Safety concerns close dock again

For the second time in four years, the Harper Public Fishing Pier was closed to all foot traffic on Wednesday after a routine inspection revealed rotting pilings posed a safety hazard to users of the aging wooden dock, according to Port of Bremerton officials.

Port workers were already boarding up the entrance to the popular fishing spot Wednesday evening, and Steve Slaton, director of marine facilities, said he’s not certain how long the facility will remain closed.

“We’re sensitive to how much time the pier needs to be closed, and we would like to get it back into service as quickly as possible,” Slaton said, explaining that engineers who inspected the pier last week determined there was an unacceptable amount of deteriorated pilings, or support beams.

“A number of piles have been eaten away internally by living organisms,” he said, “and the bottom line is, we shouldn’t let people on there until we fix it.”

Slaton said the structure is not so unstable that it will “fall into the water tomorrow,” and it will not fall if one person walks on it.

“But we can’t control how many people are going out there at one time, and we’re going to err on the side of caution,” he said.

Slaton said this unfortunately is going to occur with wooden piers.

“Wooden piers are just not the way to go now,” he said.

“Deterioration of older, wooden, over-water structures can occur very rapidly, and citizen safety is our first consideration,” Port CEO Ken Attebery said in a press release. “Until we have corrected the structural deficiencies, and are assured the pier is safe, it will remain closed.”

Slaton said port staff and civil engineers are currently looking at both an interim, short-term, fix and a longer-term fix.

“We may put in a less-expensive fix and get recreational use back on-line, then let the engineers work on a longer term fix,” he said, noting he expects “a plan of action will be prepared within a month.”

Though he could not estimate how long either fix would take, Slaton said he anticipates it will not require as long a closure as last time, when the pier was closed from 1999 until 2002.

“We don’t expect it to be closed for that long,” he said, explaining that he anticipates the permitting process and construction itself will take less time.

Referring to a controversial curfew imposed on the pier earlier this year, South Kitsap Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington said at the time that any closure of the pier causes a large impact on the community.

“When we had to close the pier for two years to replace the pilings, talk about an angry crowd,” Huntington said. “I don’t want to see that happen again.”

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