to discuss alternate locations for these facilities.
• Plaza. The maintenance staff have started the trellis and hopes to complete the project by the end of the year.
• Railing Signage. Currently, staff is gathering information and looking at topics that are already covered in public places nearby. They will soon decide what topics the signs will focus on.
• Boardwalk. A structural assessment of the boardwalk has been completed and has become a part of future decision-making processes.

Commissioner Faires asked if the most northernly trash/recycle facility would be relocated as part of Phase 1. Ms. Williams answered no and explained that the initial phase would focus on just the M and Q Dock locations. Mr. McChesney added that, while they recognize that the garbage/recycling areas at M and Q Docks need to be moved, the appropriate new location is not obvious. They have tinkered with different locations over the last several months. The goal is to get them off the promenade, and they recognize the best alternative is likely to relocate them to the parking area. However, this will require the elimination of a few parking spaces. They hope to finalize the two locations this next week, and the work will be done in house. The facility that is located further north will be addressed at some point, as well, but not as part of Phase 1.

Commissioner Faires suggested that all three facilities be done at the same time, recognizing that some parking spaces will need to be eliminated to get them away from the walkway. He observed that there are quite a few commonalities amongst the three, and he would hate for the most northernly facility to end up looking different than those at M and Q Docks. Mr. McChesney explained that, from a project point of view, the goal is to accomplish the first two in 2020, recognizing that the other will happen, as well. To address this concern, Commissioner Orvis suggested they specify that the enclosures will all be of the same design. Mr. McChesney agreed that there should be design conformity. While the new facilities will be nice looking, they aren’t planning to build anything elaborate. Commissioner Orvis said he would support cedar materials, but they should be painted to match the Port’s color scheme. Mr. McChesney agreed that they should have a finished look. Ms. Williams referred to the sample design that was attached to the Staff Report.

Phase 2 (2021)

• Install and Plant New Planter Boxes. The goal is to locate the new boxes in the south marina by March 2021, and utilizing the current irrigation system will be a significant factor in their location. They will rely heavily on the landscaper to figure out what types of plants to use.
• Railing Signage. The goal is to do the first batch of railing signage in 2021. Since they will eventually be replacing the railing, staff is proposing to install signage that can be removed and reinstalled.
• Plaza. They will begin designing the plaza changes, which will likely be contracted out. Makers provided three design examples, which can be refined to best meet the Port’s needs.
• Boardwalk and Seawall Design, Engineering and Permitting. Staff estimates that the earliest the Port could start construction of the large project of the seawall and boardwalk replacement is 2025 or 2026. However, they want to start the design, engineering and permitting processes next year. It is anticipated this process will take four years to complete.
• Railing and Lighting Maintenance. Since they will most likely do railing and lighting replacement as part of the larger project, they will just be repairing and maintaining the items as needed until the larger project is done.

Commissioner Orvis recalled that the Commission and staff had an earlier discussion and decided on the basic plaza design. Ms. Williams said they actually liked elements from two of the sample designs. They liked the seating structure that provided seating on both sides, but they also didn’t want the seating area to impede too much into the plaza space. One of the priorities was to create a large open space for public events.

Commissioner Orvis reminded them that the City added 2 feet to the grade for all buildings along the waterfront. He asked if the Port should also consider adding this additional height to the seawall. If it will be needed in the future, it would be appropriate for the Port to build to the new specifications rather than having to redo them at some point in the future. Mr. McChesney agreed that would be appropriate, and in fact, it might be required as part of the permit requirements. He noted that it would temporarily put things out of balance as far as grade. Commissioner Orvis said he wouldn’t oppose this additional work, even if it throws the grade out of kilter. If the additional height will eventually be required, the Port would likely regret not doing the work as part of the initial project. Mr. McChesney agreed that infrastructure should be taken into account as public ports do advanced planning for the reality of sea level rise and permit regulations.

Commissioner Faires questioned how the seawall under the walkway could be raised 2 feet without also changing the grade of the entire parking lot. Mr. McChesney agreed that was a valid question, but he didn’t have any answers at this time. Commissioner Johnston commented that it is likely the Corps of Engineers and other agencies will provide guidance on this issue during the permitting process. Commissioner Faires commented that if one of the probable alternatives is a bulkhead along the western seawall, it would drastically impact the Port’s future plans for the walkway and seawall underneath. Commissioner Orvis summarized that the Port should not move forward with the boardwalk until decisions related to the seawall have been made.

Phase 3 (2022 – 2030)

• Boardwalk Replacement. This project would start after all of the design, engineering and permitting has been completed and a decision is made relative to the underlying seawall.
• Railing Replacement and Lighting Updates. If the boardwalk is replaced, it would be ideal to install railings that have integrated lighting.
• Possible Gate Replacement/Updates. At some point, the Port may want to install new security gates and some art.

Commissioner Faires recalled that the Commission prematurely stated that a decision would be made on the boardwalk in 2020, but it was later identified that the project would be closely tied to the North Seawall Project. Mr. McChesney responded that there is no interim solution for the boardwalk deck, and staff doesn’t believe it is a good approach to address the issues ala carte. Staff has reached the conclusion that Phases 1 and 2 should identify what the Port can do now to improve public access along the boardwalk. Again, he emphasized that replacing the existing timber deck with an interim solution is not the right approach.

Commissioner Faires asked when Port staff needs a decision relative to the boardwalk and seawall projects. Mr. McChesney said both projects are still in the discovery stage, and there won’t be just one big decision the Commission will be asked to make. Instead, it will be a series of discussions and possibly some false starts before they get to where they want to be. That’s why they need to assemble a team and start down that path as soon as possible. There is so much they still need to learn, and this additional information will inform future decisions.

Ms. Williams provided a map to show the location of the existing garbage enclosures, noting that the first two projects will be near D and Q Docks. The map also illustrated potential locations for the new planter boxes. She shared pictures of the existing planter boxes, as well as examples of what the new planter boxes, signage and garbage/recycling enclosures might look like. She described some of the problems with the existing planter boxes and explained how important it is to choose the right size and shape for the area.

Ms. Drennan said she met with Mr. McChesney and Ms. Williams to discuss funding for projects that implement the Public Access Plan:

• Phase 1 (2020)

They discussed using the property taxes available after paying off the Harbor Square loan to fund the public access projects. However, by the end of the year, they will only have approximately $113,000 remaining. As proposed, $7,000 was budgeted for the boardwalk assessment, $30,000 for the trellis roof, and $20,000 for the garbage/recycling enclosures.

• Phase 2 (2021)

As proposed, $50,000 was budgeted for garbage/recycling enclosures, $100,000 for design, engineering and permitting for the North Seawall, $102,000 for the planter boxes and plant materials, $50,000 for plaza design, and $25,000 for interpretive signage. Currently, the plan is to do the planter boxes along the south boardwalk in 2021 and the planter boxes along the north boardwalk in 2022.

• Phase 3 (2021 – 2030)

At this time, they are estimating between $8 and $10 million for construction of the seawall, boardwalk replacement, new railings, security gates, art, lighting, etc. These are soft numbers, as there are no designs at this point. Design, engineering and permitting will equate to about 10% of this total. If the seawall has to be raised, the estimate might increase significantly.

Mr. McChesney emphasized that the numbers are proforma and provide a starting place for this multi-year effort. The Port will be spending hard dollars on design and engineering in the near future. They are trying hard to calibrate the public access expenditures to what is available via the tax levy. However, the funding will become more precarious as they get closer to having a construction project.

Commissioner Preston asked the fastest that staff can complete the garbage/recycling enclosure by M Dock. Mr. McChesney said the intent is to start this project as soon as possible. That said, there is a backlog of projects such as the Administration Building stairs and installing the new office trailer for Dry Storage. His hope is that the project can start no later than the spring of 2021. It is a high priority for staff. Commission Preston commented that this, and other less costly improvements will help spruce up the boardwalk, as well as pressure washing and cleaning the Anthony’s Beach Café pea gravel flower beds.

Commissioner Faires suggested that the elephant in the room will be the very slowly emerging design for the seawall and walkway. Because these two projects are costly and the results will be in place for many years, he suggested the anticipated evolution of these two projects should be a topic of discussion at a future meeting. They need to get the details right.

Commissioner Faires suggested they also look at the emerging plan for the plaza as an interim project, since it will provide the basis for future improvements there. Mr. McChesney agreed that they could move forward with the plaza as an interim project while the planning for the north seawall and boardwalk is underway. This was captured in the proforma budget, which identifies projects in both 2021 and 2022.

Commissioner Orvis expressed his belief that they need to start the design, engineering and permit work for the seawall and boardwalk as soon as possible. Commissioner Johnston advised that, as discussed at the Washington Public Port Association (WPPA) Environmental Seminar, there is a dispute between the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Corp of Engineers on how to permit over-water and in-water projects moving forward. This has culminated into a situation where no one is receiving permits at this time. He agreed that they need to get started as soon as possible.

Mr. McChesney invited the Commissioners to join staff for a floating tour of the seawall.


Mr. McChesney reported that there has been no action taken by the Executive Director under the special emergency authority to date.


Ms. Williams noted that the Public Access Committee Update was provided as part of the earlier discussion on the Public Access Plan priorities and budget. Therefore, her presentation will focus on the Communications Committee update, as well as a general update on the Port’s marketing program. She specifically highlighted the following:

• The Port hired a photographer to take pictures of Port property, as well as photos for the holiday mailer. He is on site starting this week. The goal is to update the image library with both photo and video, so the Port will have assets to use for its website, advertising, social media, and public mailers.
• This year’s holiday mailer will have a “Hollywood Squares” theme, since they can’t do a staff photograph. Staff will be photographed wearing different hats or props, and there will be a message in the middle. The back side will promote Holiday on the Docks, since that is a great socially-distanced, festive activity. It will also promote the food drive. The mailer will go out in November.
• Holiday on the Docks will take place in December, but there will be no Christmas Ship night at the marina. The Argosy has cancelled the Christmas Ship program for 2020.
• Some of the new photos and videos will be used to refresh the Port’s website, which is planned for next year.
• She started seeking participants for the Destination Port of Edmonds 2021-2022 Program. A few changes will be made, with a focus on doing more to help and promote local businesses. In the past, businesses were required to do an offer as part of their ad, but it will be optional for the new program. The black and white ads will still be free, and the cost was reduced for the different sized colored ads. The program will feature a number of local businesses on the Port’s website and through social media, as well.
• A new landing page was recently added to the Port’s website called, “Protect Local Orcas.” The page was inspired by the letter the Port Commissioners received from local environmentalists and activists about the pledge to protect Southern Resident Orca Whales. The landing page provides more information about the program, with a link to take the pledge. It also has a link to, as well as a link to the Washington State Department of Ecology page on the Southern Resident Orca Whale Recovery Task Force. One social media post has been done, and another will be done to promote the pledge. It will be covered in the next newsletter, as well.
• The Port will not likely participate in the Seattle Boat Show this year for a number of reasons. There is a good chance it will be a virtual-only event, and if it is an in-person event, the Port isn’t comfortable sending staff. Attendance is expected to be low, too. The intent is to make a final decision the beginning of November, and the Port is still planning to offer an online boat show promotion.
• Other community events that have been successful in the past, such as Family Day at the Marina, Sea Jazz, and Christmas Ship Night at the Marina are currently scheduled for 2021. However, adjustments may need to be made as they learn more about how the pandemic will play out. They are considering small-scale events next summer so people can utilize the plaza, perhaps partnering with local gyms to offer fitness classes or some simple music for people to enjoy as they walk by.
• She receives the Smith Travel Report each week, which reports on Snohomish County traveler and hotel data. The average weekly occupancy rates for hotels continue to hover just below 50%, which is up from a low of 25% to 30%. The usual rate around this time of year is about 80%.
• She will attend the 2020 Washington State Tourism Conference online on October 8th, and will report back with interesting information she learns about tourism.


Mr. McChesney advised that the Port is entering into a transition period with maintenance activities. Some projects have been delayed due to the pandemic, including the installation of a new modular office trailer at Dry Storage that has been delivered and is waiting for installation the first part of October. They also need to rebuild the front porch and stairs at the Administration Building and complete the Central Plaza shed awning as preliminary to full plaza rebuild in accordance with the Public Access Plan. As these projects are completed, Port staff will shift its focus to long-range planning to repair and replace marina structures and infrastructure. These projects include the Mid-Marina Breakwater, C Dock structural corrosion, and the North Marina Seawall support piles and boardwalk. All of these are large capital projects with extended lead times for engineering, permitting and construction.

Mr. McChesney explained that, while the order of priority has not yet been determined, advance planning is essential in order to avoid potential serious problems as the critical infrastructure ages. The engineering life cycle analysis is, at best, an informed approximation. For example, over the past year, three condition surveys of the Mid-Marina Breakwater have been performed, and each time, the Port gains more confidence as to the structural integrity and estimated remaining useful life.

Mr. McChesney reported that another floating reconnaissance that was done on September 23rd to visually inspect the Mid-Marina Breakwater, North Seawall and C Dock, and CG Engineering provided expert observation. He participated in the tour, along with Mr. Baker and Mr. Menard. They weren’t able to get as close a look at the North Seawall because the tide was too high, but they will go out again this Thursday. He shared the following findings:

• Mid-Marina Breakwater. Staff’s general opinion is basically consistent with previous inspections done by PND and Norton Corrosion. The structure is already 35 years old from original construction, and the remaining useful life, as estimated by Norton Corrosion, is 25+ years if it is properly maintained. The purpose of the latest inspection was to further identify specific areas of concern that require immediate attention. CG Engineering will provide a detailed, long-term maintenance plan to help guide the Port’s efforts going forward. There is no evidence of imminent failure. If the Port can stretch 25 more years out of it, it will give the breakwater a 60-year life span. Beyond that, full replacement will be necessary.

• C Dock. The issues at C Dock are also related primarily to corrosion due to weather exposure in a salty marine environment. In this case, it is not the direct exposure to sea water that is causing the problem. Rather, the galvanized-steel trusses above the floating dock, which hold up the roof, are showing obvious signs of corrosion as the galvanic protection slowly wears away. There is no evidence of imminent failure or collapse, but as rust starts to spread inward from the most exposed surfaces, primarily on the southwesterly end section of the dock, the rust has begun to slough off and drip onto boat decks below. The customers don’t like this and neither does the Port. The condition needs to be addressed, but the actual remedies and methods haven’t been identified yet. CG Engineering is currently researching alternatives for making a formal report and recommendation. It won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy, and scaling, preparation and re-coating will be challenging. At this time, he anticipates the Port will engage this project within the next five years. The intricate nature of how the trusses are put together doesn’t lend itself to a simple solution. Based on observations so far, they will have to tent off the entire dock and scale off rust from cylindrical truss members.

Commissioner Faires asked if staff believes this same problem will occur on other docks to the north. Mr. McChesney said they haven’t specifically inspected the other docks, but C Dock takes the brunt of the southwesterly weather and its condition is a lot more advanced. With proper maintenance, he is not too concerned about the other docks at this point.

• North Seawall. The North Seawall was discussed earlier in the meeting. Long-range planning will be important to extend the life of the structure as long as possible. They can’t wait until the end; they must start on design, engineering and permitting now.

Commissioner Faires asked if staff has any more information on what surface material might be appropriate for the north promenade. They previously discussed either wood or precast concrete, and staff alluded to a new material that was lighter in weight. Mr. McChesney answered that the pre-cast concrete idea was the catalyst for the structural investigation. They now know that the existing structure will not support a concrete surface. He recently visited the Port of LaConnor to view the Fiber-Reinforced Plastic (FRP) product that was used for their walkway. It isn’t fancy, but it provides a nice wear surface. He emphasized that the permitting agencies have a particular aversion to surfaces that will cause shading below in the inner tidal zone, and that is likely what led the Port of LaConnor to use the grated FRP material. The Port may end up in a similar situation. He said he doesn’t think it makes economic sense to replace the boards with a lighter material as an interim solution.

Commissioner Harris recalled that the Public Access Plan Committee was concerned about the number of problematic boards that need to be replaced. Mr. McChesney said the Port has a routine program for replacing many boards each year. They are exposed to the weather and there is a lot of foot traffic on them. Replacement is relatively simple, and he expects that the program will continue.


Mr. McChesney didn’t have any additional items to report.


Commissioner Johnston reported that he and Commissioner Harris met with the Communication and Environmental Committees. He also advised that most of the Commissioners participated in the virtual WPPA Environmental Seminar on September 24th and 25th. While the program was good, he missed the opportunity to talk with commissioners from other ports. The most valuable to him was the presentation on environmental forensics. He recalled that the Port’s Harbor Square clean up project was a great example of environmental forensics, as it studied the different compounds that were found in the soil. They were able to trace the contamination to specific uses, which allowed them to get contributions from responsible parties to help fund the cleanup. The presentation was a great primer on how sites get cleaned up and funded through the application of science. There was also a good discussion on the effects of climate change and sea level rise, which all ports will have to deal with at some point. He noted that the Corps of Engineers has authored a number of articles and regulations, and anything that requires a federal permit will most certainly have to address the long-term effects of sea level rise. He said the WPPA has asked local port commissions to reach out to their local representatives to express their concerns about the ongoing tiff between the Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service. He has asked the WPPA to provide talking points.

Commissioner Faires reported that he attended the virtual Edmonds Economic Development Commission (EDC) retreat on September 16th. It was a good 4-hour meeting. Neil Tibbott volunteered, at no cost, to serve as the facilitator and did an outstanding job of organizing the discussion into four segments: priorities; strengths, opportunities and challenges; current, suspended and new ideas that might apply to the priorities; and goals, solutions, development and prioritization. Mr. Tibbott, City staff, and the Chair of the EDC will create a summary report, and he will provide a more detailed report at the next meeting.

Commissioner Faires announced that he would attend a Finance Committee meeting on September 30th.

Commissioner Preston reported that he also attended the virtual WPPA Environmental Seminar. He enjoyed the presentation on environmental forensics. However, he was frustrated to find that a business or entity could be fined for the work they did legally 50 years ago. He felt this would be wrong, and he wouldn’t want the Port to be fined 50 years from now for doing something that is currently legal but the laws subsequently change. Commissioner Johnston said this has been an issue for a number of years. For example, in the 1950s, the Boeing Company was the only major industry on the west coast that was doing anything about contamination. They were releasing spent contaminants into large, brick cisterns that would float out contaminants into the cleansing soil before reaching the Duwamish River. While this approach was leading edge at the time, it resulted n a huge clean up effort later on. Commissioner Orvis pointed out that the activities at Harbor Square 50 years ago were legal, as well, and the Port used environmental forensics to get money from the responsible parties to fund the cleanup project.

Commissioner Preston commented that the Port of Olympia recently completed a large boardwalk project, and they might have some helpful information the Port could use. Lastly, he said he is looking forward to the Port responsibly opening as soon as possible. He said he will continue to participate in online Downtown Edmonds Merchant Association meetings, as well as the WPPA Tuesday morning meetings.

Commissioner Harris said she also enjoyed the virtual WPPA Environmental Seminar, but she can’t wait to meet again in person. She reported that she attended a Save Our Marsh meeting where there was a question and answer session with the Washington State Department of Transportation on the letter that was sent and responded to. Not a lot can be shared right now, given where things are at currently with UNOCAL. She appreciates the group’s passion and their desire to communicate and work together with others in the community.

Commissioner Harris reported that she also attended the virtual Snohomish County Marine Resource Committee meeting where the Director of the City of Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department reviewed the history and provided an update on the project to daylight Willow Creek. She agreed to contact her with a request that she provide a similar presentation at a future Port Commission meeting. She said she plans to continue to participate in the WPPA Tuesday meetings, as well as the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County Property Connect meetings.

Commissioner Orvis said he attended the virtual WPPA Environmental Seminar, too. The environmental forensic presentation was Deja vu for those involved in the Harbor Square clean up. They identified the product and then the polluter, and the owner was held liable for the contamination and had to bear at least some of the cost of the cleanup. He attended the noise quieting session, where one of the presenters commented that the faster a ship goes, the more noise it makes. While there are options, the only way noise will be addressed is if there is cost involved for the shippers. Slowing ships down reduces cavitation and noise. There was also a good presentation on sea level rise, which acknowledged there are a number of degrees of dispute, but 24 to 48 inches seems to be the established amount. It was discussed that you also need to look at inundation maps to identify areas that will flood. In addition to raising the seawall, they must also be concerned about groundwater and other flooding issues. Regarding the conflict between the Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service, it is much like the Department of Ecology (DOE) where enforcement is being done absent of any specific rules and regulations. The WPPA is working to get the rules and regulations in writing.


The Commission meeting was adjourned at 8:13 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

David Preston, Port Commission Secretary