More peaceful waters in harbor, more room on pier

Published on Thu, May 9, 2002 by Meg Olson

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More peaceful waters in harbor,
more room on pier

By Meg Olson

The Port of Bellingham will replace the breakwater at the entrance to Blaine Harbor this summer and in the process more than double the area open to the public on the pier at the end of Marine Drive.

“Everything on the dock that is Washington Crab will be gone,” said port senior project engineer John Hergesheimer. “The building will be replaced with a portable trailer and fence the port will bring in October and remove in January.” Failing piles will also be replaced and railings, furniture and lighting added. “It will complete the look that’s there now,” Hergesheimer said.

Work on the pier deck will start in July but permits prohibit in-water work on the pier and the breakwater until July 16. The $2 million project will build a new steel breakwater outside the existing rotting 60-year-old wooden breakwater and then pull out all 1,000 piles that make up the old one. Over six months approximately 150 galvanized steel piles, from 55 to 200 feet long will be pounded into the mud – the longest ones going down 150 feet. Each pile will have a sheet of galvanized steel on either side that will link to the neighboring pile, forming a steel fence on either side of the harbor entrance. The sheet of steel will end up to 14 feet above the bottom, Hergesheimer said, “to allow water exchange and creatures to move back and forth.” The opening to Blaine Harbor will be increased by four feet to 102 feet.

Hergesheimer said the new wave barrier has been designed to knock six-foot waves expected in a storm only once every 50 years down to two feet. “The wave energy hitting that wall is 3.5 tons per square foot, and it would hit 13 times a minute,” Hergesheimer said. Waves from a ten-year storm would be reduced to one foot.

A promenade along the top of the breakwater connecting both sides of the harbor was scrapped due to budget constraints, Hergesheimer said. “It won’t happen at this time but the system is equipped to handle it when funds become available,” he said.

In response to concerns about the breakwater segment making rubbing or banging noises, Hergesheimer said joints between the panels did have some flexibility to allow it to give when hit by a powerful wave, but they were too tight to routinely make noise. He said other designs, such as the concrete panel breakwater at pier 66 in Seattle, did have noise problems as concrete panels slid in channels. “When a wave hits, the panels bang in the channel. Ours isn’t like that. It’s like the design at Shilshole Marina.”

Culbertson Marine, one of the companies that worked on the expansion of the harbor, has been selected as the contractor for the job. “They’ll start in July and they’ll still be driving piles in November, but it won’t be continuous,” Hergesheimer said. Construction plans are to build the new breakwater in sections outside the existing structure and remove the old one as those sections are complete. “There will be protection for the harbor before the old one comes out,” Hergesheimer said. The harbor will remain open to boaters throughout the project, but there could be some closures of the pier when they are driving piles beside it.

Hergesheimer said the new breakwater should outlast its wooden predecessor and is a better environmental choice than treated wood. “With cathodic protection it will last longer and overall steel is a better choice,” he said.

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