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No one disputes the deteriorating Martinez fishing pier needs serious work. The questions regard paying for it and whether the risk of keeping it open outweighs the benefit.
The City Council again resisted recommendations Wednesday to close the pier, saying the city should concentrate on elevated vigilance and more safety signage while securing money for what could be more than $2 million in renovations for the 87-year-old pier.
The council also deflected similar recommendations in October after project manager Jim Kearney, of engineering firm COWI Marine North America, said above-the-water inspections showed the aging pier was salvageable, but should be closed until divers could inspect piles below the waterline.
Those inspections are complete, with divers finding more damage underwater, but no significant further damage to the structure above.
“We still recommend that you close the pier,” Kearney said. “I don’t think that there would be a catastrophic failure, and I’m not promising there wouldn’t, but just from my experience, if a section failed, you’d have a displacement but I don’t think it would be catastrophic.”
Initial estimates said 21 piles — vertical supports extending into the ground underwater — need repair. Divers found another seven with underwater damage — another $60,000 in work, added to the initial estimate of $800,000 of repairing the piles and the decking above.
“It’s good news, in a way, because there was no further damage noted on the 21 piles that Jim had identified in the original inspection, it’s just that there are more piles,” City Manager Eric Figueroa told the council.
Repair funds may come later
The popular regional draw was built in 1934, with parts rebuilt in 1976. Kearny said repairing the piles and deck, and installing decorative steel railing, would cost the city more than $1.7 million. The price tag increases to around $2.1 million when factoring necessary repair to its breakwater area, permitting and design costs.
The city could go ahead with repairs without the grant money, but would likely not be reimbursed by the state. The council hopes to secure funding through the upcoming round of state Proposition 68 distributions, which it will discuss in greater detail at its March 3 meeting. Grant approval could come by mid-summer, with the money following in the fall.
Kearney said special ordering pressure-treated timber and getting necessary permits and contractors in place could take another six months before construction started.
Mayor Rob Schroder, who works in the insurance business, said “I know, coming from an insurance standpoint, if one of my clients asked should I close this, I would say absolutely. However, I’m not really inclined to do that yet.”
Council members also discussed the possibility of closing off parts of the pier in advance of storms or if damage to a specific area becomes too great. Kearney said temporary repairs could help, but would only be undone when the funding becomes available for more permanent action. Even temporary work would require some time to allocate the necessary marine equipment.
The council asked staff to make regular inspections in the meantime and add signage in Tagalog and Mandarin, in addition to the current warnings in English and Spanish.
Schroder said the city should also consider a future ferry landing when considering pier renovations. The last regular ferry service stopped running in 1962, with the opening of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.