The estimate on the cost for rebuilding the Eastport breakwater has been revised from an initial range of $16 to $23 million down to $11.3 million. The two major changes that allowed for the lower estimate are the elimination of extending the 400-foot pier an additional 100 feet to the north and the reduction of the new pier's loading strength from 1,000 pounds per square foot to 600 pounds. Port Director Chris Gardner notes that the new pier could still be used for loading ships at the lower loading strength.
In addition, the new cost estimate does not include extending a sheet-pile wall to the southern dolphin, Gardner told the port authority board at its November 18 meeting. Since there are concerns that the extension to the dolphin is needed to protect the inner basin from wave action, the port authority and the Maine Department of Transportation have agreed to have an alternate bid request go out that will include the extension.
Along with $6 million in federal TIGER funding for the project, the state is proposing to provide $4 million and asked the city to provide $1 million. Gardner said that since the city could not provide that amount of funding, the port authority would have to. He felt that with its undesignated funds and reserve funds it might be in a position next year to come up with close to that amount.
Board member Bob Peacock stated that it is the port authority's duty to put up some of the money for the breakwater, noting that the port authority "got 20 years out of that pier" for loading ships. He also noted that the breakwater serves not only Eastport but also much of eastern Maine.
The board then approved having the port director enter into an agreement with the state obligating the port authority to $1 million for the breakwater reconstruction. Gardner noted that the port authority also will have an expense after the project is completed to put berthing floats back in the inner basin. The state has indicated that there may be grant funding to assist with that cost.
Bids for the new breakwater will go out early next year, and Gardner hopes construction can begin by mid to late summer. There will be periods of time when access will be interrupted, and the fishing fleet will have priority for access. In the spring of 2015 the inner basin probably will not be accessible, and fishing boats may then tie up to the north side.
Market outlooks outlined
A report by Stephean Chute, who represented the port authority at a transport symposium held in Baltimore at the end of October, noted that the Asian hardwood pulp markets are expected to continue to grow, which would indicate that shipments through the port of Eastport from Woodland Pulp should continue "at unabated levels for at least the next several years."
Chute also wrote, "While there was considerable interest in the introduction of the development of the bulk forest products facility at the Port of Eastport, it was most telling that the majority of the delegates with whom we met had not heard of the Port of Eastport." Chute introduced the port to numerous shipping companies, particularly those handling bulk and break-bulk cargoes.
Concerning the rising pellet export market to Europe, he noted that development is largely based in the southern U.S. because of the relatively low-quality, low-cost fiber supply. However, ports there have had to make extensive infrastructure improvements, including silos, rail development and dredging.
The board approved having Morrison Manufacturing construct a new barge for the port authority at a cost not to exceed $135,000.
The board also approved a change order for the construction of the new warehouse at Estes Head so that a ledge area can be removed by Fundy Contractors. Contingency funds will be used to pay the $26,750 change order. In addition, the board approved an expenditure of up to $35,000 to remove some ledge behind warehouse #1 that will provide more area from cow marshalling operations.
The board approved two changes to the harbor ordinance. One would require that any subletting of berthing spaces will require the approval of the harbor master, and the other would require that those leasing a berth must provide proof of a valid boat registration. The city council now will hold a hearing on the changes at its December 11 meeting.
Gardner reported on a meeting regarding wood fiber exports to the United Kingdom that was held at one of E.J. Carrier's chipping facilities. He noted that the demand for the biomass is there and the shipper is within 5% of the price sought by the importer.