Tacoma has plenty of open water where seaplanes can land, but it has long lacked a suitable place where those planes can tie up and receive and discharge passengers.
That deficiency is due for a remedy next month when a long-sought seaplane float arrives at the mouth of the Thea Foss Waterway.
The float, a project of the Tacoma Waterfront Association and the Foss Waterway Development Authority, will be attached to an existing dock at the north end of the waterway near Thea’s Park.
Su Dowie, acting development authority director, said the float is being modified now by Tacoma dock builder Marine Floats Corp. Marine Floats is donating an existing float, and the authority and donors lead by the Tacoma Waterfront Association are providing funds for its modification to serve as a seaplane facility.
The modified dock will be moved into place early next month.
It will become only the second seaplane dock in Pierce County. The other one is located on American Lake.
Floatplanes with their large pontoons and flying boats with their delicate hulls and large wingspans can’t tie up at just any dock. Their wings prevent their approaching docks with large pilings protruding above the water, and their thin aluminum hulls and floats must be protected from damage where they rest against the dock. That means installing an extensive fendering system between the dock structure and the plane.
The new floatplane dock will be separated from the dock to which it will linked by a sufficient distance to allow the wings clear the pilings.
The Tacoma Waterfront Association began working with the development authority three years ago to equip the near-downtown waterway with a seaplane dock.
That dock will allow commercial and private floatplane operators to fly to and from Tacoma regularly. Those commercial operators could connect Tacoma with such destinations as Victoria, the San Juan Islands and Vancouver, all of which are served by schedule seaplane flights.
Private plane owners could tie up their planes at the dock while visiting such waterway attractions as the Museum of Glass and nearby destinations such as the Tacoma Dome, LeMay Automobile Museum and the Tacoma Art Museum.
Dowie said that initially use of the new float will be free to users, but that could change if the float became as regular base for commercial seaplane operations.
The float will be easily detachable from the dock to allow the dock to be fully utilized during special events and allow the float to be moved to a more sheltered location during stormy weather.