Plans for a new Eastport breakwater to replace the present 50-year-old structure, which the Maine Department of Transportation has concluded has reached the end of its useful life, were presented at a meeting on August 8 at Shead High School. The breakwater is owned by the city, but the project is being undertaken by the Eastport Port Authority, which leases the facility.
As outlined by Craig Sams, project manager for Childs Engineering, which has been hired to do the engineering, a new 500' x 50' pier would be built to the east of the existing 1985 addition and would extend 100 feet farther north of the present 400-foot structure. The present access approach would then be demolished, during which time there would be no access to the facility. That approach will be replaced, and then the remaining section of the breakwater that was built in 1962 will be removed.
The new pier will be attached to the 1985 addition and will be a pile-supported open pier faced with a bulkhead of sheet piling, so there would no longer be any rock-filled enclosure. The sheet piling, which will serve to protect boats in the inner basin from waves, will extend from the dolphin on the south side all the way around the new structure to the shore by the Coast Guard station. Sams said the sheet piling "will be designed to handle the load from waves" but will require ongoing maintenance. Gardner noted that, because of the protection offered by the breakwater, boats "from all over" come to berth there during a storm. With the new pier, the extra 100 feet to the north will provide more protection than currently exists for berthing on the north side.
Sams noted that the open structure will have less impact on the marine environment, and Gardner said that the port authority wants to have a structure that can be repaired more easily than the existing rock-filled breakwater.
Gardner said that they want to have the three- to four-month period during which there would be no access to the breakwater be when there would be the least impact on fishermen. It was suggested that April to July might be the best time. It's estimated that the entire project may take one to two years to complete.
Gardner guessed that the cost could be $10B15 million. An application is being submitted for a $6 million federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, and the state has agreed to help secure the remainder of the necessary funding. Gardner said that, if a local match is needed, the port authority would provide the funding out of port operations and "would not look at putting it upon the taxpayers."
While the floating docks in the inner basin will not be part of this project, Gardner said the port authority will reconfigure them. He noted that the removal of the existing breakwater will provide more berthing space inside.
The port authority also will address maintenance issues with the 1985 addition. Sams noted that the coating on the pilings is failing but can be repaired. Such maintenance would extend the life of that section another 30 years or more beyond its lifespan of perhaps 50 to 75 years. The new facility would have a design life of 100 years.
Gardner noted that the breakwater "is a centerpiece to the downtown" and affects a number of different sectors, including fishermen, boaters, tourists and the Coast Guard. The new pier could also handle shipping operations as needed and cruise ships. Gardner pointed out that cruise ship operations would get a boost from the new pier, as a better fendering system would be provided.
At least one more session to receive public input will be held, perhaps in September. Concerns and questions about the project may be addressed to Sams at 1-508-966-9092; Joel Kittredge of the Maine Department of Transportation at 624-3550; or Gardner at 853-4614.