The Port of Brookings Harbor is broke, docks are closing, some boats might have to relocate to other ports, leaving Port Manager Gary Dehlinger’s hopes for a profitable summer shot.
Dehlinger is actively seeking funds to repair docks in the sport basin — one of the more pressing problems on a long list of challenges he faces, big and small.
Storms and exceptional high tides this winter have removed the soil from underneath many of the dock’s pilings, resulting in some docks failing and the forced closure of others. Some boats will have to relocate to other docks — some to other ports. The commercial basin is intact.
“No professional engineer will give me a safe rating of these docks,” Dehlinger said. “One said he’ll give me a letter saying he wouldn’t stamp these.”
The port has been awarded a $3 million grant from FEMA to pay for damages the port incurred in the storms that created the sinkhole in Harbor in January 2016, but is still waiting for the money. Also, the port will be required to pay 25 percent of the estimated $1 million to replace pilings — money it doesn’t have.
Last month, port officials also declared a local emergency and applied to the state for an additional $3 million in lottery revenues to be used for infrastructure repairs.
Dehlinger hopes to coordinate the loans so basin work projects can be done simultaneously.
“FEMA (funds) would get 30 piles done,” he said. “But one-third of the cost is mobilizing equipment. We want that all finalized so we don’t have to mobilize twice.”
Engineering plans drawn up in 1999 indicate that the dock piles on each of the port’s eight docks must penetrate a minimum of 20 feet into the soil beneath them. The plans also show that piles were supposed to be installed at the ends of each dock finger — the walkway between boats.
But the port didn’t do much of what was on the engineer’s plans when $2 million worth of construction began the next year — and they’re paying for it now.
A and B docks — those closest to the commercial basin — have all the proper pilings.
Piles on C Dock, however, were shorter by about 15 feet and only penetrated the soil to a depth of 4 or 5 feet. Seven remain, and three more are working themselves loose, Dehlinger said. That dock, too, will close soon.
“The docks are breaking apart,” he said. “They’re failing. They’re not structurally sound. They’re just falling over like a tree.”
A crane was again at work Monday, retrieving a pile from the harbor.
D Dock was supposed to have had 17 piles supporting its docks and fingers, and only 7 were installed.
“Three of those are very loose, and a fourth is coming loose,” Dehlinger said. “So the docks are falling apart.” It, too, will be closed soon.
E Dock is closed — “it’s gone,” Dehlinger said. “It’s a lost cause.”
It was supposed to have been built with nine piles, and only eight were installed. Three have already worked their way loose and another is close to failing.
And the main dock off which all these boat docks are accessed is coming loose from the land. E Dock is in the middle, and with its closure, boaters going to A to D docks can only access the area from the south, and those headed to F to H docks, from the north.
Piles replaced by FEMA after the 2011 tsunami were installed correctly and remain intact.
Twenty nine boats are docked on D Dock, 33 on E, and 40 on C, and Dehlinger has spent much of his time moving them to slips on other docks. Some boats, however, might have to relocate to other ports for the summer.
“That’s a lot of revenue the port loses,” Dehlinger said. “We’re trying to accommodate them as best we can. Some of them are just going to have to pull their boats out.”
Most of the charter boats will be able to stay put, but some might have to be jockeyed around the basin.
“And it’s already a lost cause for the summer,” Dehlinger said of port revenue. “At an average of $1,000 a slip, and about 100 slips, that’s $100,000 in lost revenue. We’ll give credit for people who have slips. We’re so broke, we can’t really refund them.”
He has some room for small boats on F Dock — but that dock doesn’t have power. And a few spots might be available in the commercial basin, depending on the size of the vessel.
“It could get worse,” Dehlinger said.
The piles at the ends of F, G. and H docks are loosening.
“If we don’t get the FEMA grant and possibly money from the state, we could lose more sport docks,” he said. “And the port is broke.”
Other problems include a 100-foot section of dock that serves Pac Choice, which has forced them to abandon their private hoist and use the public equipment — thus making that unavailable for others.
Storm debris at the south end of the commercial basin, too, has made it impossible to take boats from the harbor on the port’s new travel lift, except at high tide.
Dock work can’t even begin until October, when the in-water work season begins.
“We’re probably a year out,” Dehlinger said. “And the docks are just a little piece of the puzzle we have here. A lot needs to be done.”
He added that the port doesn’t have the money to even ask voters for a tax increase.
“We just paid our fourth-quarter to IFA (Infrastructure Finance Authority) — and we missed that by two months,” Dehlinger said, of deferred loan payments for tsunami repairs. “The first quarter is due in a month, and we know it’ll be late again. And we’re eight payments behind.”