Mercer Island Bridge Pontoons Draw 6 Bidders

Pieces of the old Mercer Island floating bridge soon may be given new lives as breakwaters for marinas as far away as Alaska.

Six bidders offered the Department of Transportation between $1,000 and $60,000 yesterday for 10 individual pontoon sections from the bridge.

Two sections attracted no bidders and two other sections were not put up for bid.

Constructed of hollow concrete pontoons, the bridge connected Mercer Island to Seattle for 50 years. Sections of the bridge, which was closed for renovation, filled with water and sank Nov. 25.

Tyee Marina, of Tacoma, made the highest bid for a single pontoon, offering $60,000 for a 350-foot section dubbed A1. The pontoon would be used as a floating breakwater to protect the marina's 700 slips for recreational boats.

Bidding against Tyee for the same pontoon was the Port of Brownsville, just north of Bremerton. The port made the highest overall bid, offering $80,000 for two 350-foot pontoons to be used as a floating breakwater.

The town of Craig, Alaska, is also seeking the A1 pontoon. Craig offered $65,000 for that pontoon and one other.

Transportation Secretary Duane Berentsen will make the final decision on bids. He will consider how the eventual use of the pontoons might benefit the state and whether the purchaser would have the needed permits in time to accept delivery as early as June.

Makah Indian tribal officials are hoping the DOT's extra considerations will keep them in the running. The Makahs were low bidders, offering $3,000 for one batch of three pontoons and $4,000 for another batch of four. The tribe would use the pontoons to build a breakwater for a marina in Neah Bay, where fishing boats currently are battered by winter storms.

According to Norm Downs, a planner for the Makahs, the tribe is well on its way to receiving permits for its project. "We've made five separate environmental studies," Downs said.

Because it will cost about $15,000 to tow the pontoons out to Neah Bay, it wouldn't make sense for the tribe to offer any more for the pontoons, said Downs.

If there are no takers for some sections, the DOT hopes to be able to sink them in Puget Sound, Miller said. That would require approval from the Department of Fisheries, he said.