These dolphins guide ferries

EDMONDS — They’re called dolphins, the pilings that stick out of the water and help guide ferries into the dock.

At the Edmonds Ferry Terminal, all but one is made out of steel.

Now the last dolphin made out of creosote-coated timber at the dock will be replaced by steel, said John Callahan, a Washington State Ferries project engineer.

Work began Monday on the $1 million project and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month, Callahan said.

The remaining timber inner dolphin was installed in 1979 and is about 50 feet out from the berthing end of a ferry. It is one of six dolphins at the ferry dock.

The dolphin that is being replaced is not used as much as larger outer dolphins that stabilize a ferry, Callahan said. The dolphin that is being replaced is typically used as a safety feature, he added.

“Inner dolphins are not used for stabilizing the boat,” Callahan said. “They’re primarily used to direct a boat if it gets a little off.”

Most timber dolphins last up to a decade but the one in Edmonds lasted longer because it was used infrequently, Callahan said. Steel devices can be used for 50 years and have less of an effect on herring, salmon and other marine life compared with the creosote-covered timbers.

“(Steel) is much more durable and much more environmentally friendly,” Callahan said.

Work done earlier this week to place the device in its location involved hydraulic tools that can disturb orcas while they are feeding, Callahan said. Biologists and trained ferry operations staff monitored the area off the dock but did not see any whales.

Construction has not affected ferry traffic, Callahan said. The timber dolphin was left up while the steel one was put in place so ferries could continue to dock at the terminal.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491;

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