Why Does it Take So Long to Build a Boat Ramp?

ClamShellDredgeMaterialHave  you ever wondered why it seems to take “forever” to replace a boat ramp or get something fixed?   Did you know that the average boat ramp project takes nearly 3 ½ years to complete?  Others can take 20 years, like the M. James Gleason on the Columbia River.

Replacing a boat ramp takes lots of patience, planning and dedication.  Before the Marine Board can even begin talking about replacing or repairing a boat ramp, we need a facility owner who is willing to invest staff time, funding, and resources over several years.   Ideally, the facility owner needs to plan for the boat ramp improvements in advance, generally 5-6 years ahead of the need becoming critical or a safety hazard.  TimelineBoatRampButtonsReverse

A simple answer to why replacing a boat ramp takes so long would be the permitting process.   Did you know that there is on average 16 state, federal and local agencies that review and provide comments on the permit application?  This does not include comments from interested parties such as the Audubon Society or Willamette Riverkeepers.  Each permitting agency may find issues with the design concepts or potential impacts to their interests, such as Endangered Species (ESA review).  This slows the process and can sometimes lead to Marine Board grants being deferred because permits haven’t been issued in time for the in-water work window.

In many cases, if there’s land-based work that doesn’t require permitting, the Marine Board will fund these easier projects.  So it’s not uncommon to see a new vault toilet being installed while the boat ramp cracks or undermining at the toe of the ramp continue to degrade.  This will be done to keep parties interested and demonstrate that there is forward progress and momentum on the overall facility improvements.

So what can boaters can you do to get repairs or improvements going?

  • Contact the facility owner and let them know why repairing the boat ramp should be a priority.  Remember the first step is a willing Facility Owner.
  • Contact the Marine Board’s Facilities Program.  Send photos, describe water conditions and your observations, and we can work directly with the facility owner with ideas and concepts.

Safety is important to everyone, whether it is improving access to launch, retrieve or moor boats short-term, and when boaters are recreating on water.  Partnerships are a critical necessity to make things come together smoothly and improve the boating experience.

The Marine Board works very closely with permitting agencies and diligently follows up with issues and concerns to avoid any unforeseen delays.

More information will be blogged soon about specific facilities where we are working through the permitting process, like Cedaroak in West Linn.  This project has been underway since 2005!

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