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Port of Everett works to clear sandbar stranding boaters at Washington's busiest boat launch

According to the port, the sandbar formed due to storm events that pushed an unprecedented amount of sediment out of the mouth of the Snohomish River.

EVERETT, Wash. — A sandbar, never seen before, is stranding boats at the state’s most popular boat launch.

The 10th Street Boat Launch at the Port of Everett is used by 30,000 boaters every year.

Dave Miller is one of them.

"This is the prime season for the Coho; they're coming in and they're coming in strong this year,” Miller said.

Miller is Chairman of the Everett Coho Derby, the largest fishing derby along the west coast excluding Alaska. The event is in its 28th year and helps raise funds for nonprofit clubs, and a hatchery that puts 100,000 Coho back into the system each year.

It kicks off this weekend.

"So, tomorrow morning and in the afternoon when people are pulling the boats, we're gonna be okay with the tides,” Miller said.

The tide will make or break the day for Saturday's boaters due to a massive sandbar that's formed just beyond the launch's property. At low tide, the sandbar has started causing problems.  

"In an extreme low tide, they may be able to launch out of the launch here, but they might get stuck just beyond the launch,” said Catherine Soper, Communications Director for the Port of Everett

According to the port, the sandbar is new, forming over the last several years, due to storm events that have pushed an unprecedented amount of sediment out of the mouth of the Snohomish River and into the river channel.

“This has never been here before. In all the years of this facility, about 50 years, we've never seen sedimentation at this historic level,” Soper said, “But where it becomes a concern is life safety.”

Fire, police and Defense Department vessels use the launch during emergency situations, and the sandbar could pose issues down the line if there’s an emergency event during extreme low tide.

Further complicating the matter, the sand bar is in a no man's land sitting directly between the port's property and the Army Corps of Engineer's property.

"What we're doing right now is seeking emergency authorization to create a channel through there so that at any tide level, we know that emergency responders can get out,” Soper said, “It's taking a regulatory process. We're going through permitting agencies, there are multiple agencies involved to say, ‘Hey, it's not ours. But can we dredge through this?’”

The port is unsure of the timeline for permit approvals but knows the work must begin soon before it becomes an even bigger issue.

"Ten years ago, after ten years of accumulation we dredged out 25,000 cubic yards, and to put that into perspective of what we're dealing with today, we're dredging out 41,000 cubic yards. And if we get that connector channel through the emergency authorization, it would bring us up to about 50,000 cubic yards. So, you're seeing double the sedimentation, which speaks volumes of what's happening here,” Soper said.

Miller said the sandbar won’t impact the Coho Derby, it’s all about monitoring the tides.

"It's not a problem until we have a negative tide and that's when it's really becoming a problem. So, if you watch your tides and stuff like that, you're good,” he said. “It's going to be nice when it's done and we all kind of know we're not going to have to watch those tides as much but the port is on top of it.”

Dredging of the boat launch is expected to finish in February but the port is waiting on those permits before having an estimate of when dredging on the sand bar could start.

The funding comes from the Port of Everett, the City of Everett and Snohomish County's capital expenditures.

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