CITY MARINA RESTORATION 2 YEARS FROM COMPLETIONBY SUSAN BURGESS
From the moment Manager Dean Kubitschek inspected the tattered remnants of Fort Pierce City Marina’s docks after hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, he knew the popular facility would be rebuilt.
He just didn’t know how long it would take.
All of the docks sticking out into the Indian River Lagoon were gone after the September hurricanes. Docks in the inner basin of the marina, with room for about 130 boats, were damaged. New docks on the Indian River could not be installed until a plan to protect them was approved and permitted by state and federal agencies.
Making the best of it, Kubitschek repaired the inner basin docks and reopened the marina without any docks on the river.
The project will be nearly into its seventh post-hurricane year by the time work starts to replace the 126 slips that were destroyed on the eastern side.
Plans call for 138 new slips and 13 new islands in the river to protect them, said Ed Seissiger, who has overseen the project for the city of Fort Pierce since 2005. If all goes well, the work will be completed by January 2013, 18 months after it starts, he said.
The first five months after the hurricanes were spent removing sunken boats and docks from the bottom of the Indian River Lagoon, and making plans for the restoration. City officials knew they wanted to protect the marina from future damage, but they weren’t certain of the best way to do that. Realizing that the inner basin had fared far better than the eastern side, they considered a breakwater. But eventually, they settled on the idea of constructing a chain of islands curved around new outer docks.
“Other areas of Florida have done that, but none have done it the way we wanted to,” said Ed Seissiger, who has served as project manager and coordinator for the city since the project’s inception. “The others used rubble. We wanted to put habitat on the islands.”
The first hurdle was to come up with the best possible configuration — the number of islands and their size and shape. After a model of the final design was made, Seissiger, Kubitschek and others trekked to Canada in February 2007, to a giant pool to test how well it would stand up to wind and waves.
It was cold — as much as 15 degrees below zero. Seissiger said he’d never been so cold in his life; Kubitschek, who hails from the Colorado mountains, allowed that it was extremely cold on at least one day of the three-week trip.
The results were worth the discomfort. Weeks of testing led to modifications in the island design which also, as it happened, kept the project within its $9.6 million budget. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying for the islands.
By August 2009, the city had approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection but still had a long way to go before the Army Corps of Engineers would agree to allow the islands.
“We’ve been working with the corps since then,” Seissiger said in December. “We didn’t expect it to take this long. We applied to both agencies at once. But the Corps waited for the state to go first and then raised almost the same issues. For the last six months we’ve been going over issues we thought were resolved two years ago.”
One of those issues was mitigation for impacts on sea grasses. Seissiger said the city is giving the state 56 acres of submerged land near the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park, also known as Dynamite Point.
The Corps in September announced its intent to issue permits. They were offered to, and approved by, the Fort Pierce City Commission on Dec. 20, paving the way to call for bids on the project in May 2011. Work is expected to begin in August, just shy of the start of the seventh year since the hurricanes.
Replacing the slips will cost about $11 million. The marina’s insurance will cover $6.5 million, the state will pay $1 million and FEMA will pay the rest.
The docks will project into the Indian River Lagoon but will be protected by the new chain of islands. They will begin near the fountain in Marina Square Park and end about 600 feet south of the causeway.
The largest island will be 14.13 acres; the smallest, 1/10th of an acre. They will be 600 to 700 feet offshore.
The islands will be planted with mangroves to attract birds and fish, and oyster shells will be planted to attract oyster larvae.
Captain Chop Lege, who runs a tour boat from the marina and is a volunteer monitor for the Audubon Society, said the islands will interest bird watchers and offer a nearby sightseeing opportunity.
With many visitors living on their boats, the marina provides customers for the downtown stores and restaurants and boosts the economy of downtown Fort Pierce, Kubitschek said.
“The marina has a 95 percent occupancy rate,” he said. “It’s like a small hotel.
“A favorite of the people living aboard their boats is the Fort Pierce Farmer’s Market,” he said. “They go to events like Friday Fest and the car show, and they go to shows at the Sunrise Theatre. Each dollar they spend is re-spent at least five times.”
Because of its easy access to the ocean, the marina is a destination for boaters up and down the East Coast, he said. One draw is that so much is available within walking distance — even a public library.
“The marina serves a purpose for the boaters, increases tourism for the city, and helps as an economic generator for the city of Fort Pierce,” Kubitschek said.
September 2004 – Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne destroy 143 slips at the marina.
February 2005 – Plans begin for the restoration.
November 2006 – Work begins on a model of the islands that will protect the restored marina and downtown waterfront.
February 2007 – The model is tested in Canada and modifications are made.
August 2009 – The state approves permits for the project.
September 2010 – The Army Corps of Engineers declares its intent to issue permits.
December 2010 – The Corps offers the city the permits it intends to approve, along with restrictions and guidelines; the Fort Pierce City Commission approves them on
The future plan
May 2011 – The city calls for bids.
August 2011 – Construction begins.
Jan. 2013 – The newly renovated marina opens for business.
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