Kalakala ferry relocated on Tacoma's tide flats

The Kalakala Ferry is moored on the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma / PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / JOEGOODFRIEND

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday it has moved the historic ferry Kalakala a short distance upstream on the Hylebos Waterway to a newly-built, more-suitable temporary mooring location provided by an adjacent landowner. The landowner, Tacoma Industrial Properties, recently constructed a 650-foot-long structure and volunteered to temporarily moor the vessel.

In December, U.S. Coast Guard officials declared the Kalakala a hazard to navigation due to unsuitable mooring, advanced degradation of the ship’s hull and lack of reliable dewatering equipment.

“Our expectation is that these actions will greatly reduce the threat of the Kalakala sinking and blocking the channel for the near to mid-term,” said District Engineer Col. Bruce Estok. “This averts a potentially costly operation for taxpayers. The adjacent landowner is also working with the Kalakala’s owner to develop a longer term plan for the vessel’s ultimate disposition.”

The structure consists of seven three-pile dolphins. Eventually a four-foot wide grated catwalk will connect them. The new site will also have shore power, which Corps officials anticipate will be used to power new pumps provided by the landowner. Also, the new location is in deeper water, reducing possible damage to the vessel from repeated grounding, as happened at its previous location during low tides, Corps officials said.

The permitted structure wasn’t built to specifically moor the Kalakala but is part of the landowner’s master plan to provide commercial vessel moorage capabilities, at Tacoma Industrial Properties’ Taylor Way parcels under general redevelopment as an industrial transloading facility. The landowner submitted a proposal to build the structure in April and received a Department of the Army permit. Construction began in May and was completed this month.